Should I Avoid Food with Lectins?
Lectins have both positive and negative reactions on the body and since there are so many benefits to consuming certain foods that contain lectins like goji berries I believe the positive definitely outweighs the negative. While many types of lectins cause negative reactions in the body, there are also health promoting lectins that can decrease incidence of certain diseases. Furthermore, the body uses lectins to achieve many basic functions, including cell to cell adherence, inflammatory modulation and programmed cell death.
The Downside of Lectins
Ingesting lectins can cause flatulence. Consuming legumes and grains in their raw form can even result in nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Indeed, researchers speculate that many apparent causes of bacterial food poisoning may actually be lectin poisoning. This GI distress happens because lectins can damage the intestinal lining. When enough lectins are consumed, it can signal our body to evacuate GI contents. This means vomiting, cramping and diarrhea. It’s similar to consuming large amounts of alcohol, which can damage the GI lining and cause GI evacuation. Grain, cereal, dairy, and legume (especially peanut and soybean) lectins are most commonly associated with reports of digestive complaints. Legumes and seafood are the most abundant sources of lectins in most diets.
What Should You Do?
If you consume a diet with plenty of lectin-rich foods, try to reduce the amount by soaking, fermenting, sprouting and/or cooking. Sprouting seeds, grains or beans decreases the lectin content. Soak beans and legumes overnight, and change the water often. Drain and rinse again before cooking. Adding sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) to the soaking water may help neutralize the lectins further. Fermentation allows beneficial bacteria to digest and convert many of the harmful substances.