Lectins As A Cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome, Autoimmune Disorders and Weight Gain.
I recently had a 10 week follow up with a female patient who initially consulted my office for a Thyroid problem that was not responding to the typical approach of Thyroid Replacement hormones with past doctors. After years of taking medications she still suffered with IBS, debilitating fatigue, Brain Fog, Daily headaches, insulin resistance and Weight gain no matter what kind of diet she tried. A big part of my Thyroid Recovery Program and autoimmune Support Protocol is not only identifying incompatible foods with the immune system but implement targeted nutritional supplements based on advanced metabolic testing.
After 10 weeks, this patient lost over 30 pounds, no longer suffered with fatigue, brain fog, bloating and IBS symptoms. Part of this patients success was that we had reduced the number of lectins and gluten grains in her diet.
What Are Lectins?
Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins found in animals and plants – they are specialized proteins that allow cells to connect or adhere to other cells. Commonly found in beans, nuts, seeds and especially in grains, they are not broken down by stomach acid or making them virtually resistant to digestion.
Estimates are that about 30% of our foods contain lectins, and about 5% of the lectins we eat will enter our circulation.
Lectins are thought to have something to do with the survival of the seed. The way they’re believed to protect the seed is that they can cause considerable intestinal distress (diarrhea, nausea, bloating, vomiting, IBS, even death) to those who eat the seeds, in hopes of deterring the predator from coming back for more.
Why are Lectins problematic?
Let’s talk Lectins and Leaky Gut for just a moment and why lectins pose a problem.
Lectins are problematic because they are sticky molecules that can bind to the linings of human tissue.
Many food lectins can interact with and damage the delicate lining of the small intestine and lead to a “leaky gut” via inflammation of the microvilli (the finger like projections of the intestinal cell that increase surface area for better nutrient absorption). Certain viruses, parasites,bacteria can accomplish the same task (creating inflammation) due to lectins they contain as well.
Because the lectins can damage the intestinal villi, they have the ability to enter and circulate throughout the bloodstream. Once they enter the bloodstream, they can bind to any tissue in the body — thyroid, pancreas, collagen in joints, Nerve tissue and cause an inflammatory immune attack on the above mentioned tissues.
This binding can disrupt the function of that tissue and cause white blood cells and the immune system to attack the lectin-bound tissue, destroying it.
This is an autoimmune response. The lectins in wheat (Wheat Germ Agglutinin) for example, has specifically been shown to be involved in Rheumatoid arthritis.
Why is Leaky Gut Syndrome Important?
Leaky gut is a name used to describe increased intestinal permeability. The gut becomes “leaky” in the sense that bacteria, fungi, parasites and their toxins, undigested protein, and waste can be trafficked across the cell barrier.
The leaky gut syndrome is almost always associated with autoimmune disease and reversing autoimmune disease depends in part, on healing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Any other treatment (steroids, anti-inflammatory) is just symptomatic suppression.
Autoimmune Diseases associated with Leaky Gut and Lectins
If you have any lectin-related health issues including lupus, alopecia, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, multiple sclerosis MS, fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, Addison’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Vitiligo, Thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s), vasculitis, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative colitis, Urticaria, hives, Diabetes, Raynaud’s disease and Alzheimer’s Disease my clinical experience shows that identifying these offending foods and then working with a qualified and experienced doctor who specializes in this area is critical. This is not something you can just guess about. Specialized testing is needed.
One important way I help patients with autoimmune disease is to implement the principles of Functional Medicine and Targeted Dietary Management.
If you have an autoimmune condition, you owe it to yourself to explore this lectin concept in the overall healing journey to your healthy future.
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