Why You Should Avoid Lectins in Your Diet! - DrJockers.com

Why You Should Avoid Lectins in Your Diet!

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Why You Should Avoid Lectins in Your Diet!

Nature is equipped with its own system of defense and lectins are the way that vegetation defends itself against larger predators such as humans and animals.  Lectins found in grains, nuts, legumes and nightshade vegetables have been linked with digestive distress, leaky gut syndrome and chronic inflammation (123) Find out how to minimize the damaging effects of lectins in your diet.

Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins that are present in both plants and animals (4).  There role is to protect plant species and they also support immunological functions within their respective species (4).  They are sticky molecules that bind sugars and cause functional shifts in the body.  Lectins have been reported to damage the gastrointestinal lining and create states of chronic systemic inflammation (5).

Lectins and Leaky Gut Syndrome:

Lectins have been shown to bind with the intestinal lining and in particular the villi of the small intestine.  The villi are the little pockets that nutrients flow into before they cross into the bloodstream.  When the villi are damaged by the lectins the body is unable to effectively digest and absorb nutrients from the small intestine.  The damage and inflammation the lectins cause also creates a dysbiotic gut flora that encourages parasites and other pathogenic organisms (6).

This process leads to leaky gut syndrome in which the intestinal lining has open gaps and now lectins and other particles and pathogenic organisms are able to get directly into the bloodstream.  Lectins that are free floating in the bloodstream have an affinity for the insulin and leptin receptors and are believed to desensitize these receptors contributing to insulin and leptin resistance in the body (7).

Lectins and Chronic Inflammation:

The body also creates an immune response to the lectin molecules as it tags them as antigens or foreign particles that could be harmful.  This leads to an auto-immune reaction where the immune system will attack tissues that lectins attach (5) Once this sensitization of the immune system takes place the body will also become highly inflamed when one consumes foods containing high amounts of lectins.

Wheat contains a lectin called wheat germ agglutin or WGA.  Many individuals have a high level of sensitivity to WGA and this is often mistaken as a gluten sensitivity (8) Lectins inhibit nerve growth factor which affects the ability of the nerves to heal and repair effectively.  Many individuals never test positive for a gluten allergen yet they have WGA sensitivity that is causing severe inflammatory problems in their body.

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Foods That Contain the Most Lectins:

Legumes (especially soy)                  Grains of all Kinds

Raw Nuts                                Dairy                    Corn

Nightshade Vegetables such as Eggplant, Tomatoes, Potatoes & Peppers

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Removing Lectins From Your Foods:

The first and most important thing to remember is that it is impossible to remove all lectins and not healthy.  Some level of lectin consumption helps provide a mild stress to the digestive system that strengthens our digestive capabilities.  The key is to avoid over consuming lectins…which is a variable that is different for everyone based on the health of your digestive system.

I have found that the lectins in grains, legumes and nuts to be more challenging than those in other fruits and vegetables.  These are the first I focus on reducing consumption of and often it is all the individual needs to be careful with.  The healing diet approach in the PDF below shows you how to focus your food choices for a nutrient dense and lower lectin nutrition plan.

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Soaking and Sprouting:

Soaking, boiling and sprouting grains, legumes, nuts and seeds all helps to decrease the number of lectins but none fully eliminates them except for pressure cooking.  Lectins are fairly resistant to enzymatic activity but sprouting is one of the best ways to minimize lectins.

Many individuals who are trying to eat healthy eat very large amounts of unsoaked and unfermented nuts.  Many of them also use whole grains which contain some of the highest amounts of lectins.  This very often causes major digestive distress and the individuals often have no idea why as they assume their diet is clean.

The trick is to soak, sprout, ferment or boil the lectin containing foods and avoid eating them often.  You can throw some almonds in your steamer as you steam broccoli or brussel sprouts and you remove about 50% of the lectins and make the nuts more bioavailable (9).

You should also soak and germinate nuts and seeds or purchase them pre-soaked and germinated.  If you are unfamiliar with this process simply put the nuts, seeds or grains you are wishing to consume in some clean water with a little bit – 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and let sit out for 12 hours (overnight).  Then wash and rinse the nuts/seeds and they will have removed many of the phytic acids and about 50% or so of the lectins (9).

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What Does Dr Jockers Do? 

As one who has suffered with irritable bowel syndrome through my teens and twenties, I am very sensitive to poor nutritional choices.  I have better digestive health now than at any point in my life due to a diligent anti-inflammatory nutrition plan and key supplements along with spinal corrective chiropractic care.   At one point, I struggled any time I had lectin containing foods but now I can handle them in moderation.

I enjoy sprouted nuts, seeds and legumes on occasion.  Chia, flax and hemp are some of my favorite and also very low in overall lectins and their nutritional benefits (essential fats, fiber, anti-oxidants and complete protein) outweigh any small amount of lectin I take in from them.

I do not eat nuts very often.  On my own, I rarely eat nuts as I feel better without them.  At occasional social settings I will have something that uses almond flour, almond butter or has other nuts in it.  This happens about once a week or so and I typically feel fine because my body is no longer sensitized to it since I eat it so rarely.

I do enjoy raw grass-fed milk and occasionally some fermented dairy in the form of grass-fed cow and goat cheeses.  I don’t typically recommend these for individuals with severe digestive disorders or auto-immune conditions.  However, grass-fed butter is very low in lectins, casein and lactose and ghee is free of all of these and I consume and recommend a grass-fed ghee on a regular basis.

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Grains and Nightshades:

I avoid grains as I feel much better without them but again at social settings I may have a small amount of brown rice or sprouted grains.  This is perhaps once every 2-3 months and I typically feel fine as I so rarely consume these foods.

The only nightshade vegetable I do often consume are bell peppers of different colors.  I enjoy these and feel as though I digest them and tolerate them very well.  I avoid corn, soy, potatoes and eggplant and rarely consume tomatoes.  I may have something with tomatoes at a social setting and seem to tolerate it just fine.

Using Digestive Enzyme Supplements:

If you are consuming a lot of lectin containing foods and wish to continue than I would recommend taking a good digestive enzyme with it to help minimize the negative effects.  I always use digestive enzymes when I am going out to eat or eating food I am not certain is the best.  I also use it if I am going to eat foods that contain more of these lectins or even just having a very large meal.

I notice better digestion, more energy, less digestive stress, gas, etc. when I use enzymes.  One of my favorite all-purpose digestive enzyme is Super DZyme.  This is a great product for a number of reasons including:

1)   Includes a Wide Variety of Enzymes:  Many different enzyme subtypes to give a wide array of effects and address all digestive enzymatic effects. This includes carbohydrate metabolizing enzymes, proteolytic enzymes and fat- metabolizing enzymes.

2)   Functions in a Wide pH Range: There are significant pH ranges in the stomach and small intestine. These enzymes are formulated to survive and thrive in a number of different ranges.

3)   BioAvailable Enzymes are Key to Reducing Intestinal Stress: Intestinal stress is a major contributor to the formation of leaky gut syndrome. Bioavailable enzymes reduce the stress on the gut and improve nutrient absorption.

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Sources For This Article Include:

  1. Mercola: Eating Grains Can “Tear Holes” in Your Gut Link Here
  2. Me and My Diabetes: Loren Cordain – Leaky Gut, Whole Grains, Potatoes & Autism Link Here
  3. Ibernon M, Moreso F, O’Valle F, Grinyo JM, Moral RG, Seron D. Low serum mannose-binding lectin levels are associated with inflammation and apoptosis in early surveillance allograft biopsies. Transpl Immunol. 2014 Sep;31(3):152-6. PMID: 25073029
  4. Berg JM, Tymoczko JL, Stryer L. Lectins Are Specific Carbohydrate-Binding Proteins. Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002. Section 11.4 Link Here
  5. Freed DL. Do dietary lectins cause disease? BMJ. 1999 Apr 17;318(7190):1023-4. PMID: 10205084
  6. Medical Insider: Bacteria and the Immune System Link Here
  7. Jönsson T, Olsson S, Ahrén B, Bøg-Hansen TC, Dole A, Lindeberg S. Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence–do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance? BMC Endocr Disord. 2005 Dec 10;5:10. PMID: 16336696
  8. Sollid LM, Kolberg J, Scott H, Ek J, Fausa O, Brandtzaeg P. Antibodies to wheat germ agglutinin in coeliac disease. Clin Exp Immunol. 1986 Jan;63(1):95-100. PMID: 3754186
  9. Wiley Online Library: Exploring the Nutritional Potential of Wild and Underutilized Legumes Link Here

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35 Responses to Why You Should Avoid Lectins in Your Diet!

  1. stenelle brewer September 12, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    How do you ferment chi seeds, they are so small. do you have to rinse them?

  2. Dr Jockers September 13, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    Stenelle,

    You can soak them overnight as that is a start…fermenting them is a little more tricky but at least soaking will remove some of the lectins. I get my fully germinated chia called – Terrain Omega from Beyond Organic where the chia is fermented with fermented turmeric, holy basil and milk thistle. Really powerful source of anti-oxidants and bioactive phytonutrients.

  3. Beno December 10, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Interesting – Is the amount of lectins reduced in Almond butter, hazelnut butter, etc vs the raw nuts?

  4. Dr. Jockers December 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    No, unless the nut butter is soaked and sprouted they still contain the same amount of lectins.

  5. Dariusz December 22, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Please ” Lectins inhibit nerve growth factor which affects the ability of the nerves to heal and repair effectively” they studie rats no human we dont know how affect human and if this will be true then where is a epidemic of neuro disease hm? if it inhibit nerves heal then in age 25 people gets parkinson MS Alzheimer and other nasty things. Look at Japan there it whole of rice soy. Italian pasta tomatos and yet they have the lower inflamatory related disease. You are Dr. dont know where you “education” get but Lectin is like other subtation effects depends of dose. In most vegetables even water we have arsenic and we know he can be high toxic but in low dosage dont have any effects.

  6. Dan February 16, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    It’s too bad you site paleo websites as your sources while ignoring that legumes, whole grains, nuts and nightshades have been consistently shown to be healthful in almost all categories (cardiovascular, immunity, cancer prevention, lowering cholesterol, lowering insulin resistance, reducing cancer risks and improving bone health).

    The “anti-nutrient” claims made by the paleo crowd doesn’t hold water to science and they are simply a non-issue when eating a balanced diet. Claiming that lectins lead to “digestive distress, leaky gut syndrome and chronic inflammation” and then not acknowledging that the healthiest groups of people on the planet base their diet on those same foods you suggest avoiding is simply bad advice.

    • Scott Gabelman October 9, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

      No two human beings are alike on this planet. Some people can tolerate different foods. No specific one-size-fits-all happens when you eat food. Dr. Jockers is simply explaining what works for him which helps people like me who is fighting similar issues. I ate legumes and nuts for a long. Being on a Paleo diet until I found out about the phytic acid. As soon as I stop the inflammation went down.

      • Dr. Jockers October 12, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

        Very good points Scott! Some people will be able to metabolize lectins better than others.

    • Rodrigo February 3, 2017 at 11:14 pm #

      I have read and truly believe many grains have to much gluten, so wheat bread is actually not that healthy since it usually irritates the stomach, even if people don’t have celiac disease. Maybe one may not believe that lectins can be bad, they can in certain foods such as beans, but once cooked beans can be eaten. Sure some people can get nutrition from foods said to contain lectin, but certainly wheat is not good for you, you should research that more and will find out it doesn’t just affect people with celiac disease.

  7. Danibal March 23, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    To help put things into perspective, and from personal experience, traditional use and methods of using these suspect foods generally is not an issue. The problem seems to arise when we consume adulterated, highly processed versions of these food groups as a result of industrialization. This then sets the stage for extreme immune response and sensitivities when consuming these same food groups, even when eaten in their more natural, raw, pure state.

    I spent my childhood eating whatever tasted good, lots of sugar and pastries, processed dairy, nuts of all kinds, 2-litre of Mountain Dew every day, lots of alcohol, recreational drug use, little exercise. Naturally (unnaturally), I developed severe digestive issues, food in-tolerances, muscle, joint and nerve inflammation.

    There was a week when I was in my mid-twenties that I spent volunteering in the jungle of Guatemala at an animal rescue center… I watched a woman soak maize and black beans, hand-make the tortillas. I was very concerned about the black beans, as I avoid beans like a plague, but none of the food gave me any issues the entire week.

    So, I think it is all a matter of perspective. If I were to grow up eating traditional foods prepared properly, starting with infancy through adulthood, It would be very unlikely that I would suffer with what I have now. And, simply reverting back to proper food selection and preparation now, can have little affect until the core issues are resolved, such as avoiding inflammatory triggers, following a FODMAP diet, etc.

    Forest for the trees, folks.

    • Megan Walsh November 27, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

      I grew up eating mostly from my own garden, or local markets. Well balanced diet, with little sugars, or processed foods. The pain worsened throughout the years, until it was a chore to get out of bed. So for me, it’s hard to pinpoint the route cause.

      • Dr. Jockers November 27, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

        Sorry to hear about this Megan! It may have been beyond your diet – such as issues with household molds, high oxalates or lyme disease.

  8. Elizabeth Carr May 15, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

    After listening to most of the Diabetes Summit and much of the Thyroid Summit over the past 2 weeks, plus reading a ton of books, I am more confused and discouraged than ever. After years of being told that the best way to eat fruit and veggies was RAW, now you’re telling me it’s important to cook them first?! I just don’t know whom to believe. There are a million different opinions out there and they can’t all be right. So, I’m back to guessing and doing the best I can to figure out what works for ME specifically. I don’t think one lifetime is enough to figure it out.

  9. Dr Jockers May 15, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    Yes Elizabeth it can be confusing…that is why I gave an explanation in this article as well as in this article here. Just follow what I teach in these articles and you will be maximizing nutrients and minimizing toxins!

    https://drjockers.com/2013/05/high-energy-nutrition-principles/

  10. Kristen Zimmerman August 20, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Thanks for all the info. You mention BO amasai. We ordered it but then I realized it had cane sugar in it. I was so disappointed. I would think you would be against consumption of any sugar? Wishing they made it without, sweetened with something else. Any ideas on where to buy grass fed fermented yogurt without added sugar? Or do you have any recipes?

  11. Dr. Jockers August 20, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Hey Kristen,

    Sorry you had a bad experience with the Beyond Organic products. The plain amasai does not have any cane sugar and that is what I use. You would have to buy grass-fed raw milk and culture your own to make the yogurt. Blessings!

    • Kristen Zimmerman August 20, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      Oh that helps, we ordered raspberry. Thx!

  12. Sam February 10, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

    Hi Dr. Jockers, I am wondering is grass fed Ghee free of Lectin, glucose and casein?

    • Dr. Jockers February 10, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

      Great question Sam! Because ghee is clarified it is free of lactose, casein and whey and low in lectins. Very easy on the digestive system.

  13. Mark June 29, 2016 at 7:15 am #

    My dilemma is that while improvong my SLE & Autoimmune Vasculitis, a low-lectin/AIP Paleo style diet has worsened my thyroid issues and significantly raised my cortisol while decreasing my testosterone. How can I add calories/carbs without triggering autoimmune issues? White Rice? Gluten-free Oats? White Potatoes? It’s a real catch-22.

  14. Lori September 4, 2016 at 3:16 am #

    Dr. Jockers,

    In place of dairy, I drink almond milk. Is it as harmful as nuts? The brand I buy has no carrageenan. In my history I’ve experienced IBS, but do much better with Culturelle pro-biotic and as long a I stay on my Effexor the IBS is less severe, even with almond milk.

    • Dr. Jockers September 4, 2016 at 8:55 am #

      It is better than nuts Lori, however, doing too much (more than 1 cup daily) could provide too much lectins. So be careful. Glad you are doing better overall though!!

  15. Lisa January 23, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    Do you have a lectin free diet program? Do you know of any good lectin free diets or books?
    Thanks!

  16. Jennifer Hatche April 11, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    Im on a low acid diet due to acid reflux and the only really low acid fruit is melon…and i especially love, love, love watermelon! Now what? Its so depressing, which is bad for health as well.

    • Dr. Jockers April 11, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

      So sorry to hear about this Jennifer. I would recommend following some of the strategies in this article.

  17. Alexandra Clark May 6, 2017 at 9:13 am #

    Zucchini is mentioned as a veg with lectin yet it is mentioned as a substitution? Which is it?? Also chia seeds? Dr. Gundry says this is not a good seed to eat.

    • Dr. Jockers May 9, 2017 at 3:47 pm #

      Good question Alexandra, zucchini is very low in lectins so they are a safe substitution! Also chia seeds are safe on occasion, especially if soaked first.

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  19. steve June 29, 2017 at 8:09 am #

    Dr. Jockers you contradict yourself in your article. “soak and sprout legumes”, yet in the chart you write “the hard lectin in legumes is impervious to soaking and sprouting”. so we cannot believe any of this. Both statements cannot be simultaneous true. Shees.

    • Dr. Jockers June 29, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

      Hey Steve thanks for reading! I am not sure which chart you are referring to.

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  21. Stacy Woods July 15, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    How can I make my almond milk lower in lectins–soak and sprout before I blend and strain? What other milks do you recommend for smoothies that are lower in lectins?

    • Dr. Jockers July 20, 2017 at 9:18 am #

      Hey Stacy you could do that and it should lower the lectin content. I have even started seeing sprouted almonds at certain health food stores that would be okay to use! One of my favorite milks is actually coconut milk though. The full fat coconut milk in a BPA free can can be simply diluted to make your own coconut milk that is full of healthy fats and no worries of lectins!

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