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We’ve all known the feeling of eating something that just doesn’t agree with us.
Maybe it was that Mexican dish that tasted great going down but leaves us feeling like we’re still digesting it hours later. Or maybe it’s something as simple as that chocolate milkshake we had with lunch.
The result is usually gas, bloating, stomach pain and possibly a lot of time in the bathroom.
What you may not realize is that feeling really tired after a meal, getting a headache or even feeling kind of depressed could also be signs of food intolerance.
Gluten is a real problem for a lot of people. But so is another plant protein that fewer people know about, one that can also wreak havoc with your digestion.
In fact, when it comes to digestive issues, this protein is often the real culprit.
Lectins: the sticky protein
There are people who think they are unable to eat gluten. But when they eliminate gluten from their diet, their digestive issues don’t go away.
Chances are good that lectins are causing the problem.
Lectins are a family of protein found in all plants and animals. They are thought to play a role in immune function, cell growth, cell death, and body fat regulation. The body also uses lectins to control inflammation and achieve programmed cell death.
The problem occurs when we eat too many of them.
Lectins are good at bypassing our digestive system. They bind to sugar molecules and attach themselves to the intestinal lining, causing small tears, and creating inflammation and digestive problems.
The worst offenders are found in legumes (beans, soy, and peanuts) as well as in vegetables of the nightshade family. These include eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes
Eating large amounts of these foods can cause digestive problems for just about anyone. For those who are extra sensitive to lectins, it can lead to leaky gut and the health problems that go with it, including liver disease and diabetes.
The lectin-gluten connection
Lectins are also found in wheat, rye, and barley. Yes, that’s right, the same grains that are full of gluten.
By eliminating these from your diet, you’ve succeeded in eliminating not only the majority of gluten but a fair share of lectins as well.
On the other hand, doctors report putting celiac patients on a gluten-free diet for two years and still seeing 70 percent of them come back with symptoms.
That’s because those gluten-free beans and vegetables are packed with lectins.
So which is it for you?
The symptoms of gluten and lectin sensitivities are almost identical:
- Stomach pain
- Leg or arm numbness
There are no foolproof tests that will give you an answer. If you think a food sensitivity may be causing your symptoms, your best bet is to try an elimination diet.
Your doctor or a licensed dietitian are the best people to help you do this successfully. It’s not as simple as just cutting out all bread and pasta.
Once you’ve eliminated all suspect foods for a period of weeks, typically you will reintroduce them one at a time and see which one causes symptoms.
Because the symptoms of gluten and lectin intolerance are so similar, it’s best to have the help of a dietitian in deciding on which foods to eliminate at which time, and for how long, so you can get a true picture of what the problem is.
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- Why a Low Lectin Diet is the Evolution of the Gluten-Free Diet, with Dr. Steven Gundry — Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC
- Why People Are Saying Lectin Is The New Gluten — HUM Nutrition Blog
- 10 Signs You Have A Lectin Sensitivity — Power of Positivity
- The 14 Most Common Signs of Gluten Intolerance — Healthline
- Dietary Lectins: Everything You Need to Know — Healthline