AIP & Lectins

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Lectins have been in the news a lot lately, and I’ve been getting questions! So here is my take on the subject. To start… what exactly are they? Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins, and they are found in just about all plant or animal foods. Like almost anything, there are “bad” and “not so bad” lectins. And of course, like almost anything, how a person responds to them is dependent upon their bioindividual makeup and individual needs.

For example, on AIP, we initially remove nightshades, grains and legumes partly because of the type of lectins they contain (prolamins and agglutinins). These are highly inflammatory and hard on the digestive system, not to mention, they are pretty adept at crossing the gut barrier, AKA: contributing to leaky gut. And those that don’t cross the gut barrier tend to “glue” themselves to the gut lining, preventing absorption of precious nutrients. They are also notorious for stimulating the immune system and contributing to molecular mimicry, a process where foreign proteins (i.e., wheat germ agglutinin), mimic our own body’s proteins, creating an autoimmune response from our innate immune system. So naturally, a person with chronic illness or autoimmune disease may benefit greatly from removing these from the diet.

There are other lectin containing fruits and vegetables we don’t eliminate, like squash and apples. Why? Because these lectins aren’t prolamins or agglutinins. And honestly, there are more than 50 types of plant based foods that contain lectins… that’d be A TON of foods on the “avoid” list! These foods are abundant in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber; removing large swaths of them from the diet means we would miss out on these vital nutrients our bodies depend on for optimal health.

Pretty simple, huh? Well, maybe not. It all goes back to bioindividuality.  Both AIP and Paleo pretty much stay away from all grains and most legumes because of the prolamins and agglutinins they contain…but as for other lectin containing foods, someone may do just fine with them while their spouse can’t even tolerate zucchini. If you have no sensitivity to them however, enjoying them at least moderately could have some pretty great benefits. It really is about what works for YOU!

Thriving With You,