Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Jun

The Lowdown On Lectins

Little known to the public at large. Little understood by the health community. Omnipresent in our conventional food culture. Proven to be at least mildly detrimental for everyone and downright destructive for the more sensitive (and often unsuspecting) among us. We’re talking lectins today: common natural agents on the one hand, cloaked thugs of the anti-nutrient underworld on the other. Our popular health media, if they’ve heard of lectins, certainly never make mention of them. Famous health gurus never deign to speak of them. In short, lectins thrive in the American diet basically unfettered, unscrutinized. Make no mistake, however. They’re a menacing power to be reckoned with. I’ve addressed them on Mark’s Daily Apple in the past (Why Grains Are Unhealthy) and in my book (The Primal Blueprint), but I still get a fair number of emails and forum questions asking for more info. As I always say, let’s break it down….

What Are They?

Before Monsanto, Mother Nature had her own pesticide strategy. (Humans being among the “pests” to be warded off.) In order to avoid being completely decimated by insects, foraging animals and Groks, plant species evolved assorted anti-nutrients that would make said pests regret their gorges with a variety of mostly digestive related ailments. Low grade toxins, in a sense. A workable balance developed between plants that were able to safeguard their species’ survival and the “pest” patrons that were able to benefit from the plants’ nutrition but learned to partake more sensibly from their supply. Given that our primal forefolk foraged widely and ate a surprisingly diverse diet, the system worked.

Lectins are essentially carb-binding proteins universally present in plants (and animals). Just as they protect plant species from Grok-sized predators, lectins also support other immunological functions within plants and animals (against pathogense, parasites, etc.) They also assist in other functions like protein synthesis and delivery in animals. They’re relatively sticky molecules, which makes them effective in binding with their sought after sugars but undesirable for our digestion, in which their binding powers can lead them to attach to the intestinal lining and wreak havoc. (More on this in a minute…)

Given their omnipresence in nature, a certain amount of lectin consumption has always been inevitable. To the benefit of the plants, lectins are also hard to break down. Regular old digestive enzymes only do about half the job. Human ingenuity evolved across traditional cultures to “predigest” lectins through food preparation practices (fermenting, soaking, etc.). In our contemporary dietary culture, however, we too commonly skip these practices yet rely on the highest lectin-containing foods for our primary food sources.

What Foods Contain Them?

The short answer here is basically all plants and animal products (PDF) to varying degrees. Nonetheless, lectins are concentrated more in some sources than others. Foods with the highest lectin activity include: grains of all kinds (especially wheat), legumes (especially soy), nuts, dairy, and nightshade plants (e.g. eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc.). Add to this list the oils and other derivative products from these food sources. And yet another, lesser known category: GMO food, since lectins are often spliced into modified varieties in order to enhance “natural” pest and fungal resistance.

What Do They Do To The Body?

Let’s go back to the intestine again. (Some field trip, eh?) Lectins’ stickiness allows them to bind with the lining, particularly the villi, of the small intestine. The result? Intestinal damage (with impaired cellular repair potential), cellular death as well as compromised intestinal villi, which means reduced absorption of other nutrients, including minerals and protein. Add to this altered gut flora, which can allow certain harmful bacterial strains like E. coli to run rampant. Furthermore, because the body is now responding full-time to the needs of the injured gut lining, proteins and other resources are redirected from other basic growth and repair processes. Furthermore, lectins have been associated with leptin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition linked to obesity.

Perhaps the most insidious impacts lectins can leave in their wake is this: leaky gut. Leaky gut is a term for the breach in the intestinal lining created by lectins hand in hand with other antinutrients. Once the intestinal breach exists, lectins and other particles (like partially digested food, toxins, etc) can “leak” into the bloodstream.

Once lectins open the door, so to speak, out of the small intestine, they and other fugitive particles are now free to move about the body and bind to any tissue they come across (anything from the thyroid to the pancreas to the kidneys). Of course, the body reacts to these invaders by directing an attack on these particles and the otherwise perfectly healthy tissue they’re attached to. Enter autoimmune mayhem. That’s why lectins are linked with autoimmune disorders like IBS, Crohn’s, colitis, thyroiditis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and arthritis. Specific lectins have been associated with particular ailments (like wheat with rheumatoid arthritis), but more research is needed to trace and confirm these connections. What is clear, however, is the potent autoimmune destruction that can result when the intestinal lining experiences this level of damage.

Primal Advice For Limiting Lectins

As mentioned, lectins are literally everywhere. Although it’s impossible to eliminate them altogether, you can significantly reduce your intake.

  • Purge the worst offenders. That means grains and soy more than anything, but I’d add other legumes to the list as well. Eliminating the foods that contain the highest lectin activity will slash your overall lectin intake – and impact.
  • Cut back on other higher lectin sources. Not everyone wants to nix every dairy or nightshade option. Look at how you can reduce your overall intake of these items while keeping enough to enjoy their flavor and nutrient advantages.
  • Gauge your sensitivity. For those of us who are most sensitive to lectins, more dramatic measures might be needed. If you know or believe that you’ve already suffered some serious intestinal damage, you might do well to steer clear of as many high and moderate lectin level foods as possible. That means perhaps forgoing nightshades, dairy, legumes and even nuts and eggs in addition to all grains and processed foods. Reintroduce desired foods back into your diet by “family” (e.g. dairy, etc.) and be mindful of any physiological effects (however minor) that accompany them.
  • Take up old traditions like soaking, sprouting and using bacterial fermentation techniques for any moderate/high lectin foods like beans you choose to keep in your diet. Fermentation methods are especially effective, virtually eliminating lectins in one study of lentils. All those kitchen rituals you remember from Grandma? They’re adaptive, essentially pre-digestive techniques practiced by traditional cultures around the globe. Going old school on your favorite nut varieties, for example, cuts those lectin levels dramatically.
  • Don’t go wholly raw. Yes, there are legitimate reasons to enjoy raw plants in your diet, but I don’t support the practice as a movement or exclusionary principle for eating. Humans have been cooking for well over a hundred thousand years. Some nutrients are enhanced by heat. Some anti-nutrients (like lectins) are at least partially “disarmed” by it. Cooking methods with a mind toward maximizing overall nutrient value and bioavailability make good Primal sense and can lower your exposure to lectins.
  • Diversify! Restrictive diets make us even more susceptible to the downsides of our foods. (Soy formula fed babies being a dramatic example of this principle.) Make Grok proud and forage more widely for your dinner. Research shows that simply rotating primary foods was enough to limit lectin-related damage in rats that were given rounds of soy feed. A healthy, mostly low lectin diet will offer enough balance and protective nutrition to blunt the impact of the occasional moderate level lectin sources.
  • Avoid GMOs. Hidden lectin is just one more reason to leave GMO products on the shelf.
  • Maintain good overall gut health. Our modern existence sometimes seems like one giant assault against our digestive tracts. Minimize cumulative negative effects and increase positive, protective factors. Eat a healthy diet with Primal doses of probiotics, prebiotics and good fats. Limit stress and the use of medications like aspirin, NSAIDs and antibiotics (as well as secondary exposure through antibiotic-administered livestock). A healthy gut will be better equipped to weather the effects of inevitable but reasonable lectin intake.

Now it’s your turn – for your comments, questions and anecdotes about lectin impact. Let me know your thoughts, and thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Thanks for all your help everybody. I’m not sure what a cold room is, but I have a feeling that is not feasible where I live. I do have a garden though, I love my herbs and fresh food grown by myself. I guess my initial frustration when I read the info. on lectins that it further depleted the list of foods I can eat. No melons, no cabbages or cabbage related veggies,no potatoes, no corn, no apples, cherries, plums, etc. Then this article talks about nightshades like peppers. So you see with such a lengthy list of what I can’t/ or rather shouldn’t without painful consequences it is frustrating. I have found there seems to be no rhyme or reason to my bloating and pain. I had concluded on my own that anything sugary and starchy is bad for me.

    I guess I will just keep plugging away and researching. Hopefully there will be an answer someday.

    Thanks again.

    Pam wrote on November 7th, 2010
  2. Scientific Paper on glycoalkoloids and lectins, shows amounts presents in different vegetables, provides info on negative effects and believe it or not benefits of lectins and glycoalkaloids that are so downplayed by paleoliths

    Dima wrote on November 8th, 2010
  3. There is soy lectin in my tea, is this bad if im trying to stay paleo/primal?

    Nichole wrote on February 27th, 2011
    • soy lectin in tea? really? that seems odd to me. I wonder what purpose it serves? shelf life?

      I avoid soy at all costs.

      Mary Anne wrote on February 27th, 2011
  4. Have been eating Paleo for a month and boy HOWDY do I feel good. I was a complete bean whore before. LOVED.BEANS. Especially peanuts and soy products. I plan to never go back except for maybe the occasional burrito with some pinto beans. But, never again will I indulge in soy products. I think that was what was giving me most of my gut trouble. Great ARTICLE. Explains so much.

    Gina wrote on April 3rd, 2011
  5. Mark, my apologies for the post that follows. I will say first I am a fan and I credit you with improving my health enormously.

    I’m a black man (I refuse to use the politically correct term “African American” or “African Canadian.” I was born and raised in Cuba, which I was lucky to leave when I was 21, and moved to Canada 17 years ago.

    Whatever the reason is, the fact remains Canadian jails are brimming with black people, and Canadian universities are not.

    I, for example, was one of a handful of black students at my campus at U of T. Most of us came from abroad, mostly from Africa. I only remember two (two!) black students who were born and raised in Canada.

    I found this deeply shaming. I assumed Canada was full of racist institutions. This was in line what I was brought up listening to, for in Cuba, the propaganda machine has us believe blacks are always oppressed in capitalist countries.

    Then I realized, if I, a black penniless immigrant, could borrow money from the government, get a shitty job to help pay the bills, and put myself through school, why couldn’t more black people do it? If I was able to get a good job after graduation, why couldn’t they?

    My point is this, justified by my own experience as a black man: more often than not, the excuse of racism and skin colour is precisely that: an excuse.

    Of course, my people suffered enormously during centuries, and that until only a few decades ago, racism was a real obstacle that prevented us from moving up in life, at least in North America. It drives me insane to know that had my father been raised in, say, Alabama, he would’ve been forced to drink from separate fountain or sit on different seats in the bus.

    But this is all in the past. And the historical excuse does not work in the case of the Chinese, for example, who were used as cheap labour for railroads.

    Or how about the Jews? I don’t think there’s ever been a people that’s been more discriminated against.

    Yet both the Chinese and the Jews work hard, go to school, and make money. They have solid families. Few of their children are raised out of wedlock. Most know their fathers.

    Mind you, these are not blind generalizations, but census facts and social/economical studies anyone can look up on the Internet.

    It’s time for people, both black and white, to admit the problem, stop justifying it, and work to resolve it—not by exercising “positive discrimination”, not by being politically correct or by calling SteveB rude, but by facing the truth.

    And that truth is, black people today are largely responsible for their situation.

    Bill Cosby is my hero.

    Pedro Arnauld wrote on April 22nd, 2011
  6. Hey Pedro,

    Thanks for standing up for me… If you’re interested in a complete Wellness Workup.. that is what I do for a living… So definitely email me and we can set up an appointment.. I’m glad you’re health has been improving..

    Steve wrote on April 22nd, 2011
  7. I am really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one today..

    weight loss wrote on June 15th, 2011
  8. Re: “secondary exposure through antibiotic-administered livestock).” I’ve heard that when you’re on anti-biotics that you should stop taking probiotics because these renders antibiotics innefective. If that is the case, could it be that taking probiotics daily also means it’s (relatively) safe to eat meat from animals that have been raised on antibiotics – i.e., taking probiotics means your body will also be able to handle the antibiotics in the meat?

    Mariana wrote on June 27th, 2011
  9. My mother has diabetes and fibromyalgia. It’s tough to see her struggle and I try to learn as much as I can from great blogs like this one to avoid going down the same path. In spite of eating healthy (chicken, brown rice, sprouted flourless bread, veggies, etc), last year I got relentless IBS-like symptoms literally overnight and spent 8 mos. with a doctor who wanted to prescribe me pills for severe cramps but I refused. I wanted to know the cause and kept asking for test after test that only showed I was healthy as a horse. Yet, I had persistant abdominal pain all throughout my abdomen. My doctor did not suggest any dietary changes, but I cut out caffeine and beer and the pain subsided but not the fatigue and brain fog. Finally, I went to a naturopath and he put me on L-glutamine powder and an insulin-resistant diet that I tailored to be grain-free as well. This healed my gut tremendously. Magnesium glycinate helped with the constipation. Within 4 weeks I was able to eat whatever I wanted again, but I was so impressed with the dietary changes, I’ve since learned to soak and ferment rice and buckwheat and rely more on sweet potatoes.

    Colleen wrote on June 30th, 2011
  10. It is a short put up to state, very merely, thanks a ton. I’ve had an opportunity to atone for this post and the comments as we speak and I’m really grateful for knowing the content of this blog

    technical training wrote on July 2nd, 2011
  11. Wow – this is the post I’ve been searching for.

    After dealing with bizarre RA-like, debilitating joint pain that neither orthopedist nor rheumatologist could identify, but were happy to treat with pharmaceuticals, I casual mention by my chiro – “You know you shouldn’t be eating wheat, right?” got me looking into this whole primal thing.

    I can’t say unequivocally that cutting the grains (though corn and rice still manage to sneak in now and then) has fixed the issue, because I had a full pregnancy-related remission and haven’t had troubles since. I only got serious about cutting grains after I started feeling twinges in those same joints and panicked about needing to go back on injectable TNF blockers.

    I have found a lot of advice – don’t eat gluten, don’t eat sugar, don’t eat grains, etc, but until now I was missing the underlying, big fat scientific WHY. I feel like I have my answer now. I never knew exactly why grains were so awful, other than that “humans were never supposed to eat them.”

    I read this with big, wide open eyes wanting to jump up and scream, “YES YES YES!” Light bulbs turned on, sirens went off. Thank you thank you thank you.

    Susie wrote on July 17th, 2011
  12. Really if you are going to eat lectin foods, cook them well and at high temps. Also soak when you can. This raw food idea is way off. There is a reason why people cook things.

    Dinkle wrote on July 22nd, 2011
    • Thank you for your post, Dinkle! I find it interesting that the original article mentions soaking and fermenting but not cooking, and that out of a million responses, almost nobody mentions this. I guess it would turn this whole conversation into a non-issue, since everybody cooks beans, anyway.

      Liz wrote on February 19th, 2012
  13. Hmm…The only thing I eat for my evening meal is boiled egg and peas. I love it. And now it’s bad? :(

    Miss Kimbers wrote on July 23rd, 2011
    • Peas nor eggs have harmful lectins for any Blood Type. Ultimately no food is inherently “bad.” It just depends on how susceptible you are to it. This is dependent on several other factors including overall gut health, level of consciousness, belief systems…etc…

      Steve Beisheim wrote on September 2nd, 2011
  14. It appears that you’ve got put loads of effort and exhausting work into your submit and I require way more of these on the web in current times. I sincerely received a kick out of your post. I don’t really have considerably to say responding, I solely wished to remark to answer very good work.

    how to get new friends wrote on August 2nd, 2011
  15. Here is an excellent write-up on lectins:

    Given all the blood-type bashing going on above, I probly shouldn’t say it, but there is a lot of info to be learned from it — especially about lectins. For Susie above, diving into the sequence of blood-type books will enlighten you a lot about why gluten is bad, etc. For Pam above, with all your frustration and lack of solution still… give the blood type diet a look. You may be surprised (as I was) to find it solve some of your issues.

    I admit some of the blood type info “seems” non-scientific and unjustified (I don’t know if it is or isn’t)… But most of what I learned from it has proven itself true to me, my friends, my family, and my patients (I’m a dentist). I don’t want to perpetuate a debate, but based on my experience, I’d definitely recommend reading into it. Take it all with a grain of salt if you must. It may not be always correct and it may not apply to everyone equally or at all. But it sure works miracles for many.

    I’ve learned things about myself and other genetic issues such as what it means to be a non-secretor and why non-secretors are so much more health-sensitive to foods. The blood type theories have been the most helpful discoveries I’ve ever made for my own health issues. I’m sure it will help others too.

    And to Luke above who argues against the blood type diet so fiercely, you keep stating that the blood type diet works on type O’s because it happens to match primal. What about the converse? Maybe the primal diet works for O’s because it happens to match the O diet? I don’t know anything about the primal diet (I’m new here), so am not making any claims or discrediting it. I just thought it was funny how one-sided your argument is 😛

    Chris wrote on September 1st, 2011
    • Hey Chris,

      Thanks for your comment man. It’s good that you are a critical thinker and make an effort to understand both sides to any argument. All of my clients benefit when they avoid harmful lectins, you can even see the research just by using Google. Did you know that the HIV Virus is bound and inhibited by the Banana Lectin? Nature rocks….

      Steve Beisheim wrote on September 2nd, 2011
    • Hey Chris,

      Welcome – and I hope you actually take the time to read and learn about the Primal diet.

      If you read my posts I explain why it can’t be the other way around… I don’t have the time to repeat it all, but the reason essentially boils down to the fact that:

      1) The author contradicts himself between books and his two diets… it cannot be science based if the rules are not consistent… you cannot say cherries are super food, and THEN in the same book say they are toxic, and in another diet say that they are BENEFICIAL to the people you said they were toxic for before.

      2) Regarding the primal O’s etc… this is based on the fact that as I have repeatedly stated… I am an AB, and I was told that meat etc was bad for me and I should consume soy… and this FAILED… however when I eat Primal (NO soy and definitely meat), I get results… if you look at the people that are positive to the Blood diet they are O’s.. so this is why it isn’t the other way around… if only the O’s (that get essentially a “primal diet”) do well, but the A’s, B’s and AB’s tend to fail, then this shows that the blood type diet isn’t working (otherwise why would all the A’s, B’s and AB’s FAIL), but it is because it is all the O’s on a primal diet!!!

      If it was the other way around… ALL the types, O’s, A’s, B’s and AB’s would WORK, and as a result, if these people went on a primal diet, then ONLY the O’s would do well… but this is NOT what happens…

      It is the first case… when O’s switch to primal (not much change, as they essentially are cutting out wheat etc and eating meat), then they still do well, but all the A’s, B’s and AB’s that FAIL on the blood type, switch to primal and do WELL.

      I trust as a dentist you can understand this?!?! If only ONE subset of a diet works, then it is clearly FALSE.

      And if the people that FAIL on the parts of the diet (blood type A’s, B’s and AB’s) that are wrong, switch to another diet (primal) and it WORKS AND the people that were essentially following the other diet (i.e. primal) on the first diet (blood type O’s) switch to primal and it STILL works, then it is the PRIMAL part that is true and the blood type that is WRONG.

      That is WHY I repeat my observation – it is almost ALWAYS O’s that praise the blood type diet and defend it. And I see this is the case here – ALL the people that defend the diet are O’s (i.e. eating more primal) and all the people who hate it (like me) tend to be A’s, B’s and AB’s… this is EMPIRICAL evidence that the diet ONLY works for O’s because they are essentially eating primal, and primal is the actual reason, cause all the A’s, B’s and AB’s that hate the blood type diet cause it is rubbish, find that primal (i.e. eating like an O) world for them… and that is why it isn’t the other way around, if A’s, B’s and AB’s start eating primal which is eating an diet for O’s (which they are TOLD emphatically by the blood type diet they SHOULD NOT – as it is toxic for them) and it works for them then it is the blood type diet that is FALSE. SURELY as a dentist, you understand this?!

      Sorry, I cannot explain this any more.. this is LOGIC and deduction… I don’t say that to imply you can’t understand logic and deduction, I simply say this is the process… and there are only so many ways you can explain it.

      In the end, I OBJECT to the blood type diet, because as I have stated before, if you release a diet with certain rules, that are in fact FALSE and cause health damage, and then release a NEW diet book that CONTRADICTS the first, yet STILL sell the first, you are ethical bankrupt.

      If you do keep reading here you will see that Mark gives all the information you need away for free on this blog… you can buy his books, but they are just a way to quickly get the essential information without spending time reading all the posts here. He is not pushing a diet that only works for SOME… it is based on genetics and evolution and as a result, it will work for all.

      I wasted a lot of money on the blood type books and as you can see from all the people that dislike it here (again all the A’s, B’s and AB’s) they feel the same way too.

      If Steve and you can tell me you are NOT O’s, then that would be a start to proving me wrong.

      It isn’t critical thinking just because you agree with each other… critical thinking involves differentiating between correlation and causation.

      There is a correlation between type O diet and primal diet, but the causation of the results that Type O’s get is due to the primal nature of it, and this is evidenced by the effects a primal diet (i.e. a O diet) has on people that according to blood type dieting should suffer due to their blood type.

      Anyway – I have added all I can here, I KNOW I am repeating myself, and in the end, my posts are not for people that wish to admit they know nothing about a subject, but still challenge it… I can ONLY implore yo to keep reading, and you will see what I saw when I discovered Mark’s Daily Apple whilst being miserable on an AB blood type diet.

      Steve has a business based on this stuff, so he also won’t budge… that is fine.

      I have NO business or profit motive… my only motive is to HOPEFULLY explain to the people that are reading all this to not buy into the blood type hype and rubbish, and present a point of view I have (and yes it is emphatic and fierce – because when people’s health is at stake, and you have looked at the evidence as I have and have the conclusion I have it is reprehensible NOT to be emphatic and try as many ways as possible to persuade). I may be wrong, I am willing to admit that… but I’m admitting the blood type diet works for O’s, I am just reaching out to the A’s, B’s and AB’s like me to save themselves the pain, and the money.

      And if one A, B or AB read all this and realises they would be better off eating primal (or more like an O), then like the many that have posted here as well, they will be better off. I make no money from it, but I do feel good knowing someone isn’t putting themselves through the hell I went through when I was also conned by all the “endorsements” by O’s raving on about a diet that only works because it is primal.

      Regarding lectins… I agree with this… but you don’t have to adhere to the blood type diet to avoid lectins…. it is the blood type fan brigade that have hijacked this post about that… the impact of lectins was raised well before the author of the blood type diet… he jumped onto that bandwagon (again I feel like I am repeating myself).

      And here endeth the rant… because if you still want to follow the blood type diet after all that I AND may others smarter than me have written here (and elsewhere) about it, then all I can say is I pray you are an O and all the very best of luck to you. To those that reconsider and avoid this rubbish as a result of my rants… even if it is just one of you, then it was worth the time and effort.



      LukeinOz wrote on October 19th, 2011
      • Hi Luke, thanks for your detailed explanation. Of course the logic and deduction you present is plain. IF the blood type diet works only for type O’s, then I would agree with everything you said. However, my implied question was: “Why do you think the blood type diet fails for A’s, B’s, and AB’s?”

        Your personal experience is one thing, but where is the statistically significant data that confirms it? I don’t have any data that proves it works. But you claim to have data that proves it doesn’t. Why do you claim that?

        I have anecdotal evidence that makes me believe it is accurate. I have met at least 20 type A’s, who know nothing about the blood type diet, but all claim to thrive on what they describe as the blood type A diet. I.e., every single type A I’ve interviewed (20-ish) claim that eating red meat makes them feel lethargic.

        I have met at least 40 type O’s, who confirm their diet matches the O diet or the primal diet.

        It’s the B’s that throw me… they all love chicken and tomatoes, the 2 worst foods for them. However, they all do very well with dairy (the only blood type that does well on dairy). This “confirms” one more aspect of the blood type diet.

        The ABs are a crazy group. I haven’t found any correlations between their reported diets / lifestyles and the blood type AB diet. I’m not surprised the AB diet didn’t work for you. It’s a difficult one. Did you discover your secretor status btw? That will alter the diet quite a bit.

        Chris wrote on December 27th, 2011
  16. If you can’t afford to go “primal”, then soaking grains and legumes overnight does work. My autistic son can handle these things so much better when I soak them.
    Also, make sure you have probiotic foods like cultured veggies or kefir. I can’t tell you how much that has helped our digestion.

    RM wrote on October 18th, 2011
  17. Regarding pork, you should avoid it because it’s not a very clean animal in regards to digestion, and tends to hold more parasites like worms.
    Just ask the jewish people this. That’s why they don’t eat pork or shellfish (which are the bottom feeders of the ocean and consume the ocean’s crap). They are not clean food sources.

    RM wrote on October 18th, 2011
  18. Helena,
    You might want to check and see if you have a thyroid disorder. I started reacting like crazy to all sorts of foods that never bothered me before, and found out I have Hashimoto’s disease. Once I started on Armour Thyroid, my crazy food allergies calmed down quite a bit.
    I think this is due to an overreacting immune system, and metabolic issues. I also had chronic yeast infections as well.
    I’m sorry for your situation. It can be hard.

    I am so sorry to

    RM wrote on October 18th, 2011
  19. Not to stir the debate back up yet again on the blood type diet pros/cons but I’m an A+ that ate lots of meat,cheeses, and drank lots of milk throughout my youth and even more so in my 20’s as I was into weightlifting. Bottom line is I felt like crap more and more as I went through my 20’s. So much so that after picking up a copy of the blood type diet, juice fasting for a month, then eating a veggie diet that evolved back to a modified Mediterranean diet w/ a fair amount of fish, I can say I feel a world better at 40 than when I was in my 20’s. I’ve since read D’Adamo’s new book on genotypes and am very impressed w/the emerging field of epigenetics. The study of how our genes are in fact not static at conception but constantly interacting w/our environment (even and especially in utero)modifying them to a surprising degree.

    Just wanted to chime in as an A blood type due to someone earlier saying that they thought no one other than O’s rave about D’Adamo’s stuff. I know plenty of A’s and B’s that subscribe to his work to some degree. I being one of them.

    The Buddhist Cowboy wrote on November 12th, 2011
  20. Hi everyone! First time commenting, but my husband and I have been reading MDA on and off for a while now.

    I’m a 26 yr. old epileptic with FMS and anxiety. I make a conscious effort to listen and be in tune with my body, and it’s telling me that I need meat, green veggies, and fruit. I have a natural aversion to pork, shellfish and catfish , white potatoes, oats and other grains, and sometimes tomatoes. I don’t seem to have an issue with rice or beans, though, and I’m glad to know that soaking/sprouting/fermenting does well to reduce/eliminate lectins. I have a serious problem with sugar and bread, and it’s a constant battle to cut those things out of my diet, which I know I should do (there are obvious side effects for me.) Luckily, I don’t drink sodas, coffee, or add sugar to my tea! Reading this article confirms some things for me, which is pretty exciting, but pretty overwhelming, since I’ve had to do so much independent research to get the nutritional info I need. I second a more specific article in the future – one with examples of recipes, etc., to help us who are still struggling. If anyone has tips on weaning off sugars, let me know. (I love fruit, but will eat more fruit than veggies if I’m not careful.)

    One thing I find interesting about the nightshades is reflected in someone’s comment that “anyone that eats a raw potato will tell you how toxic they are,” which my husband would tell you just isn’t true. He’s eaten more than one raw potato and has had no noticeable issues. Of course, he has a stomach of steel! When I mentioned it to him, he said that he’s never eaten a raw potato that’s sprouted, so he must be safe. Not trying to start an argument, just commenting that there is something to be said for catering to the individual’s needs when it comes to nutrition. Unfortunately, there’s some grey area, which makes things complicated.

    Thanks again!

    ChelseaKeebs wrote on January 7th, 2012
  21. Hi, I am new to this website and trying to get a handle on what to try with my daughter who is 7 and has IBD (diagnosed at 4yrs). We cut out dairy, citrus, chocolate, pork. Been in good health until a stomach bug which has causd a flare up.

    I recently had some wheat germ which I was allergic to. This brought me to WGA, lectins etc. Then I have that blood group book and have just seen the SCD.

    I want to eliminate lectins as it seems to make sense. Then stumbling on SCD and trying to correct the bacteria balance also makes sense. Where the 2 seems to diverge in my limited knowledge so far is the mucilanginous foods and herbs like okra, slippery elm, aloe etc. In papers I have read they act as lectin decoys which is great. N acetylglucosamine acts as a decoy or binds with wheat lectins etc. But in SCD it says these are illegal.

    I am confused and can anyome shed some light please. Thanks

    fariha wrote on January 24th, 2012
    • If you have a pressing medical concern here is my advice…. You need to get yourself into ketosis by just eating protein once or twice a day… You feel anxious and weird at first because repressed emotions will come to the surface…. all carbohydrates repress feelings (hence our addiction to them) so eventually the body develops illness… If you get yourself into ketosis by following an atkins (but eating right for your type protein selection ) every medical problem will go away forever.. it’s just if you’re willing…..

      Steve Beisheim wrote on January 24th, 2012
  22. hey everyone, love all the comments…i was wondering if anyone has had any experiences like mine…i’m 30 years old and after suffering from bowel problems for over 10 years, i’m finally having part of my small bowel removed in a few weeks from what was diagnosed as crohn’s a few years ago. I went paleo for a while but didn’t have a lot of success because all the fiber from the fruits and veggies had a hard time getting through the scar tissue built up in my intestine. i plan on starting again and wondered if anyone had any success with this sort of thing. i really don’t want to be on meds the rest of my life like they’re telling me…

    Steve wrote on March 6th, 2012
    • Here’s the deal Steve… Carbohydrates are non essential and you don’t need them… fruits and vegetables are non essential… no one can dispute this…..they are the most gentle carbohydrate that exists so if you can not eat them don’t eat carbs at all.. Flours, sugar, beans, legumes.. all are more assaultive on the body itself and you may not feel the hit on your gut right away because veggies are like a slow knife so it hurts (warning warning), but sugar, wheat and processed stuff is like a super sharp fast knife so there is trauma, but its almost so quick and insidious your body doesn’t know how what happened…. (does this make sense at all?)

      You just need protein with a little fat… and you don’t need to eat three meals per day… If you eat a little bit of a protein source that is right 4 your blood type (red meat if type 0) once for breakfast and once for lunch… you will fall into ketosis and your levels of butyrate will skyrocket… (butyrate heals the intestines)…. butyrate is inversely related to carbs in the diet….

      Fact- You will release held up emotional resistance…. Do not eat when anxious and do not eat anything at night…… If you want to make progress prepare for some emotional “releasing.”

      Are society is an emotion denying one that treats symptoms and not at the level of which they have been caused… If you stop eating at night and allow fasting periods throughout the day (by only eating 2 meals).. emotions will release from your body ….. anger, fear, sadness…….

      Emotional resentment begins the disease process which always takes its toll on the physical body eventually… no one can escape this… we all are responsible for the physical because it ultimately starts mentally…..

      As crazy as this sounds you a life force/energetic being within the human “machine.” Healing begins with your mind… Food really is just an illusion and people (like me in the past) have become obsessed with it as the answer…. Ultimately you need very little food for survival…. and the longer you go between meals the better… (even skipping days at a time through fasting) – with limited water intake

      I’m dealing with something similar because I am having to choose whether I want to feel my old emotions, ) or deal with the physical consequences of not……. many people choose not to deal with the emotions and choose surgery and meds.. nothing is “wrong” with this but it ultimately doesn’t create happiness and freedom in your life… If you can solve the problem mentally and emotionally and with only 1 of 2 meals of the right protein /day… you will rapidly regenerate… the body is always regenerating… the only one interfering with this is you…

      Affirmations of love, support and encouragement from your mind actually radically decrease inflammation in your intestines …. use gratitude and love as high vibrational words … expressed in a journal …. even just chanting these words ( saying them over and over for several minutes) effects levels of pain and gut flora….

      I wish you the best and pray you have the courage to change…. a feeling of joy and contentment you have never known before is waiting for you on the other side…….



      Steve Beisheim wrote on March 7th, 2012
      • Wow, I’m very immpressed with everything you’ve said here, especially the affirmations decreasing inflammation.

        chriscat wrote on July 26th, 2012
  23. Hey ya’ll,

    First wanted to say I’ve been paleodieting and crossfitting for about a year and I totally love it. My body has completely changed and it’s awesome. My friends give me a lot of flack though, especially when it comes to legumes and stuff like quinoa. I try to tell them about the lectins and phylates but they don’t believe me especially when they put articles like this one on my facebook wall.

    What’s the deal with cooking legumes? Does cooking neutralize all of the anti nutrients? Do lectins, when consuming a moderate amount of legumes, actually eliminate cancerous cells? Are we primal people crazy for not wanting to eat legumes? And what the heck is up with quinoa?

    Thanks and sorry if my questions have been answered a million times already!

    Mateo wrote on March 19th, 2012
  24. Thank you, Mark, for all the information this article provided!

    I had the I-95 allergy panel done in December and it showed me to be highly allergic to beef, casein, egg whites and kidney beans as well as moderately allergic to garlic, strawberries, pineapple and green beans.

    I am currently on a modified juice fast while on the elimination diet because water and juice are simpler. I drink carrot juice, lemonade (lemon juice and agave syrup in water), and sometimes fruit juice mixed 50/50 with water during the day at work, and then I prepare baked meat (chicken or pork usually) along with potatoes and vegetables in the evening when I get home. I am not eating much pasta, as I want other things to go with it that I am not allowed to eat, so again, easier.

    I was drinking herbal tea because I like dairy in my coffee but I cannot have dairy right now, and soya milk is so gross, but on a friends advice I have been buying chocolate flavored soy milk and drinking coffee again. I also add blackstrap molasses to my coffee for the iron, as I have iron deficiency anemia and cannot afford to let my iron stores go down while on the diet and iron pills are hard on my tummy.

    I do slow burn strength training on Mondays and Thursdays and some kind of cardio on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (before work), and I have no problems going without food or even liquids until after the workout. I have been drinking 2 liters of water daily for years. I am getting stronger, my clothes are looser and I have more stamina.

    Problem is, I got the allergy test because I was diagnosed with H.Pylori last summer and treated with antibiotics, but I still have bouts of stomach problems- mostly gas and bloating and a general pain. And I still have the stomach problems while on the elimination diet as well.

    I had the best health in my life with the Atkins induction phase, which is quite paleo. What I liked best about it was the philosophy of the many people I met in forums who just said don’t try to make substitute food, just learn to not eat bread or muffins or high G.I foods, and that made sense to me. If bread is bad, why keep trying to eat it in some form? There are lots of foods out there to eat.

    So here I am on an elimination diet, eating bread because I am not allergic to it (???), as well as potatoes, tomatoes, peanut butter (usually on a sprouted wheat bread) and feeling crappier than ever. As soon as I am officially done with the “elimination” diet, I am going to eliminate the items on the lectin list that I have been eating to see which one is offending my stomach the most. I appreciate that you put this information forward, and I enjoy reading all the newsletters I get from MDA- especially the most recent ones on fasting 😉

    And for the blood type debate, I am A- and I tried that diet but I want to eat red meat and I like it. And obviously it is not the cause of my stomach troubles (or at least not all the cause). I think I do best with meat, veg and berries and the odd piece of sprouted bread, toasted with ghee. I can live without coffee and cream if I have to (the jury is still out on that one), but do not take away my t-bone steak!!

    Mae wrote on April 26th, 2012
  25. As someone with myriad food sensitivies, the scales fell from my eyes when I discovered lectins. Though I gave up grains and soy decades ago, I’m currently using okra to mitigate the harmful effects of lectins and have ordered via the internet some stuff that’s supposed to counteract their harmful effects. I’ve passed this information along to my children, who are also trying to cope with food sensitivies.

    Tom Dolan wrote on April 29th, 2012
  26. Instead of focusing on diet, I focus on wealth and success. My sensitivities have all gone by the wayside since I incorporate the advice that’s on my website…

    Steve Beisheim wrote on April 29th, 2012
  27. Kind advise to visit Jack Kruse’s site. Our health is compromised by more than the wrong food. You need a 3-way health strategy:

    1: the rigt food (paleo; agreed)
    2: food timing in line with circadian rythm
    3: cold adaptation to re-awake that other build-in biochemistry that 90% of all living creatures on this planet use to thrive.

    There is more than just food. For your own good: take a look at Very fascinating stuff.

    André wrote on April 29th, 2012
  28. Excellent post! We will be linking to this particularly great article on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

    Bipin Sekhon wrote on May 7th, 2012
  29. Yes, avoiding lectins and eating primarily does wonderful for your health, mood, and finances too. I’ve certainly noticed a huge increase in my cash flow

    Steve Beisheim wrote on May 8th, 2012
  30. Sorry if this has already been asked, but should wheat grass, such as that used in green powders, be avoided?

    Airmid wrote on May 17th, 2012
  31. One question about lectins that may have been answered already in the comments but I couldn’t find it. Are lectins affected (read changed, neutralized, made less of a problem…) by processing them. In particular I am wondering about tomatoes and potatoes. Or is the only viable option avoidance. Thanks for your help.

    Bruce wrote on June 5th, 2012
  32. It is my understanding that magnesium deficiency is very common among those on the SAD diet. I was just searching for foods that are good sources of magnesium, and they include nuts and seeds (especially good are pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds) and green leafy vegetables such as Swiss chard and spinach. After reading this post, it occurs to me that the lectins in these foods will bind the magnesium and it will be unavailable for absorption. Anyone have any ideas about good sources of magnesium ?

    I’m especially concerned about my 85-year-old mother who is having major problems with severe and painful night cramps in her legs. I think she could benefit from more magnesium, but supplements can have too much of a laxative effect, which is why I’m researching food sources of magnesium.

    I suspect she has diabetic neuropathy, although no doctor has ever been able to tell her exactly what is wrong. I think the primal diet is what she needs, but it’s going to be really tough to have to tell her that cereal and orange juice for breakfast is taboo. I’m afraid it’s going to make her very unhappy and add a lot of stress on top of everything else.

    She’s on pain medications, now muscle relaxants. I’m trying to get her to adjust her diet. But she thinks she eats fine (according to CW). I’ve convinced her to get her blood glucose checked. Unfortunately, I live 2000 miles away, otherwise I would be making primal meals for her. Instead I have to convince her to do it for herself. She also lives in a small town, so food choices are more limited.

    Has anyone else had any experience with leg cramps like this? If so, I would greatly appreciate any suggestions as to what to suggest to her.

    Bonnie G wrote on June 6th, 2012
    • Hi Bonnie,
      I’m not an expert on this but I can offer one idea with regards to magnesium supplements. In order to allow the body to adapt to the supplement start with a low dose and gradually increase it. The indication that you have reached your upper limit is when your stools start to become to lose. That is when you back off a bit and give your body a chance to adjust and then increase it a little again later. Eventually she will reach the max her body needs or can handle. It can be a slow process so don’t get discouraged. Like I said I’m not am expert and if she is on meds she should probably talk to her doctor to make sure the magnesium won’t cause any problems with her meds. Also I have just started reading an interesting book on magnesium you might want to read. It’s “The Magnesium Miricale” by Dr. Carolyn Dean

      Bruce wrote on June 7th, 2012
  33. so what to eat then???? i belive on moderation for anything we put into our body.only if i knew this 10 years back i wont be so sick today.ugh.i got Celiac and i get bloated no matter what i eat.

    maria wrote on June 9th, 2012
  34. I’ve just been tested extensively at my chrioprator’s office. Turns out I’m extremely intolerant to ALL grains, eggs and a few other things. Unfortunately most MDs do not do this type of testing. Here is a youtube video from a Texas chiro that explains this testing:

    chriscat wrote on July 26th, 2012
  35. Great article! Didn’t know the extent of the damage that lectins could cause, as well as the ways to modulate that damage. I’m a gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free vegan but I still enjoy my brown rice cakes/bread and simply can’t give that up. Knowing ways to reduce the lectin from that helps.

    JustinK wrote on August 8th, 2012
  36. Thank you for this article. I felt like I was continually hitting a brick wall of foods that would set me off and I couldn’t find a reasonable connection. I would cut out one thing and another would still be a problem, it seemed endless. This has really helped me so much, thank you.

    Katie wrote on August 19th, 2012
  37. I am a 64 year old female with many food
    sensitivities that I have devloped within the last two years. I am TypeONeg. Have you heard of the supplement Lectin Lock from Vitamin Research Products in Carson City, NV? It supposedly binds to lectins and moves
    them out of the body keeping them from
    causing inflammation. I can only eat meats and vegetables, no fruits except berries and no carbs. I don’t mind being on a diet to lose weight, but this is so extreme, its hard to stay on.
    I am losing weight, but I especially hate not being able to eat fruits! Fruits are that little extra treat that
    help you stay on a diet. I seem to be okay with pinto beans as long as I take
    my Betaine/Pepsin capsules before eating
    them. My doctor practices holistic medicine. By the way, I love pinto beans and don’t soak them. I had never
    heard of lectins until two days ago when
    my neighbor gave me one of VRP’s newsletters that was in Digestive Health
    Solutions. Carolyn Pierini, CLS, CNC
    developed this Lectin Lock. They refer
    to Dr. Peter D’Adamo in the newsletter.
    Ms. Pierini was working in the area of
    blood typing when she discovered this
    product. It would be wonderful if it
    worked. I have asked my doctor (Linda
    Yeatts) to look into it. She said she
    is already getting some products from
    VRP, but she had not heard of Lectin Lock. I have not heard back from her
    yet. This is the first time that I have
    been on your website. Very informative.
    I discovered it when I researched lectin. Thank you!

    Donnie Pruett wrote on September 10th, 2012
  38. Hi Mark! My doctor is ordering the Lectin Lock for me to try. She said it
    might help. I forgot to mention that I
    also have hypothyroidism. I will let you know if the Lectin Lock works, but if you know anything about it please let
    me know. I left off the mail part of my e-mail address. Don’t know if that made a difference or not. Thanks.

    Donnie Pruett wrote on September 15th, 2012
  39. Why is organic, nonGMO sprouted soy so bad? The asian cultures have been consuming it for eons and have no problems with it. 12g of soy protein a day has many anti-cancer benefits. It is the processed stuff (TVP, powders) that are the ones used in the anti-soy research—not the natural/healthy forms of soy

    Bee wrote on October 26th, 2012
  40. Great article as usual.
    I´d like to add that it seems reasonble to distinguish between two types of lectins regarding origin: animal and plant lectins. Animal lectins such as mannose-binding lectin usually stimulate various immune reactions and in my opinion good example is a beneficial health effect of “JEWISH PENICILLIN”. Plant lectins usually have many negative health effects, e.g. there is experimental evidence that peanut lectins may increase the risk of atherosclerosis, colon cancer, renal tubular disorders etc. Wheat germ aglutinin may play important role in leaky gut syndrome, leptin resistance etc. However, it should be also noted that some plant lectins (e.g. those from mushrooms) may have beneficial health effects, e.g. strong anticancer properties.

    Michal R. Pijak, MD wrote on December 19th, 2012

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