April 11, 2018 1

What Are Lectins And Why Should You Care?

Posted by:Dr. Brian Mowll onApril 11, 2018

Here’s a pop quiz: What is eaten by almost everyone, yet understood by few in the health community? They are somewhat detrimental to many people’s health while being downright destructive to a few sensitive souls.

If you said lectins you’re either brighter than the average lightbulb or, after reading the title, you put two and two together.

Lectins… let’s talk about them…

What the heck are they?

Mosanto wasn’t the first to come up with a pesticide strategy – Mother Nature came up with one long before. Plants are typically the lowest man on the totem pole, meaning everything from insects to varmints to human beings eat plants. In order to ward off a slew of predators, plant species evolved assorted anti-nutrients that, when eaten, cause a host of digestive upset, discouraging said insect, varmint or human being from ever eating the plant again. Genius, no?

Lectins, which are carb-binding proteins, are akin to low grade toxins. Lectins are sticky little buggers, which make them really good at binding with sought-after sugars. But, because of this stickiness, they also tend to become attached to the intestinal lining where they cause mucho distress.

If you’re not aware of lectins or the harm they can do to your health, you’re most likely eating far too many of them. Lectins can be found in almost all plant and animal products to some degree. However, they can be found in high concentrations in some sources more than others.

Foods with the highest lectin composition include:

  • Grains of all kinds (especially wheat… think gluten)
  • Bean and Legumes (especially soy)
  • Certain nuts and seeds, like peanuts (I know it’s not really a nut) and chia
  • Dairy
  • Nightshade plants (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant)

When you consider the list of oils and other food products that are made from this list, you start to get an idea of just how easy it is to consume these toxins.

What exactly do lectins do to the body?

Remember I just told you lectins are sticky and they bind to the lining of the intestines, particularly the small intestines? Well, this results in poor nutritional absorption (who needs vitamins and minerals anyway?) and eventually cellular death.

But wait, it gets worse…

Lectins alter the gut flora in your intestines. This means good bacteria die, allowing harmful bacteria like E.coli to run rampant.

And, because your body must now give its full attention to repairing the lining of your gut, proteins and other important resources are sent to do this job instead of basic growth and repair jobs.

“Humans are unable to digest lectins, so they travel through your gut unchanged.” – Alexandra Rowels, RD

But often, there is just too much damage to the intestinal lining and the result is leaky gut syndrome. What happens when rogue food particles and bacteria are left to roam around your body, instead of being contained in your digestive system?  Nothing good, I assure you.

Essentially these particles bump into and bind with any organs and tissues they come across. Guess what happens when your thyroid, pancreas and kidneys mingle with stuff they shouldn’t mingle with? Nothing good, I assure you. Think autoimmune diseases like IBS, Crohn’s, MS, Hashimoto’s, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis.

But wait, it gets worse…

Lectins have been linked with leptin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition associated with obesity. Leptin is an important hormone produced by fat tissue. This is the hormone responsible for regulating appetites. As you may be able to imagine, when this hormone is tampered with, it is far too easy to overeat, because your brain doesn’t get the message that your stomach is full.

A study published in The American Journal of Physiology showed that the lectin wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) produces “several alterations in the ability of fat cells to bind and respond to insulin.”

Leptin resistance can lead to an increase in blood glucose and eventually insulin resistance and Type II diabetes.

Maybe now it is beginning to become clear why the old USDA food pyramid that recommended 6 – 11 servings of grain a day is not the healthiest idea.

“The most dangerous trick pulled by lectins, which I now see on a daily basis in my patients, is that they bear an uncanny similarity to the proteins on many of our important organs, nerves, and joints.” ― Steven R. Gundry.

So, what can we do to avoid autoimmune diseases and Type II diabetes?

Avoid the foods that are the highest in lectins

It may be next to impossible to avoid all lectins, as they are in just about every plant food and many animal products. Heck, some are even beneficial.  But, you can certainly avoid the worst offenders.

If you have been diagnosed with insulin-resistance and are concerned about developing full-blown Type II diabetes, it would be wise to eliminate the following foods from your diet:

Corn and Corn-fed Meats

It’s not enough to avoid corn and corn products yourself, you must avoid eating anything else that eats corn and corn products. This includes most of the meat sold in grocery stores. Best to only buy and consume certified grass-fed meat. Look for a certified seal from the American Grassfed Association.

Cow’s Milk

Casein A2 is the normal protein found in most milk including sheep, goats and some Jersey cows’ milk. Unfortunately, most cow milk today contains casein A1 protein. This A1 protein, when metabolized in your gut, can attach itself to the beta cells of your pancreas and cause and autoimmune attack.

If you can’t live without milk, choose to consume only organic milk (raw is best) made from certified grass-fed A-2 producing cows.


Grains, yes, even whole grains like whole wheat, should be avoided.

Honorable mention on this list goes to peanuts, cashews, legumes (such as peas and beans), nightshades (such as potatoes and eggplant) and soy. If you want to eat soy, be sure it is fermented.

Which brings me to a final point, our ancestors had far less disease than we do today, and yet they ate many of the foods on the “DO NOT EAT LIST.” Why is this? Because back in the day, people all over the world fermented far more foods than they do today. Fermenting, as well as soaking and sprouting high-lectin foods, can drastically reduce the lectin content, making them safe to eat for most people.

While it may be impossible to eliminate all lectins from your diet, avoid the ones that can wreak havoc on your health. Work with a functional medicine doctor or certified nutritionist who can help you devise an eating plan that is best suited for type 2 diabetes or your specific situation.


    Maria Frei

    Great Information, thank you. I am just curious: what are cashews then, another legume?
    Thank you Maria Frei

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