What are Lectins? by Dr Holly on NFTS

Last Update: June 20, 2018 at 11:23 am

DATE:  June 6th, 2018

SOURCE:  News or the Soul


What are Lectins? by Dr Holly on NFTS


What are Lectins?

Lectin are a group of proteins that bind to sugar and clump together. Although many claim that they are a plant based protein, they are found in everything from viruses, to bacteria, to plants and animals. There are several different groups or classifications of lectins: some with very beneficial effects on the human body.  Some lectins even have enzymatic activity. The types of lectins that bind to sugars (mannose, galactose and fucose) tend to be the detrimental ones. Another reason why there is a problem with the amount of sugar intake the average North American diet contains.

The problem with lectins clumping together is that they can bind to cell membranes and become part of the cell membranes and can influence how cells interact.

Lectins are found in raw legumes (lentils, beans, peas, soybeans & peanuts), nightshade vegetables (eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes), grains (especially unrefined grains), dairy and seafood. A raw kidney bean can contain between 20,000 – 70,000 lectin units, phytohaemagglutinin, while the same cooked bean contains between 200-400 units 2. They are usually found in the part of the seed that becomes the leaves called the cotyledon or seed coating.

In plants, these natural compounds have two primary functions. The first major role they have is as a defense mechanism, protecting the plant against various insects and pests. The second major role they have is to protect the seeds from breaking down through the digestive system of the animal that is eating them, so that the seed will be eliminated and have a chance to reseed itself, so to speak.

In our system, various lectins play a role in immune function, cell and bone growth, cell death, modulate inflammation, mediate cell communication and regulate body fat. Other lectins can cause issues like cellular damage, leptin resistance (inhibits hunger/satiation) and insulin resistance (diabetes), and cause damage.

But we don’t digest lectins and so instead our immune system develops anti-bodies to them and thus they stimulate an immune reaction.  Too many lectins in the gut can cause flatulence, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting – thus leading to various types of misdiagnoses. Usually the gut is able to establish cell repair quickly. But, if there is a chronically high level of the lectins in the gut, they can damage the intestinal lining. The effect has been compared to drinking too much alcohol. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome and other gut disorders preventing us from either metabolizing food effectively and/or absorbing or eliminating properly.

As a side note, absorption of the effective nutrients is as important as elimination of toxins.

With ongoing lectin damage, the symptoms can range from skin rashes, joint pain, and inflammatory disorders like Crohn’s disease or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

So why do lectins cause a problem for some and not for others? Similar to other issues –

1) some lectins are beneficial and some are unhealthy

2) if we have a depleted or unhealthy balance of microbiota to regulate and adjust – we will have problems with the gut’s immune system which works hand in hand with the microbiota.

If the microbiota and gut immune system is out of balance – you will be more susceptible to allergies, more inflammatory issues, more neurological &/or psychological issues; more hormonal issues; cardiovascular issues; interfere with your DNA; cause weight issues and more.

Unfortunately, this can be a challenge for vegetarians who tend to focus on foods that are high in lectins.

Historically, we ate a small amount of good grains. In today’s world, we load up on unhealthy grains: cereals, pastas, baking and breads. This of course, loads our systems with unhealthy lectins and can cause an issue.

Historically, we soaked, sprouted and fermented our foods reducing the lectins and releasing the nutrients that the body requires.

Like many nutrients, too many of even a good thing, can be detrimental.

So, what can we do? Sprouting – usually the longer we sprout, the more lectins that are deactivated. Alfalfa sprouts are an exception. Soaking and rinsing beans and grains also reduces lectins – change the water often. Adding baking soda to the water also helps to neutralize lectins.

Fermenting foods increases bacterial counts that eliminate or convert lectins into beneficial nutrients.  Fermentation of grains, i.e., sourdough breads also increases the bacterial count and reduces the lectins.


1              https://www.ccrc.uga.edu/~glycobiology/lecture4b.pdf

2              https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-lectins


Read more articles by Dr Holly at www.DrHollyBooks.com