Lectins, Gluten, Arthritis, Heart Disease, and Your Dinner

This one is a bit messy and long. The reason is pretty simple. Lectins are in absolutely every plant and animal. So if you try to “not eat lectins” that isn’t going to work.

The answer, in my opinion, is that all lectins are not created equal; some are lethal, some do nearly nothing, and some just make you a little off your best. Discrimination between the lectins matters.

Then the other complication is that some things, that we have already realized are evil, and some others that are just bad for some people, are all lectins. Take wheat. We think of it as a “wheat problem” but the specific thing that’s the problem is a lectin. We are defining a dozen different diseases that all have a common thread.

So what is that thread?

Lectins are a protein or protein fragment that bonds to a sugar. That’s both simple to grasp, and terribly complex, because there are literally thousands of lectins and sugars of dozens of kinds get expressed (or show up) on the surface of cells and ends of long molecules. Then the combinations run into massively larger numbers (for just 1000 lectins interacting with 1000 sugar containing molecules taken only as “one each” you get a million binary pairs)

What this effectively means is that you can’t just test all of the interactions. At best what you can do is test if a given plant or animal makes you (or a group of people) more or less healthy. Essentially “How do you feel when you eat this?”. In many cases the answer is looking like “I don’t feel well”.

The other thing driving me to this posting (other than just curiosity) is that when I look at the things I already know I react to they are on the list of high lectin foods that are “to be avoided” on a low lectin diet. Tomatoes. Cows milk. Corn. A friend who reacts to wheat. Eventually you start to see a pattern…

Why do things have lectins? They do a lot of functions in the cell. Moving things around from one place to another in the cell. Mediating immunity. And the one that is likely the problem: Killing off animals that want to eat them.

Just to put that last point in perspective: Ricin, one of the most poisonous things on the planet, is a lectin from a bean. Eating a few Red Kidney Beans that were cooked at low temperatures will make you sick (and can kill you) thanks to a lectin.

Furthermore, some of the actions of lectins are immune system mediated, so what makes one person react will be different from what makes the next person react. Depending on your particular immune system, your history of exposure, and your genetic predisposition. I, for example, have the immunoglobulin “E” called IgE. That’s the one that gives you allergies but also gives faster and better response to some parasites like malaria. Not everyone has it. Blacks, for example, evolved sickle cell trait to fight malaria instead; and many from the Levant evolved higher “oxidative stress” and that is set off by Fava Beans. The disease is named Favism, but having the trait is helpful in fighting off malaria. So a complex interaction of genetics, history, and exposure.

Then there are the “degenerative diseases”. Things like heart disease, atherosclerosis, arthritis, and several other “auto immune” diseases like lupus. These have had a bunch of different “causes” imagined for them. Like the physical wearing out hypothesis for arthritis. Yet that seems silly. We grow repair and replacement cartilage when injured; and that isn’t immune system mediated. Could they be related to ingestion of a low grade toxin for years, too? Seems there’s some M.D.s who are starting to say “Yes.” and with some evidence to back up their assertion.

So what I’m going to do is point at some articles, give abstracts of them, and some of my comments as a bit of a review of my reaction to the articles.

The overall impression I’ve got is that the usual suspects are rushing off to a Food Fad again; while the medical camp is dividing into “Does so! Does NOT!” factions. Yet there is clear evidence for “issues” in the medical literature and a lot more in the anecdotal reports of individuals. I’m one of those individuals. I can modulate a general inflammatory response AND a specific joint arthritic discomfort with specific foods that are on the list of those with high problematic lectins and / or associated with “leaky gut”.

This link is the most approachable and the most “centered” and correct that I’ve found so far. I’ll be quoting some of it later, but for now, if you want to get a better description of some of this along with pretty pictures, start here:


These 50 Foods Are High In Lectins: Avoidance or Not?
SuperfoodlyOctober 8, 2017

There are thousands of foods which have allergic reactions associated with them and in theory, it’s possible for any food to be an allergy candidate.

However the actual part of a food we can potentially be allergic to are the proteins and their pollens. Not all foods have those, or at least not in high concentrations.

Can you be allergic to apples? Yes but since they contain so little protein content, even if you are allergic, it’s unlikely you will have noticeable side effects like a skin rash, hives, or sneezing. Among those eaten, Gala apples have the least amount of protein and Starking have the most. The latter also tends to trigger more pronounced results in skin prick tests.

It’s not just a coincidence that the 8 most common food allergens are protein-rich:

Crustacean shellfish
Tree nuts

It then goes on to explain what lectins are and that these foods also have lots of lectins.

Leaky Gut – Intestinal Hyperpermeability

One of the up-front things to get familiar with is the concept of how the gut works and how it might be compromised. The gut is basically one strong layer of cells that isolate the inside from the outside, along with a mucus coating and some backing structures. That cell layer has what are called “tight junctions” with their neighbor cells. These keep out all the “stuff” you have not digested.


Some lectins cause that “tight junction” to become loose or leaky. Then various protein fragments, undigested, can pass into the blood stream, attach to things or deposit in places where they do not belong, and then cause troubles. Either directly, or just by having your immune system say “What is this alien protein doing here?” and attacking those structures – even if they are ‘you’ and important to your function.

The thesis is that depending on the lectin, it can bind to the cells of joints (arthritis), the arteries (atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke), the brain cells (Alzheimers) or the cells that make insulin (diabetes) and potentially more. In some cases there is research showing the specific lectins, their binding sites, and the specific responses along with the specific antibodies that can be used as a diagnostic tool.

In particular, one of the parts of gluten acts directly to promote leaky gut. It is a promoter of “zonulin” that is the natural gut permeability regulator.


CD is Celiac Disease.
When you see “Gliadin” realize it is part of gluten in wheat.
From the Wiki:

“Gliadins and glutenins are the two main components of the gluten fraction of the wheat seed.”

Now back to the NIH link:

2.3. Gluten, Gliadin and CD

Gliadin epitopes from wheat gluten and related prolamins from other gluten-containing cereal grains, including rye and barley, can trigger CD in genetically susceptible people. The symptoms of this disease are mucosal inflammation, small intestine villous atrophy, increased intestinal permeability and malabsorption of macro- and micronutrients. CD, a chronic inflammatory disorder mediated by T-cells, is preceded by changes in intestinal permeability and pro-inflammatory activity of the innate immune system. Gliadin immunomodulatory peptides can be recognized by specific T-cells, a process that can be enhanced by the deamidation of gliadin epitopes by tissue transglutaminases that convert particular glutamine residues into glutamic acid resulting in a higher affinity for HLA-DQ2 or DQ8 expressed on antigen-presenting cells (APC). Serum antibodies, among which are antibodies against tissue transglutaminases, are also found in CD. The HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 is expressed in 99.4% of the patients suffering from CD, however, interestingly enough, there is a group of HLA-DQ2/DQ8-negative patients suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms that respond well to a gluten-free diet. This group of “gluten-sensitive” patients does not have the CD serology and histopathology, but does present the same symptoms and shows improvements when following a gluten-free diet.

2.4. Gliadin and Immunity

There are at least 50 gliadin epitopes that exert immunomodulatory, cytotoxic and gut-permeating activities that can be partially traced back to different domains of α-gliadin. Where some immunomodulatory gliadin peptides activate specific T-cells, others are able to induce a pro-inflammatory innate immune response. Stimulation of immune cells by gliadin is not only restricted to CD patients; the incubation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from healthy HLA-DQ2-positive controls and CD patients with gliadin peptides stimulated the production of IL-23, IL-1β and TNF-α in all donors tested. Nevertheless, the production of cytokines was significantly higher in PBMC derived from CD patients. Similar results were obtained by Lammers et al., who demonstrated that gliadin induced an inflammatory immune response in both CD patients and healthy controls, though IL-6, Il-13 and IFN-γ were expressed at significantly higher levels in CD patients. IL-8 production was only expressed in a subset of healthy and CD individuals after stimulation with a specific gliadin peptide and appeared to dependent on the CXCR3 chemokine receptor only in CD patients. Sapone et al. showed that in a subset of CD patients, but not in gluten-sensitive patients (with 36% of the studied individuals in this group being HLA-DQ2/DQ8-positive), there is an increased IL-17 mRNA expression in the small-intestinal mucosa compared to healthy controls. The same group showed that in a subset of gluten-sensitive patients (with about 50% of the studied individuals being HLA-DQ2/DQ8-positive) there is a prevailing stimulation of the innate immune system, while in CD, both the innate and adaptive immune system are involved.

2.5. Gliadin and Intestinal Permeability

In order for gliadin to interact with cells of the immune system, it has to overcome the intestinal barrier. Gliadin peptides cross the epithelial layer by transcytosis or paracellular transport. Paracellular transport occurs when intestinal permeability is increased, a feature that is characteristic for CD. It is indicated by several studies that increased intestinal permeability precedes the onset of CD and is not just a consequence of chronic intestinal inflammation. Gliadin has been demonstrated to increase permeability in human Caco-2 intestinal epithelial cells by reorganizing actin filaments and altering expression of junctional complex proteins. Several studies by Fasano et al. show that the binding of gliadin to the chemokine receptor CXCR3 on epithelial IEC-6 and Caco2 cells releases zonulin, a protein that directly compromises the integrity of the junctional complex. Although zonulin levels were more up-regulated in CD patients, zonulin was activated by gliadin in intestinal biopsies from both CD and non-CD patients, suggesting that gliadin can increase intestinal permeability also in non-CD patients, yet increased intestinal permeability was not observed in a group of gluten-sensitive patients.

3. Increased Intestinal Permeability
3.1. Increased Intestinal Permeability is Associated with Disease

Chronically increased intestinal permeability (or leaky gut syndrome) allows for the increased translocation of both microbial and dietary antigens to the periphery which can then interact with cells of the immune system. Shared amino acid motifs among exogenous peptides (HLA-derived peptides and self-tissue) may produce cross-reactivity through immunological mimicry, thereby disturbing immune tolerance in genetically susceptible individuals. Not surprisingly, increased intestinal permeability has been associated with autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, but also with diseases related to chronic inflammation like inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome and depression. The latter two conditions see patients with significantly greater values of serum IgA and IgM to LPS of gram-negative enterobacteria compared to controls, implying intestinal permeability is increased in these patients.

3.2. Intestinal Barrier Function and Inflammation

The intestinal barrier allows the uptake of nutrients and protects from damage of harmful substances from the gut lumen. Macromolecules that can be immunogenic like proteins, large peptides, but also bacteria and lectins, can be endocytosed or phagocytosed by enterocytes forming the epithelial layer of the gut. Absorbed proteins will generally enter the lysosomal route and will be degraded to small peptides. Normally, only small amounts of antigen pass the barrier by transcytosis and interact with the innate and adaptive immune system situated in the lamina propria. Highly specialized epithelial microfold (M) cells function as active transporters of dietary and microbial antigens from the gut lumen to the immune system, where either a pro-inflammatory or tolerogenic immune response can be generated. The paracellular route is regulated by the junctional complex that allows the passage of water, solutes and ions, but under normal conditions provides a barrier to larger peptides and protein-sized molecules. When the barrier function is disrupted, there is an increased passage of dietary and microbial antigens interacting with cells of the immune system (Figure 1).

OK, lots of words, what does it mean?

Pretty simple at the base of it. We can show a direct set of reactions that results in zonulin opening the “tight junctions” and letting a load of foreign molecules into the body. This is an essential action of the protein in wheat. It ought to happen to greater or lesser degree to everyone.

Then, for many folks, they can react to those foreign compounds (and bacteria…) in various ways depending on where the go and to what they attach.

This is seen in folks with CD, in folks without CD, and in folks with a load of other diseases specifically listed:

“increased intestinal permeability has been associated with autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, but also with diseases related to chronic inflammation like inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome and depression.”

That sure looks like a pretty strong case against eating a lot of wheat and for reducing the quantity of it, perhaps to zero. IMHO, anyone with one of those autoimmune diseases ought to at least try a gluten free diet and see if after a week or two they are feeling better or worse. If you are fine and eat lots of wheat, consider yourself lucky; given the clear biochemistry in the gut.

(Obligatory paranoid disclaimer: I’m not a Doctor. I don’t even play one on TV or the internet. These are just my ideas as I intend to apply to myself. YMMV and don’t do ANYTHING without consulting your physician and handing them a load of money.)

Once Inside The Body

Now the kicker is that this lets a load of other compounds in, including those indigestible lectins that can then bind to sugars on cells all over your body that then causes your immune system to take notice and attack.

From that Superfoodly link at the top:

Lectin intolerance and toxicity affects all of us to at least some degree.

Lectins were discovered almost 130 years ago, in 1888. That’s well over a decade before aviation, something we have since mastered. Yet these commonly occurring compounds largely remain a mystery. And while you may not be flying everyday, it’s guaranteed that you are eating foods containing lectin on a daily basis.

Seems like something we really ought to know more about, right?

Glyca-binding proteins (GBPs) are a category of proteins which bind specifically to certain sugar molecules. The “glyca” is the same prefix you see in the word glycation. That describes what happens after a protein or fat binds with a sugar molecule.

This binding process can cause inflammation and the creation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are compounds associated with numerous age-related diseases.
It’s why the apparent anti-glycation benefits of carnosine are so intriguing.

While some is influenced by diet, most of the glycation in your body will take place no matter what you eat.

So once in, bad stuff happens. Oh Joy. Back at that NIH link:

3.3. The Role of Zonulin Signaling on Intestinal Permeability

Intestinal permeability is a measure of the barrier function of the gut which relates to the paracellular space surrounding the brush border surface of the enterocytes and the junctional complexes consisting of tight junctions, adherent junctions, desmosomes and gap junctions. The junctional complexes are regulated in response to physiological and immunological stimuli, like stress, cytokines, dietary antigens and microbial products. As mentioned before, zonulin, a protein identified as prehaptoglobulin-2 (the precursor of haptoglobin-2) is also a regulator of intestinal permeability. Haptoglobin-2, together with haptoglobin-1, is one of the two gene variants of the multifunctional protein haptoglobin and is associated with an increased risk for CD (homozygotes and heterozygotes) and severe malabsorption (homozygotes). The haptoglobulin-2/zonulin allele has a frequency of about 0.6 in Europe and the U.S.A, but varies throughout the world depending on racial origin.

So folks “with issues” need to avoid stress too. If stress sets you off, getting rid of the wheat driven increase in zonulin might also be helpful (ought to be…). Then that “microbial products” indicates why all the probiotics and “fecal transplants” can do things. Once the gut is leaky, what leaks in matters a lot more.

3.4. High Zonulin Levels are Observed in Auto-Immune and Inflammatory Diseases

Zonulin signaling is proposed to cause rearrangements of actin filaments and induces the displacement of proteins from the junctional complex, thereby increasing permeability. Gliadin peptides initiate intestinal permeability through the release of zonulin, thereby enabling paracellular translocation of gliadin and other dietary and microbial antigens, which by interacting with the immune system give rise to inflammation. In this manner, a vicious cycle is created in which, as a consequence of the persistent presence of pro-inflammatory mediators, intestinal permeability will increase even further. High zonulin levels (together with increased intestinal permeability) have been observed in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like CD, multiple sclerosis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease and the haptoglobin polymorphism is associated with rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, schizophrenia and certain types of cancer.

The zonulin inhibitor Larozotide acetate was tested in an inpatient, double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. The group of CD patients in the placebo group that were exposed to gluten showed a 70% increase in intestinal permeability, while no changes were seen in the group exposed to Larazotide acetate. Also gastrointestinal symptoms were significantly more frequent in the placebo group. These results suggest that in CD patients, when intestinal barrier function is restored, autoimmunity will disappear while the trigger (gluten) is still there. Besides gliadin from wheat gluten, the lectin wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) has also been shown to stimulate cells of the immune system and increase intestinal permeability, as we will now discuss further.

The biggy in that last paragraph is that there is a simple “fix” in larozotide acetate. Were I suffering from one of those diseases, like Lupus or MS, I’d certainly try gluten avoidance and start researching larozotide acetate.

Skipping down into the WGA section (the stuff from the germ of the grain not the white flour part – so the added bit from “whole grain”.)

4.4. WGA and Intestinal Permeability

After ingestion, WGA is capable of crossing the intestinal barrier. In animal models, WGA has been shown to reach the basolateral membrane and walls of the small blood vessels in the subepithelium of the small intestine. WGA can be phagocytosed by binding to membrane non-receptor glycoproteins, a process that has been observed in Caco-2 cells. WGA can also be endocytosed by antigen sampling M-cells or by enterocytes via binding to epidermal growth factor receptors. Another possible route for lectin entry into the periphery is by paracellular transport, a process that can be further aggravated by the binding of gliadin to the chemokine receptor CXR3 on enterocytes.

WGA itself has been found to affect enterocyte permeability. Investigations by Dalla Pellegrina et al. showed, in vitro, that exposure to micromolar concentrations of WGA impairs the integrity of the intestinal epithelial layer, allowing passage of small molecules, like lectins. At the basolateral side of the epithelium, WGA concentrations in the nanomolar range induced the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines by immune cells. This may further affect the integrity of the epithelial layer, heightening the potential for a positive feedback loop between WGA, epithelial cells and immune cells. When combined, these mechanisms are likely able to significantly increase the percentage of consumed WGA that can cross the epithelial layer compared to the low percentage of WGA crossing by means of transcytosis (0.1%) alone. This suggests that, together with gliadin, WGA can increase intestinal permeability, resulting in an increase of translocating microbial and dietary antigens interacting with cells of the immune system.

So much for that whole “Whole Wheat Is Better” thing… There are other lectins that “have issues” but wheat looks to be somewhat unique in this strong promotion of “leaky gut” and letting loads of the others in.

Paleo Diet & Avoiding Grains

They eventually look at the overall “Paleo Diet” impacts:

6.3. Health Effects of the Paleolithic Diet

There are few studies that investigate the influence of a paleolithic type diet comprising lean meat, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and excluding food types, such as dairy, legumes and cereal grains, on health. In domestic pigs, the paleolithic diet conferred higher insulin sensitivity, lower CRP and lower blood pressure when compared to a cereal-based diet. In healthy sedentary humans, the short-term consumption of a paleolithic type diet improved blood pressure and glucose tolerance, decreased insulin secretion, increased insulin sensitivity and improved lipid profiles. Glucose tolerance also improved in patients suffering from a combination of ischemic heart disease and either glucose intolerance or type 2 diabetes and who had been advised to follow a paleolithic diet. Control subjects who were advised to follow a Mediterranean-like diet based on whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, fruits and vegetables did not significantly improve their glucose tolerance despite decreases in weight and waist circumference. Similar positive results on glycemic control were obtained in diabetic patients when the paleolithic diet was compared with the diabetes diet. Participants were on each diet for three months, whereby the paleolithic diet resulted in a lower BMI, weight and waist circumference, higher mean HDL, lower mean levels of hemoglobin A1c, triacylglycerol and diastolic blood pressure, though levels of CRP were not significantly different. Although the paleolithic diet studies are small, these results suggest that, together with other dietary changes, the withdrawal of cereal grains from the diet has a positive effect on health. Nevertheless, because these studies are confounded by the presence or absence of other dietary substances and by differences in energy and macronutrient intake, factors that could all affect markers of inflammation, it is difficult to make a concise statement on the impact of cereal grains on these health outcomes.

I’ll leave the rest of that paper for folks to look at on their own. The short form is “Paleo Good” but maybe not needed for everyone.

Other Lectin Effects – Arthritis

Related is a more general look at lectins, especially in beans:


A key point about legume lectins is that they are easily broken down by prolonged boiling and substantially made harmless by pressure cooking. Soaking helps. So soak over night with changes of water, then pressure cook, and you need not worry about it.

After an introduction about cooking kidney beans and what happened when some folks did not, they get down to the business of how various lectins, once inside you, can cause issues.

BMJ. 1999 Apr 17; 318(7190): 1023–1024.
PMCID: PMC1115436
PMID: 10205084
Do dietary lectins cause disease?

The evidence is suggestive—and raises interesting possibilities for treatment 
David L J Freed, Allergist
This suggests that in humans IgA nephropathy might be caused or aggravated by wheat lectin; indeed a trial of gluten avoidance in children with this disease reported reduced proteinuria and immune complex levels.

Of particular interest is the implication for autoimmune diseases. Lectins stimulate class II HLA antigens on cells that do not normally display them, such as pancreatic islet and thyroid cells.
The islet cell determinant to which cytotoxic autoantibodies bind in insulin dependent diabetes mellitus is the disaccharide N-acetyl lactosamine, which must bind tomato lectin if present and probably also the lectins of wheat, potato, and peanuts. This would result in islet cells expressing both class II HLA antigens and foreign antigen together—a sitting duck for autoimmune attack. Certain foods (wheat, soya) are indeed diabetogenic in genetically susceptible mice. Insulin dependent diabetes therefore is another potential lectin disease and could possibly be prevented by prophylactic oligosaccharides.

Another suspect lectin disease is rheumatoid arthritis.
The normal human IgG molecule possesses carbohydrate side chains, which terminate with galactose. In rheumatoid arthritis much of the galactose is missing, so that the subterminal sugar—N-acetyl glucosamine—is exposed instead. These deficient IgG molecules feature strongly in the circulating immune complexes that cause fever and symptoms. In diet responsive rheumatoid arthritis one of the commonest trigger foods is wheat, and wheat lectin is specific for N-acetyl glucosamine—the sugar that is normally hidden but exposed in rheumatoid arthritis. This suggests that N-acetyl glucosamine oligomers such as chitotetraose (derived from the chitin that forms crustacean shells) might be an effective treatment for diet associated rheumatoid arthritis. Interestingly, the health food trade has already siezed on N-acetyl glucosamine as an antiarthritic supplement.13

Among the effects observed in the small intestine of lectin fed rodents is stripping away of the mucous coat to expose naked mucosa and overgrowth of the mucosa by abnormal bacteria and protozoa.
Lectins also cause discharge of histamine from gastric mast cells,15 which stimulates acid secretion. So the three main pathogenic factors for peptic ulcer—acid stimulation, failure of the mucous defence layer, and abnormal bacterial proliferation (Helicobacter pylori) are all theoretically linked to lectins. If true, blocking these effects by oligosaccharides would represent an attractive and more physiological treatment for peptic ulcer than suppressing stomach acid. The mucus stripping effect of lectins also offers an explanation for the anecdotal finding of many allergists that a “stone age diet,” which eliminates most starchy foods and therefore most lectins, protects against common upper respiratory viral infections: without lectins in the throat the nasopharyngeal mucus lining would be more effective as a barrier to viruses.

But if we all eat lectins, why don’t we all get insulin dependent diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, IgA nephropathy, and peptic ulcers? Partly because of biological variation in the glycoconjugates that coat our cells and partly because these are protected behind a fine screen of sialic acid molecules, attached to the glycoprotein tips. We should be safe. But the sialic acid molecules can be stripped off by the enzyme neuraminidase, present in several micro-organisms such as influenzaviruses and streptococci. This may explain why diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis tend to occur as sequelae of infections. This facilitation of lectins by micro-organisms throws a new light on postinfectious diseases and makes the folklore cure of fasting during a fever seem sensible.

Alternative medicine popularisers are already publishing articles about dietary lectins, often with more enthusiasm than caution, so patients are starting to ask about them and doctors need to be armed with facts. The same comment applies to entrepreneurs at the opposite end of the commercial spectrum. Many lectins are powerful allergens, and prohevein, the principal allergen of rubber latex, is one. It has been engineered into transgenic tomatoes for its fungistatic properties, so we can expect an outbreak of tomato allergy in the near future among latex sensitive individuals. Dr Arpad Pusztai lost his job for publicising concerns of this type (20 February, p 483).

Note that last bold bit about transgenic tomatoes… This paper was from 1999 and it was just a few years after that when I began having stiff and ache prone joints when eating lots of tomato foods. And people wonder why I’m not keen on GMO foods…

So the general point of that section was that we are all different, those of use with modified IgG of the kind manifest in rheumatoid arthritis are more reactive to lectins, and there are some other protective bits too.

Nice to know, but if stopping wheat can cut down the lectin absorption while dropping out some high lectin foods can reduce that available to absorb all while cooking things longer and hotter destroys more of what’s in it: Why the hell not see if you stop hurting then? As a side effect, it also looks to improve diabetic responses and general inflammatory problems.

About Those Cows

From that Superfoodly link:

Based on research to date, the highest overall animal source appears to be dairy.

Mammals only produce milk during reproduction to feed their newborns. Since reproduction is an animal’s most important task in life, it’s interesting to note that it also involves their most significant use of lectins – the mother’s milk is loaded with it.

This fends of predators – other species – from considering that milk as being their own potential food source. That ensures the newborn is more likely to get this vital source of food, rather than someone else. Keep in mind that predators include microscopic organisms, like bad bacteria and fungal infections in a baby’s digestive tract.

So why are these milk lectins nutritious for the baby, while being potentially poisonous to another species?

That’s how lectins work. They ensure the food is good for who should get it, but not good for everyone.

In particular, there was an odd mutation happened some thousands of years back that make northern European Cows different from southern ones. French and Italian good, German and Swedish not so much…


Two thousand years ago, Northern European cows suffered a genetic mutation and began producing a lectin-like protein in their milk called Casein A1 (the normal cow makes Casein A2, a safe protein). Unfortunately, Casein A1 cows are heartier and give more milk, so most cows in the world (except those in Southern Europe), produce milk that’s harmful to humans. I’ve found that most people who react negatively to milk, get mucous from drinking milk, or think that they are lactose intolerant, in fact are affected by the lectin-like protein Casein A1, but tolerate Casein A2 from sheep, goats, buffaloes, and French, Italian, and Swiss milk products and cheeses.

As I react by being arthritic and congestive on “cows milk” I’m likely in that group. I do fine on sheep and goat milk, cheeses and yogurt. This may also explain some of the longer healthier life “hot spot” around the Mediterranean. Not just the general diet, but the specific milk in the cheeses and cream sauces…

I’ll be checking out Whole Foods and related “health food stores” to see if any “Casein A2” cows milk is on sale. As Cow’s milk gets subsidy but goat milk does not, it would be nice to find I could use a subsidized form…

Note that this Casein A1 will also be showing up in cream sauces, cheeses, yogurts, any main courses or sides made with milk… on and on.

BTW, that article is a Q&A with Dr. Steven Gundry, M.D.; who’s written a book about all this. He was a very busy cardiac surgeon doing thousands of surgeries before he decided preventing it in the first place was a higher calling. He is now a strong advocate for lectins as causal of all sorts of diseases, especially heart disease.

Are We Wrong About What Makes Food Healthy?

Some of the foods we think are the healthiest may play a role in leaky gut, autoimmune disorders, and other diseases, says goop contributor, Steven Gundry, M.D., whose research may change the way we all think about “healthy” food in the future. Gundry, who focuses on autoimmunity and microbiome disorders, sees lectins—proteins found in some plants, designed to protect them from predators—as the root cause of many diseases. As Gundry explains, lectins are like a smart bomb to the body; they can have toxic or inflammatory effects that underlie gut-related health issues like leaky gut, autoimmunity, and weight gain. His forthcoming book on the topic, The Plant Paradox, is a fascinating exploration of the evolution of plants and animals, and our relationship to the food we eat today, along with useful practical tips, eating plans, and health-boosting recipes. If you’re like us, Gundry’s insight into the modern diet, particularly concerning which plants are healthy and not, will surprise you:

Reading the rest of that link is well worth it, along with this one:


Could Diet Cure Arthritis?

Gut and autoimmunity expert Dr. Steven Gundry, author of The Plant Paradox, has been making waves with his research on lectins—a type of protein found in some plants that he believes to be at the root of most diseases. (See why in this goop piece.) Gundry’s diet recommendations have proved particularly effective for patients struggling with arthritis—a condition he not surprisingly has an unconventional stance on, and one that he connects to a breakdown in the gut. We interviewed him about the causes of osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis) and the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis, and what he sees as the potential cure:
My research [see more in Gundry’s book The Plant Paradox] has shown that both RA and osteoarthritis can be caused by proteins in plants and some milk products, called lectins, which break the gut’s barrier (i.e. leaky gut), releasing these proteins into our blood circulation. In the case of RA, lectins confuse the immune system (called molecular mimicry), and cause it to attack the synovial surface of joints and the lining of blood vessels.

In the case of osteoarthritis, lectins have been shown to attach to the sugar molecule in cartilage called sialic acid, prompting a direct immune attack on the cartilage itself. This can lead people to have their hip or knee replaced—because there is no cartilage left in their hip/knee joint (often referred to as “bone on bone”).

Of interest, societies that typically eat very low lectin diets—like the Kitavans and Okinawans—have extremely low incidence of arthritis or autoimmune diseases of any kind.

Moreover, human studies that used a novel lectin (seeds from the Maackia amurensis tree) that actually prevents other lectins from binding to receptors in cartilage was shown to prevent cartilage breakdown, which could make it an effective treatment to RA and OA.


What’s your treatment plan for patients with arthritis?


In either form of arthritis (RA or OA), I ask people to remove the major lectin-containing foods from their diet: These include all grains and pseudograins like quinoa, all beans unless pressure cooked, all nightshade vegetables (such as potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and goji berries), as well as squashes and cucumbers. American nuts and seeds—cashews, peanuts, sunflower, pumpkin, and chia—are also removed. Finally, I ask people to avoid all Casein A1 milk products. Cheese and milk products from goat, sheep, and Southern European cows, which make Casein A2, a safe protein, are okay and increasingly available in the US.

I show how to repopulate the normal gut microbiome using specific probiotics like BC30.

Importantly, I stress the need for the prebiotics that feed friendly bugs in our gut. These include inulin-containing (fiber) foods like jicama, artichokes, radicchio, endive, and Jerusalem artichokes.

I encourage patients to eat resistant starches as well, like sweet potatoes, taro root, sorghum, and cassava because because they feed friendly bacteria that guard the wall of your gut, creating a barrier against lectins.

I urge people to get polyphenols—like grape seed extract or pycnogenol—in their diet because polyphenols cause our gut to make anti-inflammatory compounds. (Many patients get their daily dose of polyphenols from my Vital Reds supplement.)

It is important to realize that you do not have to “live” with arthritis. It should not be managed, it should be cured!

As you can see, he goes a lot further than just saying to cook the beans a lot and avoid whole wheat…

Searching on his name finds a lot more articles, and there are interviews / videos on YouTube worth the watching.

Some Things To Do

From that Superfoodly link:

If they’re in everything, where do you begin?

Great question.

Just because a given food might have more of them, that does not automatically mean it’s a problem.

This is because there are thousands of different types in your diet and their effects in the human body can vary greatly. From lethal poisoning like ricin, to having no effect at all.

With that caveat said, based on the limited knowledge known today, even though they’re not be apples to apples, it does seem logical to start by reducing foods that contain lectins in high amounts.

Sure, if there was a 1% concentration in a milk product and a 1% concentration in a wheat product, that doesn’t mean they’re equal in effect. Nor does it mean they’re better than a food with a 2% concentration of a different type.

In an ideal scenario, you would be able to weigh each type accordingly. But with the exception of a few specific foods like kidney beans, any health effect they may have is poorly understood. For that reason, starting with the elimination of the highest known sources isn’t a bad idea.

How to reduce or remove lectins

Rather than avoid these foods entirely, the preparation method is arguably far more important.

Though for some types of foods, cutting them out entirely may be the only effective method for real reduction.

They have a lot of specific recommendations. My generalization of it is:

Eliminate wheat, use other grains if you must but milled grains with the lectin rich bran coats removed. Cook things thoroughly (i.e. don’t eat the cookie dough!)

When the endocrinologist Joseph Charles Aub first discovered wheat germ agglutinin in 1963, its resistance to heat was among the first characteristics noted (24). Yet it was still destroyed after 15 minutes at just 70° C (158° F).

How to remove lectins from beans will involve soaking them overnight, rinsing and draining, then thoroughly cooking. They are not something you want to undercook!

If you don’t have the time to soak canned beans overnight in the fridge, that’s fine, but just make sure you rinse them well before cooking.

The heat will almost entirely destroy lectins in beans, as pointed out in numbers above for kidney. You can entirely deactivate lupin, fava, and soybean lectins when you boil them at 100° C (212° F) for at least 10 minutes (26).

With lower temperatures, that’s not the case. Cooking legumes at 70° C (158° F) for several hours “has little or no effect” (27).

Soy milk is heated (pasteurized) but is that for at least 10 minutes? The manufacturers don’t say. For that reason, veer on the side of caution and avoid soy milk if you are worried there might be active agglutinins in it.

Peanuts are actually a legume. Since this “nut” is always sold roasted, a lower amount of peanut agglutinin (PNA) would be expected.

If you’re using prepared fresh or dry beans/lentils, try sprouting them before cooking. The germination process further reduces the amount they contain.

Raw coffee beans will contain large amounts. Considering how thoroughly those beans are heated – probably more than any other food or drink in your diet – your cup of joe is likely quite safe. Coffee has not been researched though pre and post roasting.

For milk they just say to avoid it. Swapping to goat milk and sheep cheeses has worked well for me. Then on potatoes they suggest swapping to yams.


The most commonly consumed nightshade, potatoes are about 6.5% lectin content on average, which comes primarily from solanum tuberosum agglutinin (STA) (28).

Whether it’s yams, sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, potato starch, or any other form… they’re all going to contain high amounts of glyca-binding proteins. However, the sweet varieties are not part of the nightshade family.

The potato lectins are very stable under heat, acid, and base solutions. This is believed to be due to its high carbohydrate content and the disulfide bonds formed with them.

As my Irish ancestors survived several generations on a diet of mostly potatoes, I’m not going to worry as much about them. It is also the case that in the “elimination diet” I did to see if a food was causing my arthritis, I ate only potatoes for a week and the arthritis stopped. That may just be a “me thing” though and your genetics may vary. Do be sure to peel them as the peel and any green bits are highest in solanine – the potato toxin.

For tomatoes they assert cooking is helpful while Dr. Gundry says most all of the lectin is in the skin and seeds so skin and seed them. I’ve chosen to just avoid them. That whole latext derived added lectin thing.

From watching the Dr. Gundry videos, what’s “in” is largely leaves of things (salads, choy, cabbage, etc.) and roots (turnips, sweet potatoes, carrots…) and meat. Some fruit.

Yes, it makes things like eating Asian or Italian a near impossibility. Forget the potstickers and fried rice, the pasta and pizza. But it might be worth it.

I’m going to give a go at the “gluten free” with a light helping of general lectin reduction. So dumping the breads and morning cereal, the side of rice and the tortilla wrap or burrito. I’ll be keeping beans but using an overnight soak and pressure cooking. Dairy is already over in the Casein A2 land with Goat milk and sheep cheeses.

I’ll be adding more yams / sweet potatoes and squashes. More cabbages, kales, chard, choy, and all the other leaves. I’ll keep the occasional potato just because I know I’m not reacting to them anyway. Peas will be used if cooked well or only added to a crock pot meal if from a can that was cooked well (i.e. not frozen…). And I’ll be hunting up more of those roots I don’t eat much anymore (but grew up eating): turnips, beets, rutabagas, radishes, jicama, and all the rest. Plus the cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, and such. Not to mention avocados, asparagus, and onions ;-)

I can easily make a couple of weeks worth of variety that way. At the end of 2 weeks it ought to be pretty clear if anything is different. Then any foods added back in ought to also be pretty quick to show when they are an issue. (Usually 2 weeks). I can live for 2 weeks without bread and grains, then figure out if adding white rice with my fish is an issue, or not. In theory, hot cooked white rice ought to be fine. Perhaps even very well cooked brown rice.

Given all the evidence above for clear metabolic effects, it seems well worth the effort to see what, if anything, it does for me. IF I end up feeling just swell, but craving those old lecin foods, then I’ll explore the ways to reduce lectins in food. Many of them older more traditional preparation methods like fermenting or soaking:


Cooking methods that use moist heat are helpful for decreasing the number of lectins in plants. Cooking also breaks down some plant starch into simpler carbohydrates. Lectins like to attach to carbohydrates and are removed from the body before they cause negative effects.

Slow cookers are not recommended for preparing kidney beans because the temperature is not high enough to eliminate lectins. Ways to decrease lectins in foods include:

pressure cooking

I can work with that…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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33 Responses to Lectins, Gluten, Arthritis, Heart Disease, and Your Dinner

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    For your information, Southern European cattle were derived from Indian cattle. When Alexander’s legions returned to Greece from India, they brought Brahman cows with them. The Brown Swiss breed is a good example of this. They sweat and their milk is naturally homogenized and their digestive system much more effective on coarse grasses. Northern European cattle were derived from the local Toroch forest cattle, they sweat only on their muzzles, their milk / butter fat separates quickly and they require lush, high quality feeds. …pg

  2. H.R. says:

    Great article, E.M.

    The potato discussion jumped out at me. I’ve been cutting out and reintroducing various carb sources to see what spikes my glucose levels. Corn is a biggie and very obvious no-no. I also found that potatoes are one of my friendly carbs. I didn’t really have a clue as to why, but blood tests after baked potatoes with dinner showed little effect compared to taco salads with a few tortilla chips or even a side serving of corn.

    Oh, I’ve been eating some blackeyed peas instead of beans for fiber. They seem to be friendlier to my body chemistry.

    Larry L., cdquarles, and others pitched in with some advice for me back on the Type II diabetes thread. I wasn’t getting a reset through fasting or zero carbs. So far, the aerobic exercise that Larry steered me to seems to be the most important factor. I’m hitting my 30 points per week and my waistline is down 2 inches. My daily glucose readings are down to 95-110 from where I was stuck at 130-140 and hollered for help.

    The suggestions I received are helping a lot, but lectins might just be the final piece of the puzzle to get my glucose chemistry functioning normally.
    As for arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, after a few years of fighting severe arthritis, my doctor finally figured out that I had Still(s) disease. The tales I could tell fighting that, and then the diagnosis came after I landed in the hospital for a week with a near lethal fever. (Simple quick and dirty explanation of Still Disease in the link)

    It turns out that there are a several things that can treat Still Disease, such as Accutane which is used to treat adult acne. I didn’t care for the side effects of Accutane so I found that the OTC nutritional supplement SAM-e worked very well for me. (Link is to SAM-e on wiki)

    So… I’m not noticing any arthritis effects from lectins but the blood sugar references seem well worth exploring further for my particular body chemistry.

  3. Larry Ledwick says:

    @HR that is great to hear that the exercise step is working to trigger a reset.

    When I could run (get active enough to get out of breath) I never had weight issues, but since my right knee got to the point it got really unhappy with vigorous exercise it has been a struggle for me to find a way to routinely get up a good sweat without making my knee blow up and cripple me for a couple weeks.

  4. H.R. says:

    Oops! Typo above – (Adult) Still Disease. Missing the ‘T’ in Still.

    (And the Mayonnaise incident continues to affect my keyboard. Sigh…)

    [Reply: Fixed it for you… Maybe leave out the mayo next time :-) -E.M.Smith]

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Just doing sit ups, push ups and leg raises in karate class, I got to the fast breathing sweating stage.

    It was about 80 sit ups at the end…started at about 20 first class… (full,half curls, right side, left side,…) and both legs raised then rt then left, and full pushups then knees touching ’till those reach a limit… Eventually every major muscle is in lactose burn… w/o impact or knee stress…


    Glad things are working for you!

    We’ve still got a ways to go – possibly due to high wheat diet and cheating w/ cow cheese too much.

    I have observed high wheat & cheese days have more brain fog and next day joint discomfort. But I really like tuna noodle casserole and lasagna :-)

    Well,I’m running down our wheat products inventory and not replacing them. I think one more meal and we’re into the rice pasta instead. Then I need to swap from cream sauce (Alfredo) to olive oil & garlic. The hard bit will be walking away from cheeses.

    Basically I’m starting at the grocery store. Just not buying the bad stuff. Over time the inventory at home will run down.

  6. H.R. says:

    @Larry – That book says stairs are NOT recommended for over-59. It didn’t say why. It’s been the best way to get me aerobic in a hurry and it’s the only thing that doesn’t set off my bum left knee. I don’t run the steps or actually do anything to pound and knee or ankle joints, so I’m ignoring the book.

    After I wrote here before that my get-there walking pace is about 4mph on level ground, I went and timed it instead of guesstimating and I got 3.8 – 3.9 mph. Once I get aerobic from the steps, that pace maintains my aerobic activity for about 1/2 mile.

    I’d be amazed if you told me you had not studied running technique. I believe there is plenty of stuff out there on low impact walking, but for myself, I concentrate on lifting my feet the minimum necessary and making my stride as long as possible without using unusual hip motions to lengthen the stride. But my knee just doesn’t tolerate torsion. Straight back and forth is OK for me. I’m assuming your knee is different and any prolonged movement sets it off.

    I hope you can find something that works.

  7. cdquarles says:

    Stairs likely is knee strain, at least for some. There are exercises that you can do to help with your knees.

    I am lactose intolerant. Any lactose, above a certain amount, triggers it. I may be lectin intolerant too; given the family history of autoimmune diseases (ulcerative colitis in my case, rheumatic fever and multiple sclerosis in others). As far as I know, I’m the only one in my immediate family that is lactose intolerant. It began within 6 weeks of my 17th birthday. One day, eating lunch at school, I get diarrhea after drinking milk. Didn’t happen the day before. Trying again later, eating ice cream, it happened again. I started drinking buttermilk, yogurt and other cheeses after that. When Lactaid became available, I tried it. Digesting the lactose made a difference. Even today, high milk, short aged cheese may give me trouble. Aged, hard cheeses don’t.

    So yes, as I’ve said, plants make poisons. In fact, every successful biological organism makes poisons. They all alter their local environments to enhance their own survival. Chemistry is chemistry and everything material is a chemical or a mixture of chemicals. Poison is a matter of what reaction and in what amount, so it is conditional. Toxicity is not absolute, and sometimes the ‘side’ conditions make a poison be the poison.

    In the case of biological organisms and their products, the number of chemicals comprising them is hundreds to who knows how many. We’ve never counted them all.

    Wheat and peanuts don’t bother me. Some beans don’t bother me and some do.
    Medicine is run by humans and humans are subject to fads.
    One man’s meat is another man’s poison. [Hmm, how old is *that* saying?]

  8. Larry Ledwick says:

    I am missing the medial collateral ligament in my right knee so it is the push off motion of fast walking that causes shear in the knee as the thigh bone pushes back creating front to back lateral motion in the knee joint that causes me distress. If I hold the walking pace to about 2.9 – 3.0 mph (just below the level of exercise I need to get aerobic) I can walk long distances with no problem.

    If I up the pace to get breathing hard it screws up my knee, If I use a stiff knee brace that controls the knee and substitutes for the ligament I can go at a faster walk or moderate run but that is a pain in the ass to put on, and not something you can wear all day at work.

    If I can find a steep incline or stairs or bicycling where the motion pressure is more vertical than front to back, I can easily get to a good burn. If I am very careful to push off with my calf muscles rather than my thigh muscles I can run at a moderate pace with no problems but it only takes one or two mis-strides that stress the knee in the wrong way, to wreck my knee for even walking for 1-2 weeks and I end up limping like a cripple for 10-14 days and lose all my conditioning and have to slowly work back up to where I was.

    I am doing half squats while holding 50#s of weights (and sometimes while wearing a back pack) to strengthen and stabilize the knee and get a good huff and puff going without lots of impact or making noises to disturb the neighbors at near midnight.

    Like I said above, I like the Exercycle if I have some enjoyable distraction while doing it like a good TV show, but it is down right monotonous and border line torture to just crank on the cycle for 30-45 minutes late at night while staring at the wall.

    Right now I do some up and down the back stairs exercise at work but the stair case is only two floors high, would be much better if it was 3 or 4 floors but building is modern tech park low construction style.

    In the late 1960s I used to jog up flights of stairs in the sky scrapers down town before I went into the military. I made a delivery every day to the Security Life building which had a 31 story staircase, and just before boot camp, I could go up that 31 floors quickly at 2 steps at a time and still barely be able to stand on shaky knees when i got to the top. Not so much any more.

    It is mostly a matter of convenience (and discipline) really. I get off work at 10 pm and my preferred time to exercise is in the evening not the morning, but going for a long hard walk in the dark near midnight (or grinding on the Exercycle while watching crap late night television) just does not work out well especially in the winter time when the walks are all icy. Twenty years ago I would do my exercise while watching the news programs but now they are just useless crap. 30+ years ago I would go for a run at night (about 9:00 pm) when most of the dogs were indoors and I did not have to deal with obnoxious dogs or dodge heavy traffic. If I could jog again I would go for a run at night when the weather was not wet or icy but that just does not work where I am now.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    See if your local Y has an indoor swimming pool… fairly cheap and you burn a lot of calories at very low stress. Times might not be what you want, but our local is pretty usable and inexpensive.

    Also, get a ROKU, there’s thousands of channels and millions of movies / TV shows to choose from so something will be of interest. (All of C-net, YouTube, TED, etc. etc.)

  10. Larry Ledwick says:

    I consider drowning to be a low impact but high stress form of exercise.

    I don’t swim for recreation.
    I have not been in a swimming pool for about 50 years, when I just barely passed my Navy swimming test. I was as a fit 20 year old, so exhausted making the two required lengths of the pool I needed help getting out of the pool.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    They have steps and a hand rail these days… and you can swim in the shallow end where you can stand up ;-)

  12. beththeserf says:

    I have long history of hay fever and asthma and now some arthritis in my
    hands. I’ve found, last couple of years I cannot digest rice or pasta. I’m going
    to try above recommendations, cutting carbs, tomatoes etc and try the grapeseed
    supplement. Already exercise, long walks etc. No weight problem.

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    Best of luck with that. FWIW, a relative could only eat millet for a grain. It too has lectins, but different ones… Millet was the dominant grain in China until just a couple of thousand years back when rice took over. I’ve used it to make a corn bread analog that was pretty good.

    I also do well on oats, but I’m usually too lazy to make them ;-)

    Probably easier to just skip the grains in any case.

  14. John F. Hultquist says:

    Some years back I tested positive for rouleaux formation of red blood cells.
    Red cells clump and various things happen. Increased rouleau reduces the exposed surface area of RBCs and diminishes the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide, resulting in etc. etc.
    Biggest issue for me is not being good at hiking uphill. Otherwise, I haven’t been seriously impaired — yet.
    Seems there wasn’t much to do about it. Every year or so I do some reading.
    Anyway hope to have it tested again next month.

    The lectins thing (via diet) may be a useful thing to consider.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @John H. F:

    Interesting problem. From the wiki:
    “They occur when the plasma protein concentration is high,”

    Which implies reduced protein intake and extra electrolyte intake might help reach that state. It would depend a bit on how the body prioritized protein production so might need some testing. Just increasing blood plasma volume is pretty easy short term – increase liquids and electrolytes.

    It also occurs in diabetes mellitus and is one of the causative factors for microvascular occlusion in diabetic retinopathy.

    Acute-phase proteins, particularly fibrinogen, interact with sialic acid on the surface of RBCs to facilitate the formation of rouleaux. An increase in the ratio of RBCs to plasma volume, as seen in the setting of polycythemia and hypovolemia, increases rouleaux formation and accelerates sedimentation. Rouleaux formation is retarded by albumin proteins.

    So avoidance of diabetic state – keep your intake of sugars and fast starches down, exercise levels up. Does confirm increasing plasma volume helps. So does lowering Red Blood Cell count – so donate blood (or find some leaches 8-) Is worse with hypOvolemia (too little blood volume) so work toward hypERvolemeia (high blood volume). Retarded by albumin…. hmmmm…

    Then following a link to:


    “Albumins are commonly found in blood plasma and differ from other blood proteins in that they are not glycosylated.”

    That glycoslylated is when sugar has bound to the protein…

    Glycosylation (see also chemical glycosylation) is the reaction in which a carbohydrate, i.e. a glycosyl donor, is attached to a hydroxyl or other functional group of another molecule (a glycosyl acceptor). In biology, glycosylation mainly refers in particular to the enzymatic process that attaches glycans to proteins, or other organic molecules.
    It is an enzyme-directed site-specific process, as opposed to the non-enzymatic chemical reaction of glycation. Glycosylation is also present in the cytoplasm and nucleus as the O-GlcNAc modification.

    So enzyme driven and specific. Unlikely something you can modify (i.e. if it were happening to your albumin proteins, things to slow it…). OTOH, if you were getting accidental glycation of albumin proteins then you would have less of them around. An assay of albumin level would be an interesting number to have (is it a problem, low, or not?…)

    In general, keeping reactive sugars low in the blood would help prevent albumin glycation and keep the levels higher.

    This is a very interesting article:

    A Review of Glycated Albumin as an Intermediate Glycation Index for Controlling Diabetes
    H. Vernon Roohk, Ph.D.1 and Asad R. Zaidi, B.Sc., B.S.2


    This article reviews glycated albumin (GA) as a potential intermediate-term glycation index to fill the gap between self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) and hemoglobin A1c testing in diabetes management. The introduction gives an assessment of available short-, medium-, and long-term glycemic indicators.

    Methodologies and Utility

    Methods of GA measurement are summarized, and the variance of normal and diabetic GA values are discussed. Greatest uniformity in GA measurement is generally associated with immunoassay and the newer affinity chromatography methodologies utilized by reference laboratories. Utility of GA measurement includes its value as a marker for glycation, its substantial relationship to diabetes complications such as nephropathy and coronary artery disease, and as an unambiguous indicator of glycemic control in diabetes patients undergoing hemodialysis. Studies support the utility of GA in detecting short-term changes in glycemic control, and GA testing has been strongly recommended for gestational diabetes.

    This implies that glycation of albumin is increased in diabetes and would be lower with better diabetes control. Taking a short leap from that, to have MORE clean albumin in the serum, you need lower blood sugar levels.

    So a diet that enhanced diabetic performance and with added liquids / electrolytes, and with good serum albumin formation but overall low blood protein content would be the goal state. So what’s the other blood proteins and how might the balance be shifted? Then, to the extent some of them are lectins coming in through a “leaky gut”, stopping that would be helpful… so cut out wheat and reduce other lectins ought to be helpful… As fibrinogen is involved in the sticking and it is a blood clotting action protein, things that reduce clotting might help. Wonder if the old “baby aspirin” thing might help?


    Blood proteins, also termed plasma proteins , are proteins present in blood plasma. They serve many different functions, including transport of lipids, hormones, vitamins and minerals in activity and functioning of the immune system. Other blood proteins act as enzymes, complement components, protease inhibitors or kinin precursors. Contrary to popular belief, haemoglobin is not a blood protein, as it is carried within red blood cells, rather than in the blood serum.

    Serum albumin accounts for 55% of blood proteins, and is a major contributor to maintaining the osmotic pressure of plasma to assist in the transport of lipids and steroid hormones. Globulins make up 38% of blood proteins
    and transport ions, hormones, and lipids assisting in immune function. Fibrinogen comprises 7% of blood proteins; conversion of fibrinogen to insoluble fibrin is essential for blood clotting. The remainder of the plasma proteins (1%) are regulatory proteins, such as enzymes, proenzymes, and hormones. All blood proteins are synthesized in liver except for the gamma globulins.

    Hmmm… Liver makes a lot of it. The gamma globulins are mostly immunity related (bone marrow, lymph glands) so you will likely be worse when sick (but may not notice then ;-) or after vaccinations. There’s a bunch of transport proteins… I suspect a general calorie restricted diet would reduced those some. It also implies occasional fasting could be of benefit.

    OK, doesn’t look like a lot that can be done, but a general theme shows up.

    1) Control any tendency to diabetes and get blood sugars low.
    2) Eat more inert fiber and less sugars, starches, fats & proteins. (It is likely swapping to Olive Oil or similar good oils – avocado, coconut) could help lower cholesterol and fats transport problems and proteins in the blood too). Occasionally fast to knock things down a bit.
    3) Stay extra hydrated with extra electrolytes so blood volume stays on the high side.
    4) Consider ways to lower red blood cell count.
    5) Exercise more as it helps lower blood sugar levels.

    And in general the low lectin approach might well be helpful in getting odd proteins out of the blood and especially those prone to sticking to surfaces where they don’t belong (perhaps including RBC surfaces…)

    That’s where I’d start looking were it me, anyway. I’d also be ready to dump any of those ideas if when I tried it things got worse at all… Biologic systems often have perverse reactions where, for example, if you reduce the intake of something your body might well make more of it to compensate. Since I don’t know where all the positive and negative feedback loops are, a simple “cut this add that” can have a paradoxical effect.

  16. E.M.Smith says:


    seems to say that aspirin only reduced platelet aggregation. But does note other things about rouleaux formation:

    Effects of Antithrombotic Therapy

    Anticoagulants. Neither heparin nor warfarin significantly altered blood echogenicity at low flow velocity (Fig 6). On microscopic examination, red cells aggregated to form rouleaux in both the heparin and warfarin blood samples (Fig 5).

    Dextran 40. Low flow–related echogenicity was reduced by dextran 40 in a dose-dependent manner (Fig 6). On microscopic examination, red cell rouleaux were absent with dextran 40 concentrations of 20 and 40 mg/mL (Fig 5).

    If you ever get into an emergency situation, an injection of dextran can be very helpful.

    Back on that first link / paper:

    In this study, low flow–related echogenicity was increased markedly in the presence of plasma paraproteins, which promote red cell rouleaux formation,14 and was reduced by plasmapheresis.

    So paraproteins show up when you have various diseases that cause rapid cell multiplication especially in the blood cells (and making antibodies). To the extent lectins cause a low grade of ‘something wrong” they might induce a little more paraprotein than normal. So another “worth a try” reason.

    Plasmapheresis is an external machine that takes plasma proteins out – like a selective leach ;-)

    Back on paraproteins:

    While it is unlikely that a clinical state exists, perhaps a slight sub-clinical leaning could be caused by things like excess lectins in the blood (as a wild and crazy idea…)


    A paraprotein is a monoclonal immunoglobulin or light chain present in the blood or urine; it is produced by a clonal population of mature B cells, most commonly plasma cells. In individuals aged >50 years the incidence of a paraprotein is 3.2%. Plasma cell disorders can be considered as a spectrum of conditions ranging from monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), through asymptomatic, to symptomatic myeloma. MGUS is defined by a low level of paraprotein <30 g/l, bone marrow plasma cells <10% and the absence of myeloma related organ or tissue damage (predominantly renal, skeletal or bone marrow impairment.) MGUS requires no therapy and the overall risk of progression to myeloma is 1% per year. Myeloma remains incurable with a median survival of 3–4 years; autologous stem cell transplant can prolong survival, if appropriate. Thalidomide in combination with dexamethasone has an emerging role in the treatment of myeloma.
    By definition all paraproteins are the product of a B cell clone which may be large, small or possibly undetectable using available techniques. The disorders described above are examples of B cell disorders where the clinical features are defined either by the systemic effects of expansion of the malignant clone or which may be entirely asymptomatic and meet the diagnostic criteria of MGUS. Alternatively, in some B cell conditions, while the clone may be undetectable the clinical features are dominated by the biological effects of the paraprotein, so called “dangerous small B‐cell clones”.6 There are two pathogenetic mechanisms for this type of disorder. Either the monoclonal protein may aggregate and deposit systemically, causing disorders such as light‐chain amyloidosis, crystal storing histiocytosis or cryoglobulinaemia type I. Alternatively the monoclonal protein may have antibody activity towards an autogenous antigen causing disorders such as polyneuropathy, monoclonal cold agglutinins and cryglobulinaemia type II.

    The point NOT being to say increased paraproteins from some horrid disease like myeloma are causing a bit of blood anomaly, but instead:

    A speculation that all this is immunity mediated and some of the processes make paraproteins – so it MIGHT be POSSIBLE that other things like circulating odd lectins could cause a small similar immune excursion.

    In short, it might be worth it to try the low lectin approach and see if anything changes. There’s a speculative pathway to causality.

    FWIW, paraproteins are also found in dental plaque so it isn’t like you must have cancer to get more of them; it could just be bugs in the teeth ;-)

  17. llanfar says:

    That’s some amazing research. I’m quite interested in how you researched it…

  18. cdquarles says:

    A lot of this has been known for decades, in more general terms. Recent work has highlighted some more specific mechanisms.

    Still: mortal man doomed to die … and the span of a man’s years shall be 120. The very mechanisms that “mutate” us from the single fertilized egg cell to an adult with a quadrillion specialized cells, tissues, and organs, known as growth and development; are the same ones that kill us, in the end.

    Each of us has an optimum where sufficient deviation on either side, that is deprivation or excess, causes harm. Given the very wide in-built variation, often greater within-group compared to across-group, the aphorism “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” is quite apt, yet hard to do in real life. There is much we know. There is much more we know that we don’t know. There is even more that we don’t know that we don’t know, so said a wise man named Donald.

  19. John F. Hultquist says:

    Thanks for the effort and the information.

    The body is an amazing thing. Lots of chemistry, physics, and biological stuff going on. I do enjoy learning about it, but am overwhelmed. When my wife was having a valve replaced I had a friend donate 2 beef hearts to my education and dissected them. Electrical issues there.

    Back to rouleaux:
    I learned about this because I was giving blood. Once, when a nurse was watching a drop of blood slowly settle in the copper sulfate solution, she asked if I was male or female. The sinking of the drop was more like what she expected from a female during menstruation, but I did not know that at that time. I thought she was crazy.
    I continued to donate, and was on the bone marrow list, also. Then I got a letter from the Red+ that my most recent donation had been destroyed because there was an issue. The letter was worded in a manner I found offensive. About that time I also learned about the high salaries of Red+ officials. Easy to dislike that bunch.

    So, I went to a blood cancer specialist and had a few tests, one being protein seperation via electrophoresis based on their size and electrical charge. Very interesting. Also learned that because of the clumping, early death, and sedimentation – my RBCs were younger than average. For years we knew the ‘sed rate’ was high, but with no explanation. This involved bone marrow analyses. Fun procedure.

    We monitored the blood for about a year and when the doctor was sure I wasn’t about to die of anything, he turned me loose. He thought trying to do something about it was likely to be unproductive at best, and possibly dangerous.
    As you found, there is much more on the internet now than was there at the time I learned of it. You have pointed in a lot of directions and I have a few weeks before the yearly exam (now called by Medicare “the preventive visit & yearly wellness exam” ). This is now in 2 parts: First see a nurse and do a lot of paperwork; Second, see a doctor and talk while he (in our case) enters things on the keyboard.
    This year we will talk about rouleaux.

    Again, thanks to you and all that contribute here.


  20. E.M.Smith says:


    Wise words indeed… ‘Clueful’, it’s a thing ;-)


    Not sure if your comment is about the top post topic, or the specifics on rouleaux, but the process is more or less the same in any case. I’m not sure I can adequately describe it as a fair amount of it is something that “just happens”. But I’ll try.

    0) Historical Background. I was pre-med going into college and took a lot of chemistry and organic chemistry and biology and upperdivision stuff like genetics. I worked in hospitals for several years on the wards reading medical records. I’ve read a lot of medical research since. In short, I’ve got background in the subject matter of chemistry, biochemistry, and medicine. This means a low threshold to get over to understand what a medical / biochem paper is talking about. In general it helps to have some background, if you don’t have it, a quick upload of background helps so a few hours scanning / absorbing the needed background can give you a good leg up.

    1) Directed keyword search. What at one time was called “Google-foo” and I’m now calling “Search-foo” or “keyword-foo”. Just try what you think will work, if the listing of things you get is crap, change up the words. So, for example, search on “rouleaux” returns some cruft (“cruft” is a computer term of art – jargon – meaning junk that is not helpful but mostly just in the way) about folks last names of “Rouleaux”. Add some tech words like “serum albumin” and those drop out. Here is where “and then magic handwaving happens” enters. Scanning the titles and some of the abstracts of the top few pages of results “gives clue” as to what additional words matter and how to refine the search. IF you are getting what you need already, work with them; if not, adjust your search terms. Look for particular words in the ones “that work” that can get similar specificity like, oh, “glycosylation” seen above. Explore them as specifics (load their meaning and what they imply / connect with) and explore them as related to your goal topic (the impact on your search goal). So use the term with your goal terms, and without it – then decide which does what you want.

    2) Gather Scatter: As you scan / read each paper, you look for “Ah Hah!” moments. Clues to how the mechanism works. What up-regulates, what down-regulates, what new path looks promising, what related {stuff, process, disease, etc.} connects with it and how they might interact. You gather a set of papers and descriptions and understandings that “fit” the question and you scatter some distractions away from you – dead ends. You gather more links from more interesting possibles and you scatter the ones that are misdirected.

    3) Synthesis: This is likely the hardest part to explain. You just “grok” how parts of it work. (“Grok” comes from a sci-fi novel but is similar to the German gestalt to just suddenly see the whole beyond the parts). This doesn’t always happen. Some things don’t have much beyond the string of details. Others, like seeing “lectins” as the bigger picture of several other diseases – arthritis, heart disease, firbremyalgia, etc.- do come from a sudden “seeing the big picture”. Sometimes that is from just having someone else “show you” (like watching the Dr. Gundry videos – which is where I got the start) and some times it’s that wonderful moment of “just getting it” – the Ah Ha! Moment with a flood of endorphins too ;-)

    4) The Assembly: Now you “have it”, it’s time to assemble the wandering in the forest, useful paths, and blind end trails into a straight map from entry to goal. The interesting and irrelevant get tossed out (or sometimes made a “sidebar” note for later) while the most relevant get highlighted. The jumping around non-linear fragments get assembled into a linear path (as language is linear). Then the write-up happens. Some times, during the write up, a new idea presents; or one of the “unlikely but possible” paths gets a question for later. In formal writing, you explore these until they run out or you run out of time / budget. In informal writing like this blog, I’ll just do the quick-write and then explore. That’s when you get the quick second comment or the “update” in comments.

    So that’s pretty much it, I think.. As I’m both right and left brain modal, there may be some right brain stuff the left can’t translate to words, but I’m usually pretty good at it. Though you do get quasi vague terms like “grok” or “gestalt” it… or “make the scattered bits a straight path”…

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F. H.:

    You are most welcome. Just hope some of it is helpful.

    A follow on thought was that since many of the globulins were for transport, it might be helpful to just not eat big meals (needing a big circulating population of carriers for fats, amino acids, sugars) but instead have more smaller ones. In that way, at any one time you have less “stuff” that needs transport and the production of carrier proteins ought to “down regulate” if many of them are running around empty…

    Since that is also part of dealing with diabetes it falls under the general idea of “treat it like diabetes”, but I think it is worth calling out as a specific.

    I could easily see a path that starts with a 48 hour or 72 hour “water fast” to get to a ketosis metabolic state (that would clear out all the “stuff” being circulated and carried and let the body down-regulate the associated carrier proteins faster). Staying so hydrated that you visit the bathroom a few times a day assures your blood volume is kept high – but keep your salts up… you want “water retention”… Then when you put foods back in, do it with non-lectin foods in a diabetic friendly mix, and as 4 to 6 small meals / day. Perhaps overkill, but the way I’d go at it for me given the chemistry described in the articles above.

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    A tentative too-early checkpoint:

    After about 2 weeks of only using olive oil and butter as cooking oils (avoiding soybean, corn, canola, etc. seed oils wherever possible), avoiding A1 cheeses and one week of avoiding wheat:

    My skin is smoother and less oily. I’d had some lifelong places where the pores tended to make a waxy pore sized plug. Not enough to make a pimple, just the pores were made larger than others and the waxy it would occasionally rub out if I rubbed the skin there (my right temple was one of those…). Today I noticed those spots no longer feel like little sand grains of wax embedded in the skin. Just regular old flexible skin.

    I also noticed that the fingers no longer feel like I’m just avoiding stiffness. They are fast and flexible without feeling anything bad. Also, I’d damaged my sciatic joint stomping on a shovel some years ago. It was put back in place by a Chiropractor, several times, but has had a tendency to feel wrong no matter what. This morning I woke up and it feels normal. Now it has felt that way for a day or two from time to time over the years, so this could change tomorrow.

    Still, in the context of the other changes, and a general feeling of more “energy” less lethargy, I’m of the opinion that avoiding wheat and omega-6 oils is a benefit. (I’ve also avoided “animals that eat seed meal” to a greater degree these two weeks. More lamb, no pork; though I did keep some chicken in the mix I had more fish than usual).

    I’ll post a followup in a couple of weeks, but I’m already pretty sure “something is better” avoiding lectins and getting a better omega-3 / omega-6 ratio and avoiding A1 casein. So I’m going to keep this up for a while and add some more of the “preferred” foods like sweet potatoes and other roots, leaves (chard, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.).

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    Hmmm… Millet also has “leaky gut” promoting substances with similar bad effects.


    In addition to their high phytate, flavonoid and polyphenolic contents, millets are also concentrated sources of other antinutrients including protease inhibitors (trypsin, chymotrypsin, alpha amylase and cysteine)33-35 and steroidal saponins.36, 37 Cereal grain protease inhibitors likely elicit adverse effects upon the pancreas when consumed as staple foods,3 and saponins are known to increase intestinal permeability and may contribute to chronic low level systemic inflammation.

    Taken in its entirety, an overwhelming scientific literature demonstrates that millets are second rate foods that when consumed regularly may adversely affect iodine metabolism and elicit goiter. I’m not completely sure where the USDA dietitians derived their recommendations for whole grain consumption, but it certainly could not have come from their familiarity with the millet literature.

    I have used millet as a corn meal replacement in a pseudo-corn-bread. I was pondering what could replace the 1/2 that’s wheat flour… now I see the Millet is an issue too. I was OK with the thyroid issues / iodine metabolism disruption as I don’t eat enough of the pseudo-corn-bread often enough for it to show up. But I’m not so OK with Yet Another Inflammation Promoter…

    I think I need to toss out the pound or so of millet flour in the freezer…

    So with wheat, barley & rye out as they contain gluten ( Rye Whisky is OK as it is protein free ;-) and with corn out as I’m allergic to it, and now with millet off the list for promoting leaky gut and thyroid problems… That leaves, what? Sorghum, oats & rice for grains?

    Guess it is on to R&D on sorghum & oats issues… I’m not giving up rice and going full on Paleo Diet, just due to the fact I like sushi too much ;-) While I like oatmeal, I can give it a pass if needed.

    But in general it is looking like “grain stuff” is just full of “issues’.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    This paper paints a rosy picture for Sorghums:

    Click to access AwikaRooneySorghumPhytochemicalsAndTheirPotentialImpactOnHum.pdf

    Sorghum phytochemicals and their potential impact on human health
    Joseph M. Awika *, Lloyd W. Rooney
    Cereal Quality Laboratory, Soil & Crop Sciences Department, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2474, USA
    Received 9 September 2003; received in revised form 26 February 2004
    Available online 6 May 2004


    Sorghum is a rich source of various phytochemicals including tannins, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, phytosterols and policosa-nols. These phytochemicals have potential to significantly impact human health. Sorghum fractions possess high antioxidant activity in vitro relative to other cereals or fruits. These fractions may offer similar health benefits commonly associated with fruits. Available epidemiological evidence suggests that sorghum consumption reduces the risk of certain types of cancer in humans compared to other cereals. The high concentration of phytochemicals in sorghum may be partly responsible. Sorghums containing tannins are widely reported to reduce caloric availability and hence weight gain in animals. This property is potentially useful in helping reduce obesity in humans. Sorghum phytochemicals also promote cardiovascular health in animals. Such properties have not been reported in humans and require investigation, since cardiovascular disease is currently the leading killer in the developed world. This paper reviews available information on sorghum phytochemicals, how the information relates to current phytonutrient research and how it has potential to combat common nutrition-related diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity.


    does a ‘damning with faint praise’ for the pseudo-grains (and reminds me buckwheat has potential so pancakes are not a thing of the past entirely, maybe…)

    Less Bad but Not Good: Pseudograins and Non-Gluten Grains

    When it comes to Paleo, one of the few food groups that almost everyone agrees on is grains. Grains are not only nutritionally unnecessary, but even downright harmful, packed with toxic antinutrients and inflammatory proteins like gluten. For many people, they’re also problematic for their high carbohydrate content, but even advocates of safe starches generally recommend eating starchy tubers like sweet potatoes or tapioca, rather than grains.

    Enter the replacements: coconut flour, almond meal, cauliflower “rice” and “mashed potatoes” and even “pizza crust.” Creating Paleo-friendly imitations of forbidden foods has become an art form, and as well as working culinary magic on the humble cauliflower, enterprising Paleo cooks have sought out a whole range of non-gluten grains and pseudograins as alternatives to the harmful starches that accompany modern American meals.

    These replacements are purely cultural: they aren’t necessary for health. None of them can match the nutrient content of meat and vegetables, or even other types of starch like sweet potatoes. They contain a lot of glucose, which can be problematic for people who already have insulin metabolism problems. They require long and complicated preparation methods, because they share several of the antinutrients and toxins that make grains such a problematic food group. Nevertheless, they aren’t entirely harmful: if you struggle with cravings, if you’re strapped for grocery money, or if you’re one of the few who need to get more calories in their diet, these grain replacements can be a lesser evil or even a useful tool.

    Meet the Pseudograins

    Pseudograins are foods that resemble grains from the perspective of the person eating them, but are not biologically members of the same group. Biologically speaking, cereal grains are the seeds of grasses, and belong to a group called monocots. In contrast, pseudograins are the seeds of broadleaf plants, and belong to a different group called dicots. The three major pseudograins (also called pseudocereals) are amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa.

    Now I know why quinoa became such a fad…

    So, OK, I get to explore amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa along with more digging in sorghum & oats…

    I’ve grown amaranth and it’s pretty to look at, easy to grow, and the young leaves are a “green”. The older ones a bit fibrous…

    I don’t have a glycemic level issue so I’m not worried about the blood sugar impacts of things like oatmeal…

    Then there’s the more exotic ones. Hemp, chia, and flax seeds.

    Popular grain replacements also include other seeds like hemp, flax, or chia. Like pseudograins, these seeds have some advantages – flax and chia, for example, contain most of their PUFA in the form of Omega-3 fatty acids, rather than Omega-6. High PUFA consumption is never ideal, but the ratio of O3:O6 is just as important: the higher, the better. Their PUFA profile is not as good, but hemp seeds are also more convenient, because you don’t need to soak them before consumption; they also contain magnesium. One of the major problems with these seeds is the lack of definitive studies: they may be harmful but then again, they might not.

    Not sure I’m going to find a box of Hemp Checks at the Whole Foods store but…

    That link also has a good section on other grains:

    Meet the Non-Gluten Grains

    Some versions of Paleo also include certain non-gluten grains as “safe starches.” The most common of these is rice (which is, for example, considered “safe” on the Perfect Health Diet). While rice does share several of the same drawbacks as other grains (especially its high carbohydrate content), many people react less poorly to it because it doesn’t contain gluten.

    They bitch that rice is just sugar in a kernel, but I’m OK with that.

    Worth hitting the link to read their section on lectins, saponins, and protease inhibitors.

    Uses of Pseudograins

    Lectins, saponins, protease inhibitors, and phytates, as well as their high levels of carbohydrates, make pseudograins a less-than-ideal food. Nevertheless, they do have some uses. First is their cultural value – quinoa, buckwheat, or white rice can make a wonderful compromise if you have to feed non-Paleo relatives used to a hefty helping of starch with every meal. If rice flour pancakes mean the difference between a peaceful weekend visit and an all-out culinary war over your “extreme fad diet,” they might do more good than harm.

    Pseudograins are also a less harmful way to satisfy cravings for wheat products or starchy foods in general – they might not offer much in the way of nutrition, but when prepared properly they don’t do much damage, either.

    So, OK, I need to look in particular at the lectin, saponin, and protease inhibitor content of things like sorghum and oats…

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, pleasant surprise, Dr. Gundry has a sorghum salad recipe and says it is lectin free!



    Sorghum is a gluten-free whole grain that has shown prebiotic potential. Dr. Nancy Turner, associate professor and director of TAMU Space Life Sciences Training Program at Texas A&M University, explains, “Our research team has shown that sorghum brans containing polyphenols are capable of modifying the microbiota in a manner that supports intestinal health. Some of the changes in the host include reduction in markers of inflammatory processes.”

    For my clients, I always highlight the important relationship of gut health to immune health and brain health. Inflammation is a leading risk factor for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

    OK, while I’ll continue to look around the edges for “issues” with sorghum, a ‘two fer’ of recommendations puts it on my “IN” list until and unless proven bad.

    So, rice and sorghum so far. Quinoa, amaranth, and oats “likely” OK but still in the “dig here!” step.


    This is a bit complicated, but it is a “does so – does not” pair. Quinoa saponins suspected as a problem, but a “paper” says it’s anti-inflammatory BUT that’s on in vitro (cells in a petri dish).

    Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus
    Posted on October 4, 2016

    quinoaSome people following the Paleo diet eat quinoa and other pseudo-grains as grain alternatives based on the encouragement of others in the nutrition community who tout quinoa as a “super-food.” Dr Cordain answers a reader’s question about why the high saponin content of quinoa can cause digestive issues and why we should be careful about reading too much into any single study.
    Dave Chiasson on August 24, 2016 wrote:

    I just read this:

    “What the Science Says

    Emerging research appears to contradict the idea that saponins from quinoa cause inflammation. Researchers examined the inflammatory effect of saponins from quinoa. Contrary to Cordain’s theory, they found saponins possess anti-inflammatory properties and reduce inflammation by suppressing proteins involved in the inflammatory process, called cytokines. Researchers concluded that quinoa saponins may be useful as functional food components to prevent and treat inflammation. The results were published in the April 2014 edition of the “Journal of Food Science.”
    Loren Cordain, PhD replied:

    Dear Dave,

    Thanks for bringing this paper1 to our readers’ attention. Let me remind you and our readers that this study simply involved an in vitro (tissue) study of certain immune cells (macrophages), stimulated before-hand by inflammatory agents and then exposed to saponins from quinoa in a test tube situation. None of the intervening organ systems (gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidney, full immune system, muscles, etc.) that normally would be in place in a living animal were involved in this experiment. Accordingly, any dietary compound which could cause one systemic effect (inflammation) or another in the body is murky and almost nullified by such testing.

    What is needed to evaluate quinoa saponins in regard to their suspected pro-inflammatory effect would be comprehensive in vivo (in living animals) studies with both animals and humans. Since almost all dietary saponins (soaps) are known to disrupt the bi-lipid membranes of the mammalian digestive tract in a dose dependent manner, they have been shown to increase intestinal permeability.4-14 Increased intestinal permeability is a suspected etiologic factor in autoimmunity, allergy and inflammation.5-14

    So I’m putting quinoa (and anything with significant saponin content) on my “out” list.

    On to Oats & Amaranth…


    Amaranth prolamins weakly bind with antibodies against gliadin, indicating some cross-reactivity, although studies generally conclude that amaranth is safe for celiac disease sufferers.

    Amaranth saponins have been shown to be toxic at very high doses in animal studies (it would be challenging to consume anywhere near that level for humans) but also to have some hemolytic activity (meaning they can break blood cells apart) indicating that they could impact the health of the gut barrier. Amaranth also contains low levels of phytohemagglutinin

    Soo… looks like Amaranth gets a pass too. (Not surprising, really, as it is related to quinoa IIRC)

    I’m going to take a break for a while as I look into Oats & Buckwheat. I think I’m pretty much “good to go” with rice & sorghum, I’ll take a look at coconut flour and almond flour alternatives if I ever need to “go there”. I’m pretty sure buckwheat will be fine as my gluten intolerant friend likes his buckwheat pancakes. So mostly it’s just oats up in the air, IMHO.

    OK, I’m going to do something else for a while ;-)

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    Damn. That “just one more thing”… So looks like oats are out. But, if you get sore muscles they are helpful:


    Oatmeal is one of the natural foods that is high in glutamine. As we discussed earlier glutamine is essential to effective functioning of the body and this is particularly relevant to areas such as skeletal muscles as well at the gut. If you are one of those people who have muscle pain in addition to leaky gut syndrome, it could be that this pain is an indicator of a depletion of glutamine stores. Restoring glutamine levels by eating oatmeal may well be one natural way of relieving your muscle pain. There is a problem though if you suffer from a gluten allergy or intolerance as oats contain a protein called Avenin which may trigger a reaction.

    Posted by The Paleo Diet on Sunday, June 21, 2009

    8. Oats — contains a saponin called avenacin which increases intestinal permeability. All cereal grains including oats and wheat contain lectins which adversely affect tight junction characteristics and, together with saponins, have an additive effect upon intestinal permeability.

    Their list includes some things where, well, I’m willing to risk it occasionally. In particular, alcohol and NSAIDS. I’m also keeping hot peppers in just because I don’t eat them that often & russet potatoes as it is low in protein & I pressure cook them for mashed anyway. IF I’m really hurting, I’m going to take an aspirin. FWIW, my desire for aspirin is way down as the wheat has left the building… so this is likely self correcting. Positive feedback loop in both directions… I’m going to include their whole list here just so folks don’t need to feed FacePlant.

    Foods and Substances that may Increase Gut Permeability
    June 21, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    Any food which increases intestinal permeability increases endotoxin (lipopolysachharide — a constituent of gram negative bacterial cell walls) influx into circulation. We believe this is a key event in most if not all autoimmune diseases. Therefore, we recommend that people with autoimmune disease avoid the following, at least until symptoms subside:

    1) Wheat — the gliadin in wheat upregulates a gut protein called zonulin which adversely affects tight junctions, thereby increasing intestinal permeability.

    2. Alcohol — adversely affects tight junction characteristics

    3. NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen etc) reduce tight junction stability and increase intestinal permeability

    4. Hot peppers, cayenne, paprika, green peppers etc — contain both saponins and capsaicin which increase gut permeability

    5. Soy beans (including soy products: tempeh, tofu, soy sauce, soy oil etc) lentils, peas, beans, peanuts and all legumes. Legumes are concentrated sources of saponins which degrade the intestinal lining by binding cholesterol in the bi-lipid layer of the epithelium and cause increased intestinal permeability. Additionally some legume saponins (soy in particular) maintain immunological adjuvant characteristics which up-regulate the immune response at the dendritic cell level in the gut and promote autoimmunity.

    6. Potatoes — are concentrated sources of two glycoalkyloids (alpha solanine and alpha chaconine) which also degrade the gut lining and increase leakage of LPS from gut into circulation.

    7. Green and unripe tomatoes, cherry tomatoes contain the glycoalkyloid alpha tomatine which also increases gut permeability and acts as a potent immunological adjuvant .

    8. Oats — contains a saponin called avenacin which increases intestinal permeability. All cereal grains including oats and wheat contain lectins which adversely affect tight junction characteristics and, together with saponins, have an additive effect upon intestinal permeability.

    10. Alfalfa sprouts contain some of the highest concentrations of saponins in any plant substance and dramatically alter intestinal physiology. In animal models consumption of these sprouts leads to a lupus like autoimmune disease; in a few human case studies these sprouts have also elicited lupus like symptoms.

    11. Quinoa — once again very high concentrations of saponins leading to a leaky gut — also this particular saponin has shown to be an effective adjuvant in vaccines thereby leading to an enhance immune response — not what you want in an IBS patient

    12. Amaranth — similar story to Quinoa except for the adjuvanticity

    13. Quillaja — a food additive made from the powdered bark of a S. American tree which is added to root beer and cream soda to make them foam. This is perhaps the most powerful saponin adjuvant yet identified and is routinely used as a vaccine adjuvant in animals to immunize them against almost any disease you can name. It also powerfully increases intestinal permeability.

    14. All dairy — in allergic people casein increases intestinal permeability & cow milk contains other hormones & substances which may increase gut permeability

    So down to buckwheat to check…

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    Looks like buckwheat is low but not zero activity. OK on the “rarely when I just MUST have pancakes list”



    Buckwheat is often contaminated with wheat, making it difficult to determine whether issues caused are due to buckwheat itself or gluten. However, the digestive enzyme inhibitors in buckwheat cause moderate activation of the innate immune system (about 20% of the bioactivity of gluten-containing grains). The digestive enzyme inhibitors in quinoa cause a low-level response (about 10% of the bioactivity of gluten-containing grains) and amaranth causes a very low-level response (about 2%). See Wheat and Innate Immunity.

    That’s the protease inhibitors. So not gluten nor saponins as this issue. I think some sporadic protease inhibitor would be an OK risk.

    With this, I’m looking at using:

    Rice – as desired
    Sorghum – as desired
    Potatoes – carefully and fully cooked / peeled.
    Buckwheat – occasionally for pancakes and such.

    Then the exotics (coconut flour, almond flour, riced cauliflower) only as needed / can’t stand life without FOO and it’s the replacer… think cauliflower pizza crust ;-)

    NOW I’m done! This time for sure …..

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, after a couple of weeks of eating this way, I “fell off the wagon” and had a buffalo burger (2 of them really) on bread. So 4 x slices of bread.

    A few hours after that I started to feel a bit “off”. The next day, the generalized inflammatory feeling and some joint discomfort had returned. Along with that, a general malaise / lethargy. That “immune system ramping up” feeling.

    It’s been about 3 days now and I’m back to no malaise, joints feeling fine, energy up.

    My interpretation is pretty simple: The no-wheat low-lectin thing works for me. Falling off the wagon is not good for me.

    We still have a fair amount of “stuff” in the house made with wheat ( noodles, ramen, flour) and I’m not going to just throw it out. Yeah, I know “not worth it”. Well part of why I’m not tossing it is that there isn’t that much and I’m willing to titrate small amounts into the general meal stream; and it can be used for repeat testing / challenge QA.

    As things “run down” I’m just not replacing it. We’ve had our last Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese tuna noodle casserole. I’ve got one batch of penne left, then it’s all rice pasta. We’ve bought our first loaf of gluten free bread. Now, I don’t have any rice pasta “soup stars” to use in chicken & stars soup. I’m pretty sure one table spoon in a pot of soup will not be significant… so the wheat stars stay.

    There is an odd craving for wheat stuff with sugar. I attribute this to the known tendency for a component of wheat to bind to opiate receptors in the brain. Basically, withdrawal symptoms. I’ve not found a good solution other than patience. A spoon of jelly can hold it off for a while. Sometimes some ice tea helps for longer. Over time the “urge” fades. A few days.

    While I don’t like it (meat and vegetables is a bit limiting and boring at times and some favorites are now on the forbidden list – like lasagna) I very much like the results. Over time I expect I’ll come up with a greater variety of meal plans and get some alternatives in the mix. Like that pizza made with alternative crust or a rice noodle lasagna… We’ll see just how strict I need to be.

    So one “wheat challenge” down and positive confirmation.

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    FWIW, I just fried some chicken breaded with millet flour. (Why? It’s what I had that wasn’t wheat.)

    Came out fairly nice and tasty. There’s a slight “different” after taste once the swallowing is done, but very acceptable I just dredged the pieces in the flour. Not much sticks, so I’m not all that worried about any metabolic effects from it. More wanted to know if I could get an edible non-corn non-wheat coating at all. It works.

    Even though not a preferred grain (saponins) for the trivial amounts in breading, I’m willing to go with it. Sort of 1/2 way between a corn meal like and wheat flour like effect.

    At some later point I’ll try this with Buckwheat and Sorghum flours too. I know rice flour works, but it’s terribly bland…

  30. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – I just passed on the opportunity to buy a bag of non-wheat, gluten free, non-gmo, and non-something, something something and free of this, that , and the other flour. No details as I was in a hurry filling an Rx for the dental implant surgery I had today.

    It was a 3 or 4 pound bag marked down from $6.99 to $3.49. I was going to buy it just so I could post the details here at leisure straight off the bag, but I have been avoiding buying anything for the pantry since we leave for the Winter in 3 weeks. Sorry.

    But I did want you to know that some company out there has a flour that I think will meet your requirements, so keep an eye out. Oh this was in the clearance section of my regular grocery store, not some specialty grocery and I think they were ditching the last couple of bags due to low sales; frees up shelf space for a better seller.

    You might want to keep an eye peeled at any grocery store because there might be a national push by the maker to get this flour to catch on with the general public.

    Anyhow, I might try looking it up at our local health food grocery when I get back from Florida (outstanding one-off store that draws from miles around).

    So I believe there’s hope for your quest for a gluten-free, low or no lectin flour to work with.

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    The old college roomie is gluten intollerant and the niece skips it too, so we, collectively, have been making glutin free things for about 20 years, even before it was trendy. The niece even has her own mix and posts recipes using it. I’ve cruised the isles of GF at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, since before there was anything, to now. Yeah, lots of commercial choices.

    What has changed is my interest in “going there”.

    So we have in the pantry at the moment GF pancake mix, cake mix, and some other mix (muffins?) plus about 4 lbs of rice based noodles. Just that now, instead of doing for others I’ll be cooking it for us. I bought these mixes about a year ago when I used up the last of the DIY mix I’d made. And tossed a millet flour bag in the freezer…

    So today was more about using up the old millet than searching for optimal, and being pleasantly surprised.

    FWIW, the best mixes are largely rice, often brown rice, with something to make it stickier (eggs or for vegans Xantham gum, or potato flour) then another flour for flavor or color (buckwheat, sorghum, teff, etc.). They are not hard to make.

  32. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – Yah, but… this one jumped out at me as new and really different, and I’m now regretting not buying the bag. $3.49 was cheap enough just for the information and I could have thrown it out afterwards. I don’t even recall the brand, but it wasn’t just GF. I’ve seen plenty of that myself. It had more of the keywords we have been discussing and really jumped out at me.

    OTOH, maybe it’s one that’s not so new and different from the rest; just dressed up on the label to put more sizzle into it by using newer buzzwords.😜 I know how marketing puffery goes.

    I did ever-so-briefly consider buying it and tossing it except… wasting food has been pounded into me as the 8th Deadly Sin from the time I was weaned, so I couldn’t do it. 😞

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