Lectins , your gut, your health
Those lectins! They have been controversial for sure, particularly with the exploitation of how “dangerous” they are according to Dr. Gundry. Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins present in most plants, especially seeds and tubers like cereals, potatoes, and beans (Freed, 1999). In the past several decades, it has been demonstrated that lectins are toxic and inflammatory, and resistant to cooking and digestive enzymes. And they are present in abundance in our food!
One thing is particularly interesting is the association of dietary lectin and auto-immunity. Lectin are becoming of increasing interest to scientists for their anti-nutrient effects, particularly damage to GI-tract an precipitation of immune system reactivity (Rix, 2016). The link with auto-immunity comes from the ability for lectins to play a part in destruction of the mucosal lining of the GI tract, inhibiting repair mechanisms, as well as entering systemic circulation where they can elicit an inflammatory immune response (Rix, 2016). Interesting, it is thought that the involvement of lectins in the development of intestinal permeability can assist with the presentation of the virus to the immune system, facilitating molecular mimicry. One very popular lectin is wheat gliadin, which is linked celiac disease. Lectins stimulate class II HLA antigens on cells that do not normally display them, such as pancreatic islet and thyroid cells. Lectins can also cause the discharge of histamine from the gastric mast cells, which can stimulate gastric acid secretion, which is not a good thing in the context of H. pylori.
It is interesting that we do have biological systems in place to protect us from lectins, but that can be destroyed by enzymes (such as neuraminidase) present in microorganisms such as influenza and streptococci. “This may explain why diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis tend to occur as sequelae of infections” (Freed, 1999).
So, having established that lectins can be detrimental to human health, there are different therapeutic dietary options available. A diet low in lectins, such as a paleo diet may be helpful. I personally have found the Plant Paradox very helpful for my gut issues. There are also agents that can block lectins. Wheat lectin, for example, is blocked by the sugar N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) and its polymers (Freed, 1999). NAG can bind to lectins of wheat, potato and peanuts, which may be a useful prophylactic remedy for lectin diseases such as insulin dependent diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Gundry has an interesting (and expensive) product called Lectin Lock, that contains NAG, bladderwrack, D-mannose, okra extract, mucin, MSM, sodium alginate and vegetable peptase. These ingredients are though to bind to lectins to reduce their damaging impact on the gut.
Here is an Amazon link to order Lectin Lock
Freed, D. L. (1999). Do dietary lectins cause disease? BMJ, 318(7190), 1023-1024.
Rix, J. (2016). Beyond gluten: dietary lectins, a new frontier in auto-immunity. Retrieved (2018, June 9) from https://www.ihcan-mag.com/beyond-gluten-dietary-lectins-a-new-frontier-in-auto-immunity/