Answering this question forces me to challenge yet another extremely common lectin myth, which is that everyone has a lectin issue. Does everyone REALLY have a lectin issue? And if so, why has this become a problem recently when it seemingly hasn’t been in the past?
The simple fact that not everyone experiences side effects from lectins should be the first big hint that ‘No, we don’t all have a lectin issue.’
But what is this factor?
This week, we’re diving into what I believe is the true root cause of so-called lectin issues. And surprise! It has more to do with the underlying health of your gut than lectins at all.
I’ll also be sharing my ultimate solution to going from lectin intolerant to lectin tolerant: My HAPPY GUT® Digest & Protect Bundle. I’ve seen dozens of patients heal their gut and start loving tomatoes, peppers, and beans — some of the popular lectin-containing foods! – using this protocol.
But first, let’s dive into the connection between lectins and your gut.
Understanding the Gut-Lectin Connection
Our understanding of the human gut microbiome is still in its infancy, but newer research shows that it can impact human health and illness in many different ways, including affects our mood, immune systems, energy levels, and our ability to tolerate various foods, including lectins.
In a healthy gut, everything functions optimally and there is a healthy balance between beneficial bacteria. On a day-to-day level, this means the gut houses a world of friendly, diverse good bacteria that help us digest our food, produce vitamins, and keep unfriendly gut organisms in check.
When the gut is healthy, it also:
- Tells you when you’re full. A healthy gut sends accurate signals to the brain when you are full so that you do not overeat, which means you feel satiated but not overly full after meals. Check out last “The Lectin Paradox (Part 1/3) to learn about the connection between leptin and lectin intolerance.
- Helps you break down food into absorbable nutrients. A healthy gut secretes just the right amount of digestive juices at the right time, which means that all your food is digested into its component parts. This includes the ability to break down and digest foods rich in lectins.
But what causes an unhealthy gut in the first place? There are certain lifestyle factors that can impact the health status of our guts. For example, how often you have bowel movements and the medications you take can impact the growth of gut bugs. In fact, antibiotics are probably the number one worldwide culprit for dysbiosis, because while they do the important job of killing harmful bacteria in the body, it can also wipe out the beneficial ones. As you might already guess, what you eat also has a massive influence on your microbiome (1) ; some foods — like healthy fats and fiber — are great for your microbiome health and other foods, like processed sugars, raw cruciferous vegetables and lectins can irritate the gut and either cause or exacerbate an existing gut issue. I talk about gut-friendly and gut-harming foods extensively in my book, Happy Gut .
Leaky gut and lectin intolerance
The trickiest part is that you may not even be aware of these sensitivities. Food sensitivities don’t always manifest as digestive distress; in fact, they can cause seemingly unrelated body symptoms, such as hives, allergies, chronic sinus inflammation, and migraines without any abdominal pain, bloating, or bowel movement problems, and only eventually become the triggers for irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune disease.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. It’s my belief that lectins often get the blame for problems that really should be blamed on leaky gut. A healthy gut, which includes a healthy balance of gut flora and a strong gut wall, can handle lectin-containing foods better and prevent this immune system attack.
Revealing the true problem with lectins
In other words, while lectins get associated with autoimmune disease and gut imbalances. It’s the other way around!
I’ve found that gut imbalances are often the problem, not just lectins.
- Further damage the gut wall
- Interfere with nutrient digestion and absorption
- Adversely impact the immune system within your digestive tract (5)
- Affect the health of cells in the gut and its ability to heal itself
Over time, as lectins get through the gut wall, they can bind to all sorts of tissues in your body, including brain, thyroid, liver, and pancreas, even possibly leading to autoimmune disease. This is the fuel to the fires of inflammation and autoimmunity .
Inflammation leads to a wide range of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. ( 9 ) I call this phenomenon the lectin-autoimmune connection . But as you can see, this is a complex and multifaceted issue. Blaming lectins and lectins alone for all these problems dramatically oversimplifies the issue at hand.
In my practice I find that my patients with lectin intolerance typically start out with a damaged gut.
Healing lectin intolerance by healing the gut
So how do you fix leaky gut and rebalance the gut microbiome? You’ll be surprised, the remedy is not all about what you eat, but also about how you live. You can start by following the:
7 Steps To Heal Your Leaky Gut
…So You Can Enjoy Lectin-Containing Foods Again
Cut down on processed and refined sugar
Move your body every day
Make sleep a priority
Find a stress management tool that works for you
Only take medications when you actually need them
Opt for healthier household products
Follow a lectin-limited diet COMBINED WITH a gut-healing program
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The truth is to simply cut lectins out of your diet for good is missing a big part of the whole picture. They say you can’t see the frame if you’re in the picture. Well, in this case, gut health is the framework for enjoying the bounty of delicious, lectin-rich foods in the ideal picture of the fall season. At the end of the day, if you don’t turn your attention toward healing the gut, you are missing the root cause of many health problems, including lectin intolerance. And that’s why I call this series: The Lectin Paradox .