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UPDATE ON Lectins, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Autoimmune Disorders

UPDATE ON Lectins, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Autoimmune Disorders

If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, chances are you are scouring the internet trying to find ways to help yourself naturally and have a better understanding of what might be triggering your autoimmune disease.

You may have heard about lectins and the role they play in various autoimmune disorders. For many people reducing or eliminating lectins can help drastically improve their health. But what exactly are lectins? How do they affect autoimmune disease? what’s the connection with a leaky gut? What foods to avoid on a lectin-free, Should you also avoid foods that are considered Nightshades?

Stay tuned because, in today’s video, I’m going to help you have a better understanding when it comes to lectins and autoimmune diseases.

What Are Lectins

So, what are Lectins? Technically, Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins found in animals and plants – they are specialized proteins that allow cells to connect or stick to other cells and you will see why that’s a problem in just a moment.

Approximately 30% of the food we eat contains lectins some of the foods you will eat today will most likely contain high amounts of these lectins and this may be one piece of your health puzzle that’s been overlooked.

Lectins include whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, and nightshades.

What Are Nightshades?

Nightshade vegetables are a group of plants that belong to the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes, peppers (bell peppers, chili peppers, etc.), potatoes, and eggplants. Some individuals with autoimmune diseases may find that consumption of nightshades can exacerbate their symptoms or trigger flares.

1. Alkaloids: Nightshade vegetables contain natural compounds called alkaloids, such as solanine and capsaicin. These compounds can have irritant properties and may interact with the immune system or exacerbate inflammation in susceptible individuals.

Alkaloids, particularly solanine, have been suggested to have pro-inflammatory properties and may potentially disrupt the gut lining. This disruption of the gut barrier can lead to leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which the intestinal permeability is compromised, allowing undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria to enter the bloodstream.

2. Lectins: Nightshade vegetables also contain lectins, which are carbohydrate-binding proteins. Lectins have the potential to stimulate the immune system and contribute to intestinal permeability (leaky gut). In some individuals with autoimmune conditions, this may lead to increased immune activation and inflammation.

3. Glycoalkaloids: Certain nightshade vegetables, particularly potatoes and green, sprouted potatoes, contain glycoalkaloids like solanine. These substances are natural defense mechanisms for the plants but can be toxic in high concentrations. Some people with autoimmune diseases may be more sensitive to these compounds, leading to increased inflammation or gastrointestinal symptoms.

In individuals predisposed to autoimmune diseases, this breach in the gut barrier can trigger an immune response, as the immune system recognizes these foreign invaders and mounts an attack. This immune response can lead to chronic inflammation and potentially contribute to the development or progression of autoimmune conditions.

The lectin you are most familiar with can be found in wheat known as wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). There are several problems with lectins as they relate to autoimmunity

Lectins and Leaky Gut

There are several problems with lectins as they relate to autoimmunity. Number one, they are very sticky. Your gut lining or your gut barrier is a single layer of epithelial cells that normally stay connected by tight junctions. These tight junctions are how the passage of nutrients is regulated in the digestive tract.

The epithelial cells in the gut are tipped with finger-like projections called microvilli. When food is digested, these microvilli absorb the nutrients and transport them through the epithelial cell into the bloodstream.

Normally, these tight junctions stay closed, and only nutrients are allowed to pass through into the bloodstream.

When this gut barrier begins to break down, the tight junctions become permeable or “open” and allow un-screened molecules through the border and into the bloodstream.

Examples of things that can get through in this situation are bacteria, pathogens, yeast, incompletely digested food, lectins, and more. That’s why we call it a leaky gut.

As this process continues over time, the intestinal lining can become damaged and even leakier, allowing even more “undesirables” through the intestinal wall and directly into the bloodstream.

So, imagine if you don’t know you have a problem with these lectins, you continue to eat them, and they continue to stick to the gut barrier never allowing your gut barrier or leaky gut to heal. That’s problem #1.

The Problem With Lectins

Lectins Are Resistant To Digestion

Lectins are resistant to digestion in the human digestive tract, which means they can survive intact as they pass through the stomach and into the intestine. Some types of lectins can bind to the lining of the gut, potentially interfering with nutrient absorption or causing gastrointestinal symptoms in susceptible individuals. Lectins are not broken down by stomach acid making them virtually resistant to digestion.  Over time as the gut barrier becomes leakier, these lectins enter our circulation and because they stick to tissues, they can initiate an inflammatory reaction within the gut. Once they enter the bloodstream, they can bind to any tissue in the body ­— thyroid, pancreas, collagen in joints, and 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 found in wheat, for example, are specifically known to be involved in Celiac disease and Rheumatoid arthritis.

The lectins found in wheat, potato, Tomato, and peanuts have been shown to increase Class II HLA antigens on cells that normally don’t display them. This is of interest to researchers who found thyroid disease and diabetes associated with these lectins. (3) so we do know that lectins play a role in a variety of autoimmune diseases through a variety of different mechanisms.

Lectins Are Considered Anti-nutrients.

The problem is that Lectins interfere with the absorption of other nutrients, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc which is why lectins are considered antinutrients.

Take a look at most nutritional supplements designed to help heal the gut. What do almost all of them contain? They almost always contain Zinc! Zinc helps repair the gut barrier. So, if you continue eating these foods, creating a zinc imbalance can slow down any efforts in healing the gut barrier.

This is especially important in situations where lectin-rich foods form a significant portion of the diet (vegetarians/Vegans), or if nutrient intake is already low, such as in individuals with poor dietary habits or who have followed a restrictive diet for too long.

Lectins Immune System Interactions-

Lectins and Autoi-immunity

Lectins can interact with the cells of the immune system. Depending on various factors like individual sensitivity and the types and levels of lectins consumed, this immune interaction may lead to inflammation or adverse immune responses, particularly in individuals with certain autoimmune conditions.

In the context of autoimmunity, lectins have garnered attention for their ability to interact with the gut lining and immune cells, potentially triggering an inflammatory response. Some research suggests that certain lectins may increase intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut syndrome, by disrupting the tight junctions between intestinal cells. This disruption can allow harmful substances to pass through the gut barrier and enter the bloodstream, leading to immune system activation and inflammation.

Additionally, lectins have been shown to bind to cells of the immune system, such as T lymphocytes and macrophages, influencing their activity and potentially contributing to autoimmune reactions. By binding to cell surface receptors, lectins can trigger immune responses that may be inappropriate or exaggerated, leading to tissue damage and the development of autoimmune conditions.

One of the primary concerns regarding lectins and autoimmunity is their potential to mimic or resemble human tissues, a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. When the immune system encounters foreign proteins that share structural similarities with its own tissues, it may mistakenly mount an immune response against both the foreign invader and the body’s own cells. This cross-reactivity can lead to the production of autoantibodies and the destruction of healthy tissues, characteristic of autoimmune diseases.

Lectins Alter Gut Bacteria and Cause Intestinal Dysbiosis

Lectins can also alter our gut bacteria or cause intestinal dysbiosis (5). Lectins can strip away the mucous layer of the gut exposing the mucosa to abnormal bacteria, yeast, and protozoa. This disruption in the mucus layer and the dysbiosis can once again contribute to gut inflammation and intestinal dysfunction.

The last thing I want you to know and I think this is important for people who have a history of ulcers, gastritis, H.pylori, or inflammatory bowel disease is that some Lectins like those found in kidney beans also cause an increased release of histamine from gastric mast cells,5A.

In the gut Mast cells, stimulate acid secretion and so in a situation where someone is already dealing with an active ulcer, additional acid would be like rubbing sandpaper on a wound. (6) Lectins can aggravate ulcers and gastritis.

A Few Things To Remember About Lectins, Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity

For individuals interested in exploring the impact of lectins on their autoimmune symptoms, working with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian specializing in autoimmune conditions is recommended. Keeping a food diary, monitoring symptom flares, and undergoing targeted lab testing may help identify potential food triggers and inform personalized dietary modifications.

In addition to considering lectins, individuals with autoimmune diseases can benefit from adopting an overall anti-inflammatory diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods. Prioritizing gut health through the consumption of probiotic-rich foods, fiber, and gut-supporting nutrients can also play a crucial role in managing autoimmune symptoms and promoting overall well-being.

Leaky Gut Quiz

How Do I Find Out if Lectins and Nightshades Are Causing My Leaky Gut or Autoimmune Disease?

If you are one of the people who has a problem with lectins, it could be one of the root causes of your autoimmune disease. Problems with lectins, Nightshades, and other food sensitivities can cause a leaky gut and we talked about the many ways Lectins can cause leaky gut and intestinal problems.

That Leaky gut could be one of the ways your immune system is targeting other tissues and glands of your body. This can only make your autoimmunity worse.

But something I want to be clear about is that not every autoimmune patient has problems with lectins or nightshades. So how do you know if you need to eliminate lectins, and nightshades and follow a lectin-free diet?

It comes down to testing and doing an elimination diet. Identifying these offending foods which include lectins and nightshades and then working with a qualified and experienced doctor who specializes in this area is critical.

These tests detect antibodies against immunoglobulin G (IgG) or immunoglobulin A (IgA) and antibodies against the tight junctions (Leaky gut) may serve as a guide for the elimination of these lectins from the diet and confirmation of a leaky gut.

If you have an autoimmune condition, I believe you owe it to yourself to explore this Leaky Gut-Lectin and autoimmunity connection in the overall healing journey to your healthy future.

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