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Are Lectins Making Your Carbs Unhealthy

What are Lectins?

They are sugar-binding (bind to carbs) and offer a way for molecules to stick together without getting the immune system involved

They are resistant to human digestion and they enter the blood unchanged

This can be helpful for encouraging particles at the molecular level to interact with one another – also necessary for some physiological functions, but in some cases they can be harmful

We don’t digest lectins and often produce antibodies to them – Almost everyone has antibodies to some dietary lectins in their body, which means our responses vary and certain foods may become intolerable (1)

Foods with Lectins

Lectins are found in about 30 percent of foods and are especially concentrated in grains and legumes

Also high in nightshade vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes & peppers

Lectins and Gut Issues

Ingesting lectins can cause flatulence. GI distress happens because lectins can damage the intestinal lining

Lectins bind with the intestinal lining, specifically the villi of the small intestine and when the villi are damaged by lectins the body is unable to effectively digest and absorb nutrients from the small intestine

This can lead to a leaky gut 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 can blunt the repair so our cells can’t regenerate as fast as they need to in order to keep the intestinal lining secure

Thus, our natural gut defenses are compromised after the damage occurs and the gut can become “leaky,” allowing various molecules to pass back and forth amid the gut wall

When enough lectins are consumed, it can signal our body to evacuate GI contents

This means nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhea. It’s similar to consuming large amounts of alcohol, which can damage the GI lining and cause GI evacuation

When lectins affect the gut wall, it may also cause a broader immune system response – Symptoms can include skin rashes, joint pain, and general inflammation, as well as a leaky gut (1,2)

Additionally, 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 (3)

Solutions – Soaking, Fermenting

While lectins do have some negative effects, they usually only occur when consumed in high amounts – Some level of lectin consumption can actually provide a mild stress to the digestive system that strengthens our digestive capabilities

Lectins activate the complement immune system (part of innate immune system), which helps fight pathogens – for example, the lectin pathway can help fight off pneumonia

The key is not to over consume, but there are ways in which you can reduce the amount of lectins in your food

Cooking/Boiling

Soaking and boiling legumes for adequate amounts of time can remove virtually all of the lectins – Soaking beans and other legumes in water and then cooking them in water at or close to 100°C or 212°F (i.e. boiling) appears to be highly effective at inactivating legume lectins

If you don’t soak your beans long enough, you may not be able to encourage the heat to penetrate deeply enough to destroy all of the toxins

Fermenting seeds and grains is also favorable as you are essentially allowing beneficial bacteria to eat the lectins

Should be noted that low temperatures can actually increase lectin activity. So a slow cooker may not be ideal for cooking beans

References

1) All about lectins: Here’s what you need to know | Precision Nutrition. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-lectins
2) Why You Should Avoid Lectins in Your Diet! – DrJockers.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://drjockers.com/why-you-should-avoid-lectins-in-your-diet/
3) Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence – Do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance? | BMC Endocrine Disorders | Full Text. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://bmcendocrdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6823-5-10
4) Are Lectins Beneficial or Harmful? – Selfhacked. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://selfhacked.com/blog/lectins-beneficial-harmful/#The_Benefits_of_Some_Lectins

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