Lectin Lock 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 systemic health.1
 
 

  • 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 here.
     
  • 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
Many 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
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 acids.
 
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
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 communicative.3
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.
 

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References
1. Pierini, Carolyn M. Lectins: Their Damaging Role in Intestinal Health, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Weight Loss. Vitamin Research News. 2007;21(1): 1-4
2. Mikkat U, Damm I, Schroder G, Schmidt K, Wirth C, Weber H, Jones L. Effect of the Lectin Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) and Ulex europaeus Agglutinin (UEA-1) on the alpha-amylase secretion of rat pancreas in vitro and in vivo. Pancreas 1998 May; 16(4): 529-38.
3. Horvath K, et al. Improved social and language skills after secretin administration in patients with autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of the Association for Academic Minority Physicians 1998; 9(1): 9-15.
4. D'Adamo, Peter J. Live Right for Your Type. 1st ed. New York: Penguin Putman Inc. 2001. 163.
5. Nishino T, Nishioka C, Ura H, Nagumo T. Isolation and partial characterization of a novel amino sugar-containing fucan sulfate from commercial Fucus vesiculosus fucoidin. Carbohdr Res. 1994; 255: 213-224.
6. Zapopozhets TS, Besednova NN, Loenko luN. Antibacterial and immunomodulating activity of fucoidin. Antibiot Khimioter. 1995; 40: 9-13. [Article in Russian]
7. Baba M, Snoeck R, Pauwels R, de Clereq E. Sulfated polysaccharides are potent and selective inhibitors of various enveloped viruses, including herpes simplex virus, cytomegalovirus, vesicular stomatitis virus, and human immunodeficiency virus. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1988; 32: 1742-1745.
8. Criado MT, Ferreiros CM. Selective interaction of a Fucus vesiculosus lectin-like mucopolysaccharide with several Candida species. Ann Microbiol (Paris). 1983; 134A: 149-154.
9. Criado MT, Ferreiros CM. Toxicity of an algal mucopolysaccharide for Escherichia coli and Neisseria meningitides strains. Rev Esp. Fisiol. 1984; 40: 227-230.
10. Lynch G, Low L, Li S, et al. Sulfated polyanions prevent HIV infection of lymphocytes by disruption of the CD-4gp120 interaction, but do not inhibit monocyte infection. J Leukoc Biol. 1994; 56: 266-272.
11. Beress A, Wassermann O, Tahhan S, et al. A new procedure for the isolation of anti-HIV compounds (polysaccharides and polyphenols) from the marine alga Fucus vesiculosus. J Nat Products. 1993; 56: 478-488. [published erratum appears in J Nat Prod. 1996 May; 59(5): 552.]
12. Pearce-Pratt R, Phillips DM. Sulfated polysaccharides inhibit lymphocyte-to-epithelial transmission of human immunodeficiency virus-1. Biol Reprod. 1996; 54: 173-182.
13. D'Adamo P. Eat Right for Your Type. Putnam: 1997.
14. Boren T, Falk P, Roth KA, et al. Attachment of Helicobacter pylori to human gastric epithelium mediated by blood group antigens. Science. 1993; 262:1892-1895.
15. Rowe A, Berendt AR, Marsh K, Newbold CL. Plasmodium falciparum: a family of sulphated glycoconjugates disrupts erythrocyte rosettes. Exp Parasitol. 1994; 79: 506-516.
16. Clark DL, Su S, Davidson EA. Saccharide anions as inhibitors of the malarial parasite. Glycoconj J. 1997; 14: 473-479.
17. Angstwurm K, Weber JR, Segert A, et al. Fucoidin, a polysaccharide inhibiting leukocyte rolling, attenuates inflammatory responses in experimental pneumococcal meningitis in rats. Neurosci Lett. 1995; 191: 1-4.
18. Kimura Y, Watanabe K, Okuda H. Effects of soluble sodium alginate on cholesterol excretion and glucose tolerance in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1996; 54: 47-54.
19. Mandel KG, Daggy BP, Brodie DA, Jacoby HI. Review article: alginate-raft formulations in the treatment of heartburn and acid reflux. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000; 14: 669-690.
20. Anderson DM, Brydon WG, Eastwood MA, Sedgwick DM. Dietary effects of sodium alginate in humans. Food Addit Contam. 1991; 8: 237-248.

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