#Gluten, #Grains and #Lectins: Why Remove All Three?

Fascinating overview of the link between gluten, grains and lectin sensitivity with leaky gut and auto-immunity here for you today. This article from GreenMedInfo is an excellent review of the research and ideas I based the Barrier Diet on – amongst other stuff of course – but it shows nicely why you should really remove grains and lectins like legumes if you want to heal your leaky gut and other barriers effectively.

A few really important bits I’ve pulled out for you below, but do read the full piece if you can

A Gluten for Punishment: the Whole Grain Assault on Health

Everyone may get inflammation and leaky gut from eating gluten

A 2007 article in the journal GUT suggests exactly this[21].  The authors assemble the evidence to suggest that a common (perhaps universal) inflammatory response to gluten leads to increased intestinal permeability (so called “leaky gut”) which then allows a person with susceptible genes to develop the antibody and autoimmune response we call celiac disease.  In essence, they argue that everyone may experience inflammation upon the ingestion of gluten, and this inflammation may lead to a plethora of severe health problems, yet not everyone will develop celiac disease. 

‘Grain’ is a ill-defined term and much broader than we think

Grain, after all, is a broad term that refers to food seeds and includes grasses and legumes among other things.  Wheat, rye, barley, oats, sorghum, millet, maize, corn, soybean, rice, peanut, and most beans fall under the category of “grains.”

Gluten related disorders may result from a gluten-lectin combination problem

Grains contain molecules called lectins.  For instance, wheat contains wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) and it has been proposed that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity results from a gluten-lectin combination effect.  Indeed, many celiac patients also test positive for antibodies against WGA.[22]  

While lectins are prevalent in nearly all plants and animals, grains contain very high concentrations of lectins.  

Lectins increase leaky gut, inflammation and auto-immunity

A number of effects may be produced, including intestinal cell dysfunction and inflammation both of which subsequently lead to increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut).  Increased intestinal permeability, then, allows proteins (including lectins) that are not typically absorbed into the body to enter the intestinal veins and lymph vessels and circulate to vital organs.  This is part of the mechanism which is thought to contribute to various autoimmune conditions, but other outcomes are also possible.  

More reasons to be careful with lectins…

Locally, they can affect the turnover and loss of gut epithelial cells, damage the luminal membranes of the epithelium, interfere with nutrient digestion and absorption, stimulate shifts in the bacterial flora and modulate the immune state of the digestive tract. Systemically, they can disrupt lipid, carbohydrate and protein metabolism, promote enlargement and/or atrophy of key internal organs[like the pancreas and thymus] [24], and alter the hormonal and immunological status. At high intakes, lectins can seriously threaten the growth and health of consuming animals.


The piece then goes onto give some quite scary info about sprouted grains and why they may be even worse for us.

As I said, a fascinating read. Some of you do question why I have removed legumes and some especially barrier-harming lectins, hopefully this will give you an answer.

Ironically, as I started reading this I was chomping into a chocolate muffin. Chocolate. A bean. A legume. Therefore a lectin. Oops 😉


18 thoughts on “#Gluten, #Grains and #Lectins: Why Remove All Three?

  1. Help.
    Are yams considered potatoes that have lectins? The yam man at farmers market said they really are the same thing! That they are sold inter changable & most people & produce sellers do not notice it & sell them as one & the same! How can I tell the difference? More fiber less starchy a yummy yam is?
    I am 1 year 15 days off all grains & 8 months off lectins..I have much more life in me! 🙂
    Thank you Micki!

    • Glad to hear it, well done Becky!

      Dunno what your yam man is on about. Yams are an entirely different plant family to potatoes. Perhaps he is referring to sweet potatoes, which are often confused as yams, esp in the US, but again are entirely different. Yams do not have the same type of lectins as the potatoes we are avoiding and neither do sweet potatoes. All plants have some lectins and other issues but I don’t have a barrier issue with sweet potatoes or yams.

  2. I understood that wild rice (which is a grass not a grain) was safe to eat (and I eat lots of it). But a quick google tells me that it still contains lectins, like ordinary rice. So I’m wondering how safe it is to eat. Any advice would be welcome.

    I have to say I’m not aware of any unpleasant after-effects after eating it – and it’s always cooked very well, usually for around 1.5 hours.

    • Hi Anthony. Good question. I often feel a bit like that about wild rice and do wonder. All food contains lectins of some kind or another as I’ve said, but I can’t find any reference in the research I have to suggest that wild rice has any of the lectins we need to avoid for permeability issues, or indeed anything much on wild rice lectin at all. It would probably contain phytate etc in the same way as other grasses so soaking is a good idea and cooking for a long time. I confess I don’t have it, perhaps I should try it! Feel free to send me your reference.

      • Thanks for your reply – and I’m pleased that you don’t think wild rice would be a problem. I’m not sure what reference you were wanting, but here’s an article by someone who sounds as if he knows what he’s talking about
        The trouble is that he puts wild rice in the same bracket as millet and plain white rice!! Other people (including Dr Osborne in one of his talks) suggest that wild rice needs cooking for ages to make it digestible. However, as I wrote above, with one and a half hours I don’t find any problem with it. I buy organic wild rice in bulk from the local health food shop, but on the supermarket-bought Tilda wild rice pack it advises 45-50 minutes: which is nowhere near enough to absorb all the liquid in a covered pan.

      • Thanks Anthony, yes that is the Krispin report I believe – he does indeed know what he is talking about. I too read that sentence and wondered at it. Don’t agree, obviously, but, as I say, in the lectin lists I have of different foods with known lectins, wild rice doesn’t show up so I am Ok to advise it for now until I see something that convinces me otherwise! It is a grass, though, which does make me a bit nervous…but I’m glad you are Ok with it, as I think most of you are. I have got into cauliflower rice recently, is yummy.

  3. Cauliflower rice Micki? Can I presume you grate the cauli and use as rice?

    • Yep, that’s about it. Just grate or I use my thermomix processor very fast otherwise you over mush it, then cook with a little water in the bottom of the pan until almost done (2-3 mins), then saute with some oil and spices/herbs. Is really nice. I have it with my curry. Some people make egg fried rice with it and, if you make it even smaller, it can make a type of couscous!

  4. That sounds lovely and I shall give it a go this weekend. Just making my first ever batch of yoghurt despite having bought the Severin maker 6 months ago. Life just seems to get in the way…..

    • How funny. I said the very same thing to P this morning! Do share how you get on. I am going to do coconut yog.

      • Well, I did the deed and made my first batch of yoghurt on Saturday and I have to say it was really easy and very successful! I played safe and used soya milk for my first attempt. I put one teaspoon of Sojade plain yoghurt into each of the glass jars, warmed up the milk, poured it on, stirred, put on the lids and left it. So easy.
        I looked at it about 3 hours later but it was still liquid. Then , and only then did I see the on/off switch on the machine! Doh!
        However, once switched on it turned into lovely yoghurt in 4 hours. As you say Micki, it’s more like a French yoghurt but delicious either as is, or with some fruit puree.
        Once I’ve used up this batch and my jars are back in circulation I shall be more adventurous and try either coconut milk or I shall make my own cashew nut milk and see how that goes.
        I’m aiming eventually to try and make some cashew nut milk ice cream to see if I can rival my all time favourite Booja Booja!!

  5. Yay, well done! I have found soya the easiest so will be intrigued how you get on with coconut or cashew – don’t forget cashews and soya are legumes though if on the barrier plan…? Hazelnut/brazil milk maybe…

    • Well, pumped with the success of my soya yoghurt, I made coconut yoghurt this weekend which was an absolute failure. It failed to set even after 24 hours. Research however tells me that coconut milk needs a thickener,( as there are no proteins or sugars in the milk?) and recommended thickeners are arrowroot or tapioca starch (about 2 tbsp to 900ml full fat coconut milk) or 1.5 oz (40g) egg white powder. You add the thickener to the coconut milk before heating to 43C then proceed as normal. Hope this helps.
      Micki, I hope I’m posting in the right section? I seem to be posting all over the place…….

  6. Well, we Crohnies can’t eat too much fibre so all nuts are a problem for me. I have to have some form of milk though so do tend to use soya although I know its not BP. And I’m pushing the boundaries to determine how many nuts are too many at the minute. Made some muffins with almond flour over the weekend. Delicious, but two at one sitting left their mark!.

  7. Hadn’t thought of it from that angle. Thanks.

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