What Are Lectins, Are They Bad For Everyone, & Do I Need Lectin Sensitivity Testing?

Understand lectins and their impact on health with Next Health. Know whether lectin sensitivity testing is right for you and how it can benefit your well-being.

What Are Lectins, Are They Bad For Everyone, & Do I Need Lectin Sensitivity Testing?
Next Health Staff
|
December 6, 2023

What Are Lectins?

Lectins have received a lot of attention recently as they have been deemed an “anti-nutrient.” 

Lectins are a type of protein that is present in nearly all plants, especially legumes and grains. In plants, lectins bind to selective carbohydrates as part of their immune defense. In humans, this mechanism has been shown to cause digestive problems in certain individuals. 

How Do Lectins Cause Digestive Problems? 

As lectins bind to carbohydrates, they resist being broken down in the gut due to the fact they can remain stable in acidic environments. This is particularly true when lectins are consumed in their active state (meaning when they are consumed raw). 

Some types of lectins are more likely to cause problems than others. For example, phytohaemagglutinin is a type of lectin that can cause red blood cells to clump together as well as induce nausea, vomiting, bloating, and other gastrointestinal issues. 

Moreover, certain animal studies have shown that lectins not only interfere with the body’s ability to process carbohydrates but also minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Legumes and grains frequently contain both lectins and the aforementioned minerals, disrupting the breakdown and absorption of these nutrients. 

Research suggests that this gastrointestinal disruption can affect the growth and action of intestinal flora. A disruption in the balance of the gut microbiome can compromise a variety of bodily systems given that the gut is responsible for 75% of the immune system, 90% of serotonin production, the promotion of HDL cholesterol, and so much more. 

In addition to binding to nutrients, there is also evidence suggesting that lectins bind to cells for prolonged periods of time, eliciting an autoimmune response (when the body attacks its own cells as they are recognized as foreign). Some experts believe this can lead to the development of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 1 diabetes. 

What Foods Are High In Lectins? 

Below are some foods that are known to have high levels of lectins: 

  • Kale 
  • Black-eye peas 
  • Almonds 
  • Walnut 
  • Soy 
  • Rye 
  • Portabella mushroom 
  • Oats 
  • Egg yolk 
  • Peanut 
  • Orange
  • Black beans 
  • Green tea 
  • Lemon 
  • Pear 

How Do I Know If I Am Sensitive To Lectins? 

Risk factors for developing a lectin sensitivity: 

  • Frequent use of antibiotics 
  • History of rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Following a vegan diet 
  • Those with known intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome) 
  • Family history of autoimmune disorders 
  • History of mental health problems 

Symptoms of a lectin sensitivity include: 

  • Nausea (especially after meals) 
  • Bloating 
  • Abdominal cramps 
  • Fatigue and tiredness 
  • Joint pain 
  • Depression 
  • Skin rashes 
  • Neurological problems 

Tips For Reducing Lectin In-Take 

Although many may need to be mindful of their lectin intake, it is important to remember that eating foods high in lectin is rare. This is because lectins are most potent when raw and it is uncommon to eat foods such as dried or uncooked beans. 

When eating foods with higher levels of lectin such as beans and lentils, it is recommended to soak them for several hours and then boil them to disable the binding action of the lectins. 

Are Lectins Bad For Everyone? 

It is important to note that just because a food is high in lectin does not mean it will elicit symptoms in everyone. Every body is different, which is why we recommend lectin sensitivity testing to understand your unique health state. There are also a multitude of health benefits associated with lectin foods. They can act as antioxidants and combat free radical damage, support stable insulin levels, and combat high blood sugar. In fact, there are studies covering large populations that have diets rich in lectin-containing foods such as legumes, whole grains, and nuts, which are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. 

Therefore, it is best to take a data-driven approach to your health with sensitivity testing to ensure you are optimizing your diet for your individual needs. To gain a more holistic understanding of what foods may be compromising your health, we recommend consider our Zoomer Plus Package that not only includes a Lectin Sensitivity Test, but also: 

  • Food Sensitivity Test 
  • Wheat Zoomer (Sensitivity) Test
  • Corn Zoomer (Sensitivity) Test 
  • Dairy Zoomer (Sensitivity) Test

Ready to book your appointment or have questions about lectin and food sensitivities? Call or text us at: (310) 295-2075

Request a complimentary consult here 

Sources: 

  1. Vasconcelos IM, Oliveira JT. Antinutritional properties of plant lectins. Toxicon. 2004 Sep 15;44(4):385-403.
  2. Freed, DLJ. Do dietary lectins cause disease? The evidence is suggestive—and raises interesting possibilities for treatment. BMJ. 1999 Apr 17; 318(7190): 1023–1024.

Petroski W, Minich DM. Is There Such a Thing as “Anti-Nutrients”? A Narrative Review of Perceived Problematic Plant Compounds. Nutrients. 2020 Oct;12(10):2929.

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