Lectins 101: Everything You Need To Know

If you’ve been experiencing gut symptoms like constipation, bloating, nausea or diarrhea, you might be feeling this way due to lectins in your diet. Some people have never heard of this family of proteins that can cause issues with your GI tract. Lectins are found in certain foods, especially legumes, grains and certain nightshade vegetables. Certain studies have suggested that plant lectins may be nature’s way of protecting the plants from being consumed by certain animals, thus increasing their ability to live longer and reproduce. That’s why animals and plants can’t digest these proteins. Since these carbohydrate-binding proteins can’t be digested by humans, they instead, bind to nutrients (mostly carbohydrates) or to the cell walls. When they aren’t passed out of the body, they can cause inflammation and other gastrointestinal issues. If you don’t know a thing about lectins. Here’s your chance to catch up on all the important information.

All About Lectins

These proteins can increase gut permeance and have been studied for their effect on autoimmune diseases. Not only have they been linked to inflammation, they may also block the absorption of some nutrients in your body. A lectin known as ricin can even be fatal when ingested. So what are these lectins and where can we find them? Not to sound alarming, but they are found in some of your most common foods like:

-Red Kidney Beans
-Peanut Butter
-Nightshades, like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers

Eating Safe 

The good news is that most lectins are cooked right out of your food. The most cases of reported problems have centered on undercooked or raw red kidney beans which contain an harmful lectin called phytohaemagglutinin. When these lectins aren’t removed, it can cause painful stomach irritation, nausea and vomiting. When heated long and high, however, all is well and perfectly fine for you to eat. The same goes for soybeans that also need to be cooked long and high. Wheat also contains lectins but most are removed during the processing and cooking process. Lectins can also be removed through the sprouting or fermentation process. Most canned products have been heated during the processing and have fewer lectins as well.

Living With Lectins

Though it can be tempting to remove lectins from your diet plan, the fact is that they are attached to some pretty nutritious and important staples of your diet. Your best bet is to avoid foods that cause you significant stomach irritation or excessive gas and bloating. If you’ve got a more serious version of stomach upset such as that with irritable bowel syndrome, it’s best to talk to your doctor about which foods to avoid or diets to try. If you’ve got Multiple Sclerosis, studies are also looking at what benefits can occur from eliminating lectins from your diet. If you’re a healthy eater overall but are still concerned about the impact of lectins on your gut, there are supplements available that aid your digestive system in blocking these antinutrient proteins from wreaking havoc on your digestion process.