Lectins, similar to gluten, are both considered proteins, but lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins seeking out sugars in the body and attach to the surface of cells in the intestinal lining. They can create tiny tears (leaky gut) which can potentially create an immune response and impair digestion.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye and is also a type of lectin. Therefore, all lectin-free food is also gluten-free!
Lectins are found in the skin and seeds of plants protecting them from viruses, bacteria, and fungi, but also worms and insects. They are found in most plants and they don’t have any nutritional value for humans. If consumed they can harm any creature who consumes the plant. Humans are unable to digest lectins, so they travel through the gut unchanged. Animal research shows certain types of lectins bind to cells on the gut wall. This allows them to communicate with the cells, triggering an immune response. Lectins have been linked to autoimmune inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes. Eating large amounts of certain types of lectins can damage the gut wall. This causes irritation that can result in symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. It can also prevent the gut from absorbing nutrients properly.
Some lectins are more dangerous than others. Common lectin-containing foods include beans, peanuts, and other legumes, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, squashes, grains, wheat, fruits, corn, and A1 (casein 1) milk products.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce lectins in some foods by peeling the skins of fruits and veggies, deseeding, soaking, and pressure cooking. Reducing the amount and frequency of lectin-rich foods in your diet is the best way to avoid any unwanted side effects. You can always try the elimination method to see which lectin-containing foods are causing the most symptoms. The best way to start is by detoxifying your body with a 3-day cleanse followed by a 60-day healing phase to repair the gut wall. After 63 days you can add one lectin-containing food for 3 days back into your diet (must be properly prepared – peeled, deseeded, pressure cooked) and see if it causes any symptoms. If it does not, that’s good and you can add the next lectin-rich food for another 3 days. If you experience any symptoms, avoid eating this type of lectin-containing food.