Now There Really is Nothing Left to Eat – Learning About Lectins

June 4, 2011

Today was a depressing day for my diet. First, I went to Dylan’s Candy Bar, which was filled with 3 floors of scrumptious treats that I could not eat! There was literally NOTHING! It was a sad afternoon, which was then made worse when I began reading and thinking about lectins.

Lectins are a type of protein present in many plants (including rice, wheat, rye, other grains, eggplants, and most beans). Although I don’t eat many of these plants, I hadn’t specifically cut lectins out of my diet because I thought I was simply allergic to gluten or else that controlling my insulin would somehow solve all my health issues. (Am I delusional? Well, I’m desperate enough to try almost anything!) But as I read more about lectins, I realize that it sounds way more likely that my allergies and stomach problems are caused by my consumption of lectins.

Lectins are really a toxin that plants developed as a defense mechanism against animals eating them. Before we invented fire, you couldn’t eat grains at all. But even cooking doesn’t get rid of them completely, which is why they can cause a variety of illnesses ranging from arthritis, allergies, and asthma to ADD, obesity, and chronic fatigue. One of the main problems is that lectins cause our intestinal linings to break down, thereby allowing all sorts of unwanted stuff to enter our blood and cells. Our body then creates antibodies to attack those foreign objects, and presto, we are having an allergic reaction! Ok, so my description is rather simplistic, but then my worst subject has always been biology. (I distinctly remember rewriting the question three times as the entire answer to an essay question during my biology exam in college!) Read this article if you want a more scientific description of the dangers of lectins.

I was actually slightly hopeful when I first read about lectins. Well, it sounded so perfect and so easy – I just have to eliminate the foods containing lectin, and I’m cured! But then I read what that entailed…such a diet will require me to stop eating grains of ANY kind (including wheat, wheat germ, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, oats, and corn), dried beans, anything with soy in it, peanuts, dairy, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. That’s a pretty long list, even though I already forgo almost all grains and potatoes. I mean, my diet is already pretty limited. Not being able to eat all those foods on top of foods with sugar or sweeteners sounded utterly horrific! It would mean cutting out the low carb bread and the low carb chocolate that I had just been super happy to have discovered! Sigh. I’m not sure if I can go lectin free…at least not yet.

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