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Food Lectins in Health and Disease: An Introduction
In recent years there seems to be a growing epidemic of people suffering from chronic digestive and autoimmune diseases. Food intolerances or sensitivities may lie at the root of the problem. Most people, including doctors, have little idea how the foods they eat may be contributing to their chronic illnesses, fatigue, and digestive symptoms.
However, there is much evidence in the medical literature and the experience of the lay public about how foods cause and/or contribute to the current epidemic of chronic and autoimmune diseases. There are several diets that are used by many people with varying degrees of success to improve their health, despite the general lack of iron-clad scientific evidence for their effectiveness. One of the clues to the cause and relief of foodborne illness may lie in proteins known as lectins that are present in all foods.
Animal and plant food sources contain complex proteins known as lectins. These proteins usually have the ability to bind to sugars or carbohydrates on the surface of human cells. Some of these proteins can cause human red blood cells to clump together, a process called agglutination. The agglutination process occurs when someone receives the wrong blood type during a blood transfusion. In fact, the agglutination of red blood cells specific to each person or group of people is the basis for blood group testing. There is some evidence that blood types can affect how people react to certain foods, although a blood type specific diet seems to have been ruled out. Binding or binding of certain food lectins can initiate a variety of cell-specific effects. These reactions can mimic hormones or cause changes in cells. This is called molecular mimicry.
Most plants contain lectins, some of which are toxic, inflammatory, or both. Many of these plant and dairy lectins are resistant to cooking and digestive enzymes. For example, wheat lectins are quite resistant to human digestion but suitable for ruminants such as cattle that have multi-chambered stomachs. Therefore, lectins are present in our food and are often resistant to our digestion and some have been scientifically shown to have significant GI toxicity in humans. Others have been shown to be beneficial and may even protect against cancer. Either way, plant and animal proteins are foreign proteins to the body and are handled by our digestion and immune system in a positive or negative way.
The human digestive system was designed to handle a variety of plant and animal proteins through the process of digestion and elimination. Some plant and animal proteins or lectins are highly toxic to humans and cannot be eaten without causing death such as those in castor beans and some mushrooms. Other foods must be prepared before they are safe to eat. Preparations may include peeling, prolonged soaking, and cooking like beans. Other foods may be poorly tolerated due to a genetic predisposition or an existing food allergy or intolerance. Others are tolerated to some extent or quantity, but not in large amounts or on a frequent basis. People who are intolerant to the milk sugar lactose, due to an inherited or acquired deficiency of the enzyme lactase, can tolerate small amounts but may experience severe bloating, gas, abdominal pain and cramping with explosive diarrhea when a large amount of lactose-containing foods is eaten. Foods can become intolerable for some people as their immune system changes or the gut is injured from another cause.
From food lectins, cereal/cereal lectin; milk lectins; and legume lectins (especially peanut lectin and soy lectin) are the most commonly associated with reports of worsening inflammatory and digestive diseases in the body and improvement of those diseases and/or symptoms when avoided. Recent research by Loren Cordain PhD., has suggested that these lectins can effectively serve as a “Trojan horse” allowing intact or nearly intact foreign proteins to invade our natural intestinal defenses and get behind the lines to causing damage beyond the gut, usually to the joints, brain and skin of affected individuals. Once damage occurs to the gut and the defense system is breached, the result is what some call “leaky gut.” In addition, many people who develop a “leaky gut” not only have intestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and abdominal pain, but also other symptoms beyond the intestine, or extra-intestinal symptoms. Commonly affected areas are the brain or peripheral nerves, skin, joints and various glands of the body. With the constant exposure of the intestines to these toxic food lectins, there is a constant stimulation of the body’s defense mechanism in a dysfunctional way, i.e. autoimmune disease.
The wrong types or levels of good and bad bacteria in the gut, or gut dysbiosis, can contribute to this process of abnormal immune system stimulation. Research supports the strong possibility that such stimulation may be accentuated by the interaction of bacteria with food lectins. It is believed by some that this can further exacerbate intestinal damage and autoimmune disease. This latter concept is gaining acceptance and recognition among physicians in a form such as hygiene theory. It is speculated that our gut bacteria have been altered by increased hygiene and overuse of antibiotics and that this phenomenon may play an important role in the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and chronic intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and nervousness. intestinal syndrome.
However, lectins as causative agents are largely ignored in the US, although the field of lectinology and the role of lectins in disease is more widely accepted internationally. Avoiding certain food lectins may be beneficial in achieving health and healing chronic intestinal injuries. Healing a “leaky gut” and avoiding the constant abnormal stimulation of the immune system by toxic food lectins and bacteria in the gut is the basis for the ongoing research and potential success of certain diets known as the paleo diet, the specific carbohydrate diet, and gluten. -casein-free/casein-free diet. More research is needed in this exciting but often neglected area. Food Doc, LLC features a website http://www.thefooddoc.com that will provide physician-authorized information on food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies such as lectin, gluten, casein and lactose intolerance with dietary guidelines to be displayed soon in the future an online symptom assessment and diet diary.
Copyright 2006, The Food Doc, LLC. All rights reserved. http://www.thefooddoc.com
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#Food #Lectins #Health #Disease #Introduction