Lectins found in plant-sources are a defense mechanism that can trigger a negative response in humans because they can attach to cell membranes, ultimately affecting your health and wellness. Research studies have found that some lectins can cause nerve damage, lead to cell death, and even promote inflammation while others can change blood viscosity, interrupt endocrine function, and even affect gene expression. In the following article, we will discuss if lectins are good or bad for your health and wellness.
Lectins and Health Overview
Although it is almost impossible to avoid eating lectins because they can be found in many foods, following a lectin-restricted diet may be beneficial if you are struggling with inflammation, an autoimmune disease, or any other chronic health issue.
Grains, legumes, beans, and members of the nightshade family, such as peppers, eggplants, and potatoes, are well-known foods with harmful lectins. However, properly soaking and cooking as well as sprouting and fermenting foods with high amounts of lectins can help make them safe to eat, according to research studies. Utilizing a pressure cooker is also ultimately beneficial for beans.
Lectins may be an underlying source of weight gain and other health issues, even if you follow a proper diet. Scientists have associated lectins with inflammation and autoimmune disease. Moreover, many lectins are harmful to your cells and nerves. Several types of lectins may also change your blood viscosity, disrupt your endocrine function, and even affect your gene expression.
As previously mentioned above, if you are struggling with inflammation, an autoimmune disease, or any other chronic health issue, you will need to be careful with the amount of lectins you consume and you may ultimately benefit from following a lectin-restricted diet. However, it is almost impossible to avoid eating lectins. Scientists do not recommend following a lectin-free diet because you may miss out on antioxidants and other essential nutrients found in foods with lectins, including many types of vegetables.
Instead, research studies recommend to make sure you only eat lectins occasionally and pay attention to how they affect your health and wellness. If you are constantly experiencing gas, bloating, and even joint pain after eating grains, legumes, beans, and members of the nightshade family, such as peppers, eggplants, and potatoes, to name a few, your body may be reacting to lectins.
Properly preparing foods with high amounts of lectins and using a pressure cooker can help make these foods safe to eat. If you’ve been following a whole-food diet and you’ve experienced weight gain and other health issues, you may want to limit lectins.
What are Lectins?
Lectins are a type of protein found in a variety of plant- and animal-sources that can attach to cell membranes. Scientists consider them to be a low-level toxin. Lectins are a defense mechanism that trigger a negative reaction in predators that are commonly found in grains, raw legumes, and beans as well as in the part of the seed that becomes the leaves when a plant sprouts, known as the cotyledon, and on the seed coat. Lectins are also commonly found in several different types of vegetables and dairy products.
There are a wide variety of lectins. Scientists believe that plants developed these natural pesticides and repellents to protect themselves and their seeds from predators. They may have also developed lectins as a way for seeds to remain intact as they passed through predators’ digestive systems. Lectins are resistant to human digestion and they enter the blood unchanged.
According to research studies, it’s this “stickiness” of lectins that makes them attach to cell membranes. Furthermore, the same stickiness may be the main reason why eating too many lectins can cause digestive health issues and many other problems.
How Lectins Can Affect Your Health
Because lectins are resistant to human digestion, they are considered to be anti-nutrients and they can ultimately affect your gut microbiome and even impact the balance of your bacterial flora. According to research studies, one of the most “harmful” lectins is believed to be wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) which is commonly found in wheat and other seeds in the grass family.
Research studies have also found that several lectins from plant-sources are associated with a leaky gut because they can attach to intestinal mucosal cells, ultimately affecting the absorption of nutrients accross your intestinal wall. WGA has also been found to cause heart disease in animal models. Because of their negative inflammatory and autoimmune effects, lectins are especially toxic for people with an autoimmune disorder. People with autoimmune disorders may want to reduce their intake of foods with lectins.
Another way that lectins can affect your overall health and wellness is through molecular mimicry. By way of instance, lectins can trick the body into attacking the thyroid gland and can even lead to rheumatoid arthritis by mimicking proteins in your thyroid or joints. This can also cause lipopolysaccharides, known as endotoxins, to penetrate your gut wall and cause an immune response.
Should You Avoid Eating Foods with Lectins?
If you are struggling with inflammation or if you have an autoimmune disease or any other chronic health issue, you may need to be careful with foods that have high amounts of lectins, such as grains, legumes, beans, and nightshade vegetables. Lectins can cause diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and even dementia. A lectin-restricted diet may ultimately help with:
Are All Foods with Lectins Bad for Your Health?
In small amounts, however, lectins can provide valuable health benefits. Lectins play a fundamental role in body fat regulation, cell growth and cell death, as well as immune function. It appears that the majority of problems occur due to overconsumption or continued consumption, even in small amounts, of certain lectins that your body simply cannot tolerate.
From a healthcare professional’s perspective, it would be a mistake to assume that all lectins are bad for your health and wellness. As a matter of fact, avocados, contain the lectin agglutinin (persea Americana agglutinin), and these are considered to be a super food. Research studies have found that the agglutinin found in avocados actually interacts with proteins and polyamino acids.
Although tomatoes are also part of the nightshade family and they are often listed among the most harmful foods with lectins, cooking them can have some positive benefits. The antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes develops an enhanced bioavailability due to heating which can make tomatoes healthy in other ways. Lectins found in beans, however, can ultimately have much more potentially toxic or allergenic effects. Besides their high amounts of lectins, beans are also high sources of net carbs.
The choice to eat or avoid lectins focuses on the particular food in question and the effects these lectins may have on the consumer. Although controversial, lectins in foods are by no means a sole determinant of the overall value of a particular food in your diet.
Lectins are a type of protein found in plant- and animal-sources that can be harmful to an individual’s overall health and wellness because they can attach to cell membranes. According to research studies, eating too many foods with high amounts of lectins can cause nerve damage, lead to cell death, and even promote inflammation while others can change blood viscosity, interrupt endocrine function, and even affect gene expression. However, healthcare professionals argue that eating some foods with lectins can be beneficial as long as these are cooked and consumed properly. – Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, and nervous health issues or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health protocols to treat injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.
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