Lectins are a type of protein found in many plant foods, including grains, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, and nightshade vegetables. Stuides on lectins have started to shed light on how they can be problematic for individuals with thyroid disorders, chronic pain, and autoimmune diseases due to their potential to contribute to inflammation, digestive issues, and autoimmune reactions.(*)
Lectins and Autoimmunity
Lectins are a family of proteins found in almost all foods, especially beans and grains. Lectins in plants are a defense against microorganisms, pests, and insects. They may also have evolved as a way for seeds to remain intact as they passed through animals’ digestive systems, for later dispersal- This is why Lectins are poorly digested. But why are eating lectins so problematic for people with Thyroid disease, Rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases? The answer to that lies in something better known as leaky gut.
Lectins are problematic because they are sticky molecules that can bind to the linings of human tissue. This poses potential problems for those with genetic predisposition towards autoimmune diseases.
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). Lectins can also damage the intestinal villi leading to leaky gut, 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.
Take Dr Hagmeyers Leaky Gut Quiz here
Lectins and Rheumatoid Arthritis-Understanding Chronic Joint Pain
Research into the gut-joint axis, which explores the bidirectional communication between the gut and the joints, has shed light on the potential role of gut dysbiosis, intestinal permeability, and immune activation in the pathogenesis of RA. Strategies aimed at restoring gut health, supporting gut barrier integrity, and modulating the immune response may hold promise in managing RA and reducing disease activity.
Individuals with RA may benefit from comprehensive gut health assessments, including evaluations of intestinal permeability, gut microbiota composition, and immune status. Lifestyle modifications, such as adopting an anti-inflammatory diet rich in whole foods, reducing intake of potential inflammatory triggers, managing stress, and promoting gut healing through targeted interventions, may help support gut health and potentially alleviate symptoms of RA.
Take Dr Hagmeyers Leaky Gut Quiz here
Lectins and Hashimotos
Lectins have emerged as a point of interest in patients who have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition characterized by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland. One of the key ways in which lectins may influence Hashimoto’s is by promoting intestinal permeability, commonly known as leaky gut. Research suggests that lectins, particularly those found in gluten-containing grains like wheat, can disrupt the integrity of the intestinal barrier. This disruption allows for the passage of antigens, toxins, and undigested food particles from the gut into the bloodstream, where they can interact with the immune system and potentially trigger or exacerbate autoimmune responses.
Lectins have been shown to interact with gut epithelial cells and influence the composition of the gut microbiota, which plays a crucial role in immune system modulation. Imbalances in the gut microbiome, combined with increased intestinal permeability induced by lectins, may create an environment conducive to autoimmune processes in Hashimoto’s. The dysregulation of the immune response, coupled with the potential molecular mimicry between plant lectins and thyroid tissue, could theoretically drive and perpetuate the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland.
Lectins and Leaky Gut
Lectins are capable of binding to the cells lining the intestine, potentially disrupting the tight junctions that hold these cells together(*). Tight junctions are essential for maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier and controlling the passage of substances into the bloodstream. When lectins interfere with these tight junctions, they compromise the integrity of the gut lining, allowing larger molecules to pass through, initiating an immune response and promoting inflammation(*).
Lectins have been shown to interact with certain receptors on the gut epithelial cells, leading to cellular damage and chroinc inflammation.(*)These interactions can trigger the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and compromise and weaken the gut mucosal barrier. Persistent exposure to lectins may contribute to chronic gut inflammation, further exacerbating intestinal permeability issues and setting the stage for immune dysregulation and disease(*).
In individuals with autoimmune diseases, leaky gut and the subsequent immune reactions can be particularly problematic. The influx of undigested food particles, toxins, and pathogens into the bloodstream due to increased intestinal permeability can stimulate the immune system, potentially leading to the development or exacerbation of autoimmune responses. The combination of lectin-induced gut barrier dysfunction and immune activation can create a self-perpetuating cycle of inflammation and tissue damage, contributing to the pathogenesis of autoimmune conditions.
Lectins and Molecular Mimicry
Molecular mimicry is a phenomenon in which foreign substances, such as proteins or other molecules from infectious agents or dietary sources, bear a resemblance to molecules found in the body’s own tissues. When the immune system encounters these foreign substances that mimic self-molecules, it may generate an immune response not only against the foreign invaders but also against the body’s own tissues due to the similarity in structure.
If the protein consumed resembles the proteins found in the thyroid or in the joint of the body, the immune systeme not only targets the food protein but it also target the thyroid or the joints.
Lectins have the potential to mimic or resemble certain structures found in human cells and it is this mechansim in which researchers believe lectins promote or trigger autoimmune disease like Rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimotos Thyroiditis(*). This molecular confusion can contribute to the development or progression of autoimmune diseases.
Learn more about Lectins, Thyroid disease and autoimmune disorders by watching my latest video.
Managing Lectin Sensitivity When You Have Thyroid Disease
Given the recent implications of lectins on autoimmunity, individuals with autoimmune diseases like Hashimotos autoimmune Thyroid disease, Rheumatoid arthritis should consider exploring lectin elimination or reduction strategies as part of their approach to balancing and calming down the immune system. Here are some inital suggestions when it comes to minimizing your exposure.
1.Limiting or avoiding foods rich in lectins, such as grains, legumes, seeds, and nightshades, may help reduce lectin exposure and potential immune reactivity in susceptible individuals.
2.Prioritizing a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and clean protein sources can help support immune function, gut health, and overall well-being. Consider incorporating foods that are less likely to trigger inflammatory responses and focusing on diverse plant-based options.
3. Focus on healing a leaky gut. Remember anything that can cause a leaky gut can promote chronic inflammation and autoimmunity. When the gut barrier becomes compromised, it can allow undesirable substances such as undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria to leak through the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream. This breach in gut barrier function can trigger immune responses, inflammation, and potentially lead to systemic health issues, including autoimmune diseases. Read below for some of the recommended supplements to help heal a leaky gut.
Take Dr Hagmeyers Leaky Gut Quiz here
Supplements To Help Heal A Leaky Gut
Zinc is an essential trace mineral important to many functions of human health. It plays a role in maintaining cellular metabolism and gene expression. Zinc is critical to a diverse group of physiological processes, such as immune function, insulin signaling, tissue repair, vision and neuro-transmission. It is second only to iron in worldwide incidence of deficiency, impacting 2 billion people in developing nations. Due to the wide range of functions regulated by zinc, deficiency, or even marginal deficiency, can have serious health implications.
Zinc is fundamental to the activity of over 100 enzymes and supports immune function, protein synthesis, tissue growth, DNA synthesis and cell division.1-5 During pregnancy, infancy and childhood, the body needs zinc for proper growth and development.6-9 Zinc also helps tissue repair and is important for adequate functioning of the senses of taste and smell. Daily intake of zinc is necessary to maintain adequate levels within the body because the body has no specialized zinc storage system.10
The importance of bioavailability is obvious. If consuming a zinc supplement has little effect on improving the body’s zinc balance, there is no reason to ingest it. Signs of inferior mineral supplements include the use of cheap, poorly absorbed, rocksalt minerals. Reacted Zinc is formulated with the superior amino acid chelate form, zinc glycinate, which does not ionize in the gut and therefore is not impacted by dietary factors and is absorbed at a higher rate than those formulated with zinc salt forms.
Comparison studies have shown significantly superior absorption of mineral chelates compared to other mineral forms.
• Chelated zinc is 230% better absorbed than zinc sulfate
• Chelated zinc is 390% better absorbed than zinc oxide
• Chelated zinc offers greater protection from interfering dietary factors
Mild to moderate zinc deficiency impacts immune function11 by slowing down the activity of macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and complement activity.12 Individuals with low zinc levels have shown below- normal immune activity that can be corrected by zinc supplementation.12-13 Low zinc status has been associated with increased risk of immune challenges that benefit from improving zinc levels.14-17
Zinc plays a role in maintaining the integrity of skin andmucosal membranes.12 Patients with skin weakness have been observed to have abnormal zinc metabolism and low serum zinc levels.18 Many clinicians have used zinc to benefit patients with thin, fragile skin.19
Researchers have demonstrated that both zinc and antioxidants support eye health in those with age-related loss of visual acuity and general visual decline, by preventing free radical cellular damage in the retina.20-21 One population-based cohort study suggests that high dietary intake of zinc, as well as beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, was associated with added support for eye health in elderly subjects.22
A variety of acquired factors can disrupt the small intestine brush border, which may result in low activity of brush border enzymes. SIBB-Zymes™ supplies a blend of enzymes normally found in the small intestinal brush border that are critical for the final steps of carbohydrate and protein digestion.
Disaccharide enzymes (lactase, maltase, and sucrase) are supplied together with glucoamylase to assist optimal cleaving of sugars and carbohydrates that if left undigested may affect absorption and microbial fermentation, contributing to a shift in the balance of yeast and bacteria.†
SIBB-Zymes™ includes an active enzyme blend of peptidase and protease with dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) activity.
Peptidase and protease enzymes help break down plant and animal proteins, including casein (milk/dairy products), gluten (wheat, rye, oats, barley, and other grains), and soy.†
SBI Protect is the only purified, dairy-free source of immunoglobulin G (IgG) available as a dietary supplement. Serum-derived bovine immunoglobulins (SBI) provide the highest IgG concentration available for GI and immune challenges where allergens are a significant concern.
Pure IgG helps to maintain a healthy intestinal immune system by binding a broad range of microbes and toxins within the gut lumen. SBI Protect provides 1,200 mg IgG in a one-scoop serving.
Autoimmunity is on the rise globally, and recent research demonstrates a connection between autoimmunity and intestinal permeability. The discovery that the gut barrier plays a key role in immune health fueled the search to strengthen it.
In that search, researchers found that the binding capabilities of immunoglobulins have a positive effect on gut barrier function.
Immunoglobulins bind microbes and toxins in the GI tract and eliminate them prior to immune system activation. As these unwanted triggers are removed, it resets healthy immune tolerance and builds a stronger barrier to the external environment.
Other Articles That May Interest You
- Lectins As A Cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome, Autoimmune Disorders and Weight Gain.
- The Number One Cause of Hypothyroidism Is Almost Never Tested. Dr. Hagmeyer Video Series
- Autoimmune Diet|Naperville Institute For NeuroMetabolic Solutions|
- Coffee and Gluten Intolerance Connection| Dr. Hagmeyer Video
- Learn more about Functional Medicine, Our Testing and Treatment