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Are your ‘healthy foods’ causing weight gain and inflammation?

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Are some of the touted health foods that you are eating causing you downstream health problems? Some of these lectin containing foods may be causing more inflammation and digestion problems in those who are sensitive to these proteins. Lectins may in fact be hostile to your overall health.

Lectins are proteins on a plant's surface that act as their defense mechanism against being eaten. These proteins can be very inflammatory to the gut lining as they are resistant to being broken down by enzymes. This inflammation leads to poor digestion, poor absorption of nutrients and a disruption in gut bacteria. As a result, a person can develop increased gut permeability (leaky gut). A leaky gut is an intestinal lining that has been broken down resulting in particles like bacteria, food and toxins to pass through into the blood stream causing an immune reaction. Leaky gut is becoming more accepted as a major contributing source of inflammation in the body leading to dysfunction and chronic disease (Harvard, 2018).

Lectins can leak into the blood stream where they exert their damage through mounting an immune reaction and damaging organs and tissues along the way. Research done by cardiologists Dr. Steven Gundry and Harvard's Dr. Alessio Fasano has shown compelling evidence that the damage from lectins can lead to autoimmune disorders such as type 2 diabetes, Hashimotos disease, rheumatoid arthritis and coronary artery disease.

In addition to inflammatory damage, lectin proteins bind to insulin receptors on adipocytes (fat cells). This prevents the hormone leptin from signaling to the brain when you are full. This dysfunction of metabolism can lead to overeating and increased fat storage; the perfect combination for weight gain.

High lectin foods include:

· Nightshades (white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers)

· Brown rice

· Quinoa

· Amaranth

· Buckwheat

· Lentils

· Peanuts

· Cashews

· Chia seeds

How to tell if you're intolerant

Some symptoms of intolerance to night shades or lectins include: pain, inflammation in joints, fatigue, headache, gastrointestinal discomfort. If you suspect you may be experience any of these symptoms as a result of high lectin foods or leaky gut, try eliminating lectins from your diet for 6 weeks and reintroduce one at a time in 3-day intervals.

Other common inflammatory foods to consider removing in the diet include sugar, gluten and dairy as they can trigger an autoimmune reaction within the gut. Elimination of these common triggers is one way to identify individual intolerances. However, food sensitivity and stool testing are available options that can help to identify triggers of increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), dysbiosis, or inflammatory issues within the gut. Schedule a consult with a Halo Health functional provider to discuss your symptoms and develop an individualized plan towards less inflammation and a healthy, happy gut!

Most lectins can still be enjoyed when pressure cooked as the proteins are broken down and made easier to digest and less inflammatory.

References: Gundry M.D., Steven R.(2022).Unlocking the Keto Code. New York.HarperCollins. page 118-119.

Harvard Health Publishing (2018). Putting a stop to leaky gut. Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School.

Cohen, T., Knese, J. (2020). The Anti-Inflammatory Guide. The American Academy of Functional Health. Chapter 4:Nightshades.

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