THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT YOUR DIET IS WHAT YOU DON’T EAT
Could you be eating lots of ‘healthy’ foods which are making you sick?
Lectins are proteins found in plant foods that protect the plants from insects and help propagation. Humans are adapted to neutralise the lectins in plants we’ve been eating for the last 40,000 years. And herbivores, like cows, are adapted to break down the lectins in grasses and grains – foods that were only introduced into our diet 10,000 years ago, giving us insufficient time to develop enzymes and a microbial population to handle them.
The Paleo Diet is a low lectin diet, removing grains, dairy (milk is produced by lectin eaters), pulses and nightshades and limiting nuts and seeds. The Blood Type diet includes lectins believed to be compatible with your blood group and the AID (Anti-Inflammatory Diet) removes all grains, dairy, nuts, seeds and nightshades.
Lectins and The Biome
You have 10 microbes for every cell in your body and 100 times more microbial DNA than your own, and scientists are just starting to appreciate the importance of having a healthy microbial population. Microbes run the show, controlling your digestion, your mood, your hormones and your metabolism including your weight. But they have been under attack since the Industrial Revolution when our diets, medicines and food production methods changed dramatically. We now have a less diverse microbial population with a shift towards more pathogenic microbes. But this can be turned around starting with your next meal.
It turns out that the foods that encourage the growth of good bugs are the foods free of the indigestible lectins. These lectins kill the good guys, cause leaky gut and encourage inflammation and chronic infections. The most effective way of ensuring a strong Biome is to avoid those lectins which weren’t part of the ancestral diet. This is not difficult to do and is more flexible than the Paleo diet. Inflammation and a dysbiotic Biome are at the root of all diseases whether mental health issues, neurological diseases including dementia, migraines, irritable bowel and bladder, eczema and asthma, heart disease, arthritis and cancer. Hippocates said he would rather know the person with the disease, than the disease itself – a concept that will turn modern medicine on its head. But research is now shifting the focus away from treating the disease and prioritising the relationship between different diseases and the ecological environment of the body.
Why is the Biome so important?
Researchers are now saying your microbes should be considered an organ in their own right. They are your first line of defence and your major organ of detoxification. If you don’t have enough good guys in your gut, toxins leech into your body and your liver will have to detoxify them instead. Those who are susceptible to environmental toxins and chronic infections, such as Lyme, Epstein Barr, retro viruses and so on already have a weakened microbiome, leaky gut and systemic inflammation. Researchers are discovering that almost any disease can be treated simply by altering the microbial population. Diseases of degeneration are not the result of ageing as we have been encouraged to believe. Our bodies are self-repairing. Degenerative diseases, also called diseases of civilisation, have increased by nearly 400% in the last hundred years. They are not genetic but environmental. Scientists are now realising that the assumption that all microbes were ‘bad’ and needed to be destroyed was wrong, and that we need to learn to live in harmony with microbes. Happy microbes – happy you! Our misguided attack on microbes has also destroyed the ecology of the soils in which we grow our crops.
Lectins and Longevity
Dr Stephen Gundry, a former cardiothoracic surgeon, has been looking into what promotes healthy longevity – after all, who wants to live a long life with poor health?! And he has discovered the most effective way of protecting against ageing and degenerative disease is to avoid foods that damage the microbiome and unsurprisingly they turn out to be foods that contain lectins. Dr Gundry no longer operates on his heart patients as he has found it more effective to change their diets. If you get it right, diet can be more powerful than drugs and surgery!
Dr Gundry does, however, recommend limiting fruit intake because of the sugars. But Anthony William maintains that the sugars in fruits are not the same as refined sugar and are beneficial and essential for health. I have been eating a high fruit diet, with generous amounts of maple syrup and honey, for around four years, so I decided to do some blood tests to see if I had any signs of pre-degenerative processes, poor sugar metabolism or unhealthy fats (unused sugars are converted to tryglycerides). All my results came back the healthy end of normal.
Gluten intolerance is the tip of the iceberg
Damage to our Biome (from environmental toxins, lack of breast feeding, the industrialised diet, antibiotics and other drugs) is now manifesting epigenetically in children born to parents and grandparents who have been exposed to the above. More and more people are becoming sensitised to foods that would have been tolerated in the past. I was recommending gluten and dairy avoidance nearly thirty years ago, and I think that since lectin avoidance is crucial to health, within the next ten years lectin awareness is going to become as commonplace as gluten and dairy awareness is now.
Lectin avoidance is liberating
It is amazing how much better you feel when cutting out foods that are stressing your body – although you may have a withdrawal period initially. And it is easy to enjoy a varied and enjoyable lectin-free diet. For example, although millet is a grain, it does not contain lectins. Buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and A2 milk (from Guernsey, Jersey, sheep and goats) doesn’t often present a problem, particularly after a short washout period during which the gut is healed and a healthy microbial population is established. Some pulses and nightshades become lectin free after pressure cooking. Breads, cakes and deserts made with non-grain flours are quick and easy to make. Profusion red lentil pasta does not contain lectins. Sesame and hemp seeds do not contain lectins, and sunflower seeds become lectin free when sprouted into sunflower greens. It isn’t necessary to cut out all nuts and seeds either. Only true nuts are lectin free. Cashews are a seed and peanuts which are a pulse, are both high in lectins whereas hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, brazils and pecans are not.
I also think it is important to eat a high proportion of your food raw – both to preserve the microbes on the plants which, prior to the use of pesticides, regularly replenished our own microbial population, and also because raw foods are living foods, high in biophotons for cellular energy. The true Paleo diet would not have been high in animal protein, as is often assumed today, but would have been high in carbohydrate from lectin-free plants, particularly fruits, with seasonal nuts and seeds and foraged eggs, insects and rodents providing protein.
The good news is that once you cut out lectins weight tends to normalise, and you find you can eat foods that may have caused weight gain in the past. Freedom from niggling symptoms such as headaches, sluggishness and aches and pains and so on mean you can enjoy life to the full – and look forward to a healthy and active old age.
You can watch an interview between Dr Mercola and Dr Gundry here: [www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgImyfAvVyM] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgImyfAvVyM
If you want to know more, I recommend The Longevity Paradox by Dr Stephen Gundry and for lectin-free recipes, The Plant Paradox Recipe Book. And if you would like my own recipe book, just drop me an email.