The Anti-Lectin Diets

I am frequently asked for my thoughts on two diets that focus on eliminating lectins, the Dr. Gundry “Plant Paradox” and the Dr. Myer’s “Autoimmune Solution.” I am very skeptical of both.

            Without delving too deeply, consider that both diets suggest we eliminate all grains, legumes, and nightshades because the lectins in those foods inflame the intestinal lining which in turns creates a “leaky gut” situation that allows lectins to enter the body. This ultimately is said to trigger the autoimmune and other chronic ailments so common today.

            Then consider the fact that the prevalence of autoimmune and other chronic illnesses are increasingly common today. The further back in time we travel, the less we see of those problems.

            Then consider the fact that, beginning with the agricultural era (some 10,000 years ago), most cultures began to dramatically increase the grains, legumes, and nightshades in their diet. Some examples: Rice, soy, and wheat in China. Rice, beans, and nightshades in Mexico and many parts of South America. Wheat and potatoes in Europe.

            Grains and legumes became staples in most countries. IF the lectins in these foods caused the health issues these diets claim, chronic health problems would have been very common in the past. We would actually see autoimmune conditions and chronic illness dwindling because we today eat far less of those foods in whole form than people did in the past. Instead, those eating their traditional ethnic diet experienced fewer of these health problems.

            Given that autoimmune problems were rare in cultures eating a diet rich in lectins and are common in today’s food culture that contains fewer lectins, these diets make no sense. There is simply no logical reason to eliminate these foods wholesale from our diets. While it is possible to be sensitive to a particular grain, legume, or to nightshades, it is extremely unlikely that all pose a problem to anyone.

            Ultimately, there is absolutely no sense in adopting a diet that suggests you eat goat milk ice cream, palm oil, and sugar alcohols while giving up quinoa and whole grain rice. (Plant Paradox.) Both of these diets do eliminate many troublesome dietary items (white sugar and most dairy, for instance) and many will improve because of that alone, but there is no reason to eliminate all of the foods they identify as lectin-containing.

            Finally: Lectins are complex and all foods contain lectins so in the end you will not be able to eliminate all lectins from your diet.

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