OOPS! Lectin...NOT Lector

Certain foods contain more than others, and can be dependent on the

species or where the plant was grown. Regardless, a food that contains high amounts of Lectin is definitely a nature-induced indicator that they do not want to be eaten, and surprisingly these are the foods we have to process even more to make them edible. Humans have developed ways of preparation and processing, such as milling, grinding, and boiling, that indeed make Lectins more edible and tolerable on our digestive system. On the other side of the coin, some Lectins have no effect on us, and some may even be beneficial. It’s a complex topic and we don’t know everything about them or have even classified them all yet.

Of course, the Lectins we are concerned about in the Paleo arena are the foods that affect our digestive health for the worse, instigate inflammation, and lead to a host of disorders, conditions, and diseases. Even though all foods contain them, our goal is to eliminate or severely restrict the worst offenders that possess
most potentially toxic Lectins and cause the most damage.

Coincidentally in today's modern society, the worst offenders are the most often consumed.

The Suspects

Grains: especially wheat and wheat germ but also quinoa, rice, buckwheat, oats, rye, barley, millet and corn.
Legumes: all dried beans, including soy and peanuts (yup, peanuts are not nuts at all..they are a bean!)
Dairy: more so when cows are fed grains instead of grass. Research does show transference of Lectins into breast milk and dairy.
Nightshades: includes potato, tomato, eggplant and peppers

One of the biggest issues I have with these foods, apart from the damage they inflict on the body, is that foods containing Lectins are something our ancestors just didn't evolve eating. Our genetics and immune system simply cannot handle them.

An argument often proposed is that many cultures on this planet sustain their existence, nutritionally and economically, on grains, with up to 80% of their daily food intake coming from them. An example is Asian cultures and rice. Of the harmful Lectins, rice (Ricin), is on the low end. High wheat consuming cultures, such as the United States, well I don’t have to tell you how packed our doctors offices are and in demand pharmaceuticals are to treat the symptoms of a grain loving culture.

Dr. Mercola states:
“Approximately 17 plant species provide 90 percent of the world's food supply. The top 10 are: wheat, maize, rice, barley, soybean, cane sugar, sorghum, potato, oats, and cassava. Without these plants there is no way that the world could support the existing 6 billion people and the anticipated 12 to 15 billion people expected during the next century. If agriculture gave us anything, it was an easily grown mass diet that was calorically dense that could be stored, shipped, and processed in hundreds of different ways.”

Even more concerning and alarming is that the U.S. government advocates ingesting 11 servings of a person’s daily caloric intake from grains! Great nutritional advice from a group that can’t run a post office or balance a budget!

Regardless as to what diseases and conditions grains can be linked to through specific research, or what you believe, the fact is that we know they are not healthy, provide minimal nutrition, contain Antinutrients, aggravate the digestive process, and make their way into circulation to wreak havoc.


What Happens When You Eat Them (better grab a coffee!)
Lectins are hardy proteins that do not break down easily. They are resistant to stomach acid and digestive enzymes and upon entering the small intestine, they can bind to receptors in the microvilli, where nutrient absorption takes place, allowing Lectins to be transported into the body. If the gut wall becomes damaged the entire contents of the intestines can now make its way into your system. Gut function has now been altered, the lining is now permeable, and you have exposed yourself to a host of chemicals that would nominally remain in the intestines but instead pass through into general circulation.

Cordain: "Lectins make the intestines easier to penetrate, and they impair the system's ability to fight off bacterial fragments that leak into the bloodstream."

It gets worse!
Once the intestinal wall is damaged, the chemical messenger CCK that usually relays the Gall Bladder to release bile and the Pancreas to release enzymes to enter the small intestine to break down its contents is shut down. No bile, no pancreatic enzymes equal improper breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients.

Yup, even worse!
- Lack of Bile release promotes crystal-forming in the Gall Bladder leading to Gallstones.
- Grains induce systemic inflammation of the Pancreas leading to Pancreatitis and Cancer.
- Systemic inflammation causes ‘swelling’ and irritation of the arteries increasing the likelihood of nutrients getting trapped or scarring the vessel. The immune system sensing damage, rushes to the rescue to repair damage which causes narrowing of the artery leading to reduced blood flow. Blood Clot - Heart Attack - Stroke.
- Elevated Insulin levels due to grains lead to diabetes.
- Elevated Insulin levels cause the release of Cortisol from the Adrenal Glands, which help leach Calcium from your bones.
- Excess calcium likes to line your arteries in the form of calcified plaque leading to CVD.

WAY worse!
- Depleted Cortisol levels require the release of Cholesterol from the Liver to manufacture more. (Doctor: did you say I had high cholesterol because of a family history and the government or Merck says my number needs to be under 200 and only Lipitor will help?”) …what a crock of Sh*t!
- Elevated Insulin increases blood pressure and sodium retention on the kidneys.
- Grains are addictive containing molecules that fit into the opiate receptors of the brain.
- Current evidence is supporting excess blood glucose to erode the blood-brain barrier leading to Alzheimer’s.

The Disease Pageant
Once in circulation and invoking an immune response Lectins can
bind to any tissue in the body — thyroid, pancreas, even collagen in joints. This binding can disrupt the function of that tissue and cause white blood cells to attack the Lectin-bound tissue and destroy it. Disruption of the membrane and damages to the cell may initiate a cascade of immune and autoimmune events that can ultimately lead to cell death. These antigen antibody reactions lead to a host of autoimmune disorders and so-called degenerative diseases such as:
Colitis, Crohn's Disease, Celiac-Sprue, and IBS, Addison's disease, asthma, autoimmune thyroid disease, dental enamel defects, epilepsy, liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), nephropathy, aphthous stomatitis (canker sores), and even multiple sclerosis. A myelin basic protein (MBP) is a suspected target antigen in multiple sclerosis. Even autism and schizophrenia show susceptibilities to grain glutens that aggravate.

Lectin and Leptin Resistance (notice the 'P'...LePtin, not Lectin....stay with me!)
Lectin may cause Leptin resistance. Leptin is a protein hormone
manufactured primarily in our fat cells that acts on the Hypothalamus of the brain. It regulates appetite and metabolism. Intake & Expenditure, if you will. With regard to appetite, when working correctly, it tells us we are full. Its cells line the stomach. With regard to metabolism, it monitors how much fuel we have in storage and tells us to eat or pull energy from within. Losing the ability to sense Leptin can lead to a host of problems from over-eating and obesity to eventual diseases.

Preparation to Lower Lectin Content

There has been some information that lectins may be inactivated by soaking, sprouting, cooking or fermenting. Soaking legumes over night, draining the water, rinsing and draining again does seem to remove or inactivate many of the lectins. Heating seems to remove others in some foods but not all. There is little data to prove that any of these methods remove lectins completely as few foods have been tested and of those that have lectins many seem to remain after processing

Robb Wolf, (author of The Paleo Solution), states that Lectins

are harmful for three main reasons:
1) Lectins are not broken down by the normal digestive process, leaving large intact proteins in the gut.

2) Grains contain Protease Inhibitors, which further block the digestion of dangerous Lectins
3) Lectins attach to receptors in the Intestinal Lumen and are transported intact through the intestinal ling. These large intact protein molecules are easily mistaken by the body as foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Our immune system mounts an attack on these foreign proteins and makes antibodies against them.

A lot of people like to run around saying 'Don't eat Carbs or Bread!' So, the purpose of this article was to give you the 'Why' behind 'Gluten-free' instead of just those 'What' ...blanket statements.

Readers of The Urban Caveman will always be more informed than the average bear and armed with the right information.

There will more to come on Lectins and other Antinutrients like Phytates in the near future.


If you read my article on Grains you will know about Lectins. They are one of the plant proteins along with Gluten, the most common one you've probably heard about. The Lectin found in wheat is called

Wheat Germ Agglutinin,WGA for short . Peanuts have their own Lectin (PNA), so do Kidney Beans and Soy, even Rice and Dairy.

For our purposes, the function of Lectins we are talking about are basically the binding proteins in plants that are essential for its germination and survival, acting as an on-board  protective mechanism, warding off insects, yeasts, and other pests. They're found in many foods,

not just grains and beans, but  fruits, vegetables, and even dairy. Of importance is the trouble Lectins do once inside the body, specifically the digestive tract.