Could Lectins Be Harming Your Gut?

Could Lectins Be Harming Your Gut?

Lectins, also known as hemagglutinins, are carbohydrates-binding proteins that cause precipitation of polysaccharides and agglutination of cells. Many foods consist of these anti-nutrients and play a huge part in our diets, for example potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, etc. Lectins are known to cause quite a lot of issues. It is important to know about foods that are high in lectins so that you can avoid them as much as possible in order to ensure that your gut remains healthy. 

Leaky Gut

Lectins can get attached to the intestinal wall of the gastrointestinal tract, and cause problems if the intestinal lining is not healthy. If the lining becomes too permeable, lectins can easily penetrate through it and enter the bloodstream. Antibodies are created to fight lectins and inflammation is caused as a result. This can lead to a leaky gut which increases the chance of autoimmune diseases. Lectins can damage or even kill enterocytes which are the cells that line our intestines. They also open up the space between our intestinal cells. These holes are what allow waste materials and lectins to enter the blood. Similarly, gluten can trigger a zonulin release in those people who have an autoimmune disease, which can then create a leaky gut. Lectins are proven to cause inflammation, digestive issues, and many other health issues. People with digestive sensitivities are generally affected more adversely by lectins than others. Lectins tend to interfere with our gut microbiota and even decrease acid secretion. Lectins and leaky gut go hand in hand and some research has proven that the effects of high lectin consumption can prove to be hazardous. 

The Risk Ratio

It is known that lectins are bad for the gut, but there is much speculation about this and some research has shown that there is another side to the story.  There is not enough research available to prove that lectins and a leaky gut always go hand in hand and that all kinds of lectins cause damage to the human body. Many studies do suggest that lectins act as anti-nutrients which can interfere with the body’s absorption of nutrients. It is suggested that when we cook foods that contain lectins, they become harmless. Almost 30 percent of the foods that are a part of our routine diet tend to contain lectins, but these foods are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Therefore, it is likely that the benefits of these far outweigh the negative effects of lectins on our bodies. Some lectins contain ricin, which is a toxin that is harmful to the body and is found in castor beans. Raw and uncooked beans should be avoided because they are more harmful. Phytohemagglutinin, a type of lectin, is present in high quantities in kidney beans which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. It is safe to consume beans when they are cooked for about half an hour at a high temperature. 

Lectin-Free Diet

Foods high in lectins can be safe to consume when properly cooked. If you already experience digestive sensitivities you should avoid foods with lectins. Due to a lack of research on the overall effects of lectin-rich foods, it is hard to see how important a lectin-free diet is. There are many false claims made by companies offering lectin-free products, such as weight loss benefits. It is important to look up academic and scientific articles to truly understand the need for lectin-free diets. People on a lectin-free diet can consume apples, blueberries, blackberries, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and onions. You can easily consume fats on a lectin-free diet. You must avoid nightshade vegetables, peanut-based products, legumes, grains, and dairy products on a lectin-free diet. You can also try to eliminate certain foods at a time to see which lectin foods you are sensitive to. 

There is no doubt that lectins can be harmful to your gut. However, it should not be forgotten that foods that may be high in lectins should not be completely eliminated from your diet. This can end up causing many deficiencies in your body due to the nutrients that are necessary for you to remain healthy in the long term.