Natural Defense Against a Hidden Cause of
Digestive Concerns and Weight Gain
Carolyn Pierini, CLS (ASCP), CNC
Last month's article on lectins and their
damaging potential to our health was a technical introduction to their
chemistry. For many it was the first exposure to an extensive and
emerging science that has far reaching applications. The fact that
lectins interact with us on a day-to-day basis makes it an important
topic to become familiar with even though our understanding of lectin
effects is a complex one to grasp. It is generally accepted that real
health begins with proper digestion demanding an intact and blissfully
functioning digestive system. But it would appear from the amount of
complaints related to digestion that physicians encounter daily that
this first stage of health is being seriously compromised and in need of
investigation. There are the probable reasons for faulty digestion like
poor food quality, unhealthful eating habits around lifestyle, etc., but
lectins give us a reason for poor digestion that is perhaps not so
obvious. While the first article was a technical glimpse into the world
of lectins, this article will answer the question begged from the last
article, "So if lectins are in my foods and many are potentially harmful
to me then what can I do to minimize my exposure to them?" As part of
the answer to this question, here is a very simplified recap of what
lectins are, including their digestive impact and effects on our
- Lectins are a class of proteins that are found in common foods
especially grains, seeds, beans, nuts, some fruits and vegetables,
and seafood. They act as a sort of an immune system for plants by
"sticking" themselves to the structural carbohydrates (sugars) of
invaders. When we eat foods containing these proteins we risk lectin
attachments to the structural carbohydrates (sugars) antigens found
in the gut and immune system. Our unique genetic make-up and the
state of health will determine the lectins we are sensitive to and
how we will react to them. It is important to note that many people
will report that they do not feel any digestive disturbances but
that does not mean that lectins are not affecting them. Lectin
damage may be cumulative and show up as pathology years later.
Lectin attacks in the gut initiate inflammation that may be
expressed in other parts of the body. The fact that as humans we
possess these cell surface sugars, such as n-acetylglucosamine,
fucose, and mannose, and more, means that certain lectins that bind
to those sugars will affect us all (but to different degrees). Also
there are other genes that directly and indirectly affect how we
deal with lectins.
- Lectins from the diet damage the delicate intestinal lining (the
microvilli) and negatively influence gut permeability (leaky gut)
and protein digestion.
- Lectins are capable of being actively endocytosed (transported)
across the intestinal membranes into the general circulation where
they may attach to other tissues (connective, nervous, bladder)
causing immune dysfunction and systemic inflammation.
- Lectins contribute to food sensitivities (or food intolerances)
and may provoke the immune system to make antibodies against them.
- Lectins are chemical messengers potent enough to initiate and
aggravate existing inflammatory conditions including autoimmune
diseases ( e.g. thyroiditis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis,
scleroderma, fibromyalgia, and pemphigus).
- Lectins affect metabolism by mimicking hormones like insulin and
blocking digestive hormones like cholecystokinin (CCK), contributing
to significant weight gain. Weight gain is not as easy as calories
in-calories out. All of the hormonal influences on metabolism are
affected by insulin. How your body metabolizes calories is
controlled by insulin. Refer to the January article for more detail
- Lectins stimulate polyamines in the gut, which decreases the
natural killer cell population and contribute to halitosis
(bad-breath). Polyamines are endogenous growth factors that can
stimulate growth in the digestive organs. According to animal
studies, increases in the size of the intestines, pancreas and liver
occurred when test animals were fed dietary lectins.
Symptoms of Lectin Sensitivities
of the common health problems that people complain of from day-to-day
are related to the foods they consume. They do not often make the
connection between how they feel and what they ate because often the
reaction to food is not immediate and may appear over the course of
several days. Lectin reactions are food intolerances and may cause true
food allergies (Table 1).
Genetic individuality determines our recognition of food as friend or
foe and it is not based on the nutritional value of a food. For example,
tomatoes contain lycopene, an important antioxidant, but tomatoes also
contain a panhemagglutinin lectin (Lycopersicon esculentum agglutinin)
that is not harmless. It lowers mucin, binds to blood cells, nerve
tissue, and interferes with gastrin in the stomach creating problems in
susceptible people. (Consider watermelon, guava and red grapefruit or a
supplement to consume adequate amounts of lycopene.) The same is true of
many foods. Foods like corn, dairy, chicken, peas, bananas, beans and
legumes, soy, potatoes, pomegranate, nuts, cantaloupe, seafood, wheat,
millet, and many more, although they contain a variety of very healthful
nutrients, contain potentially dangerous lectins that can be a problem
for some people.
A Natural Shield Against Lectins
N-acetylglucosamine (NAG), the very specific form of glucosamine that
binds the disruptive wheat lectin called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), is
another important nutrient. NAG is a glycoprotein contributing to the
total glycosylation of the human body, which plays an important role in
body structure and biological functions like immune regulation,
inflammation, and cell signaling. This particular form of glucosamine is
the most effective for lectin-binding. One of NAG's most interesting
abilities is its tendency to suppress the anti-secretin effects of the
lectin WGA. Secretin is a digestive hormone, which stimulates the
pancreas to secrete pancreatic juice. The lectin WGA has been shown to
inhibit secretin production by about 57 percent. However, administration
of N-acetyglucosamine completely suppressed this effect.2
Since lectins are so prevalent in the diet it was suggested in the first
article that a supplement regimen be considered to reduce lectin
interactions. Lectins have the ability to bind to sugar residues of
polysaccharides and amino sugars in the gut and on the intestinal cell
surfaces. By consuming an array of these friendly sugar structures,
which are part of our digestive makeup, then a type of decoy system is
implemented in which "sacrificial" molecules are present to bind lectins
and keep them from sticking to our cells and causing damage. The
application of a lectin-locking device exists in a new product called
Lectin Lockô. Supplementing with these decoy sugars at the start of a
meal allows for the binding of potentially harmful lectins and their
elimination through the gut. Besides the all-important lectin binding,
the product supports health in numerous other ways.
Mucins, which have been called digestive gatekeepers, are a family of
heavily glycosylated proteins that protectively line the digestive
tract. Saliva contains mucin, which moistens and lubricates the food we
eat. According to Wikipedia, the dense "sugar-coating" of mucins makes
them resistant to protein breakdown, which may be important in
maintaining mucosal barriers in the gut. Mucins protect against yeast,
bacteria and food sensitivities. Mucin has lectin-binding capacity. It
contains the sugars that lectins like to stick to including sialic
Binding or locking lectins that interfere with secretin may be
particularly important in the management of autism. One abstract on
secretin reported a study of three children with autism and GI problems
who were given an infusion of secretin and became more social and
Another lectin-blocking substance is Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus).
This nutritious seaweed component makes several contributions. The
particular fucose sugars found in Bladderwrack, called "fucoidins," are
capable of binding to lectins and also microorganisms such as viruses,
bacteria and yeast. Fucose is a favorite sugar attachment site on the
surface of cells for Helicobacter pylori (the bacteria responsible for
ulcers and gastritis) and Candida albicans. Microbes like these must be
able to attach and anchor themselves to cells in order to become a
problem. Therefore, L-fucose becomes an anti-attachment type of therapy.
The fucose in Bladderwrack can bind not only to problem lectins but also
to these two opportunistic pathogens, preventing their attachments and
locking them up for elimination from the body. Supplementing with
Bladderwrack reduces H. pylori, C. albicans, and harmful lectins,
providing an example of selective therapy that doesn't disrupt other
balances in the GI tract.
Studies also have shown fucoidin's antimicrobial effects against herpes
simplex virus, human cytomegalovirus, human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV), certain strains of E. coli and all strains tested of Neisseria
meningitides. Research and in vitro studies have provided evidence that
fucose sugars have been found to prevent the initial HIV viral
attachment to cells necessary for HIV infection. The same concept was
used in studies of malarial spread through the red blood cells with the
same conclusion. Thus fucose sugars inhibit the spread of these
infections through selectively binding to the organisms so they can't
bind to the cells of the body. As a possible addition to conventional
treatment, fucoidins offer an adjunctive support that may improve
clinical outcomes. Fucose sugars also support the immune system through
enhancing phagocytosis (engulfing and destroying pathogens by white
blood cells) and controlling inflammation. Bladderwrack has been shown
to support thyroid function in boosting metabolism contributing to
weight loss. 4-17
Okra is a vegetable and a rich source of lectin-binding protective
mucilage. It helps protect the digestive tract from lectins and harmful
microorganisms. Like the other ingredients discussed in this article, it
also helps remove existing lectins that are already attached to cells.
It is a rich source of bioavailable calcium. Okra in combination with
the proteolytic enzyme pepsin, may help to clear away excess mucous
formed as a result of food intolerance or food allergy in the digestive
tract thus allowing for better absorption of nutrients. Okra is often
beneficial for ulcers, colitis, malabsorption, and other intestinal
problems. It essentially helps to clean the intestine.
D-mannose is also a common binding sugar for lectins. It is capable of
binding with the lectins in grains and other foods and also
microorganisms as discussed in the January article on lectins.
Sodium alginate is a soluble fiber derived from seaweed and is resistant
to digestion. It is fermented in part by the colonic bacteria to highly
beneficial short-chain fatty acids including butyrate, which is a
favorite food for the colonic epithelial cells that use these fatty
acids for energy. Sodium alginate may have cholesterol-binding
(lowering) and blood-sugar regulating properties. It is also used for
detoxification. Sodium alginate is used in the treatment of GERD as it
reacts with gastric acids to form a viscous gel called the alginate
raft. This alginate raft floats on top of gastric contents and acts as a
barrier to acid and food reflux.18-20
In addition, the sugars in Lectin Lock encourage healthy bowel flora and
enhance joint and synovial health. Supplementing your diet with these
sugars also is a key component in achieving weight loss goals. As a
general rule, lectins that bind D-mannose or N-acetylglucosamine
increase the ability to store fat and decrease fat burning, while
lectins that bind with fucose tend to reduce fat burning.
New Lectin-Blocking Supplement
The natural substances mentioned above, all contained in the
novel new supplement Lectin Lock, help to protect against adverse
reactions caused by lectins. Obviously, if you know that a particular
food is a definite problem, using the natural agents contained in the
supplement is not an invitation to indulge freely on that food. However,
Lectin Lock can help support the occasional cheating on the menu. Taken
as 2 or more capsules at the start of a meal this product may be a
valuable aid in:
1. Promoting weight loss through improved metabolism and energy
2. Restoring proper water balance
3. Achieving healthy joints, muscles, and organs
4. Reducing inflammation ( that lies at the core of chronic disease) and
improving immune function
5. Repairing the digestive tract and keeping it healthy
6. Facilitating healthy detoxification in the liver and the gut
7. Support with any meal but especially when eating out, when consuming
junk food or fast food diets, and when highly processed and refined,
prepared foods are eaten (many gums found in commercially processed
foods can intensify the effects of dietary lectins, i.e., carrageenan,
acacia, guar, xanthan, arabic).
Larch AG is a complementary product to Lectin Lock when gut repair and
maintenance is the focus.
source of nutrients and supplements.
did we qualify them ?
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