Nowadays, every restaurant you go to or market you shop at seems to have an abundance of options for those looking to adhere to a gluten-free diet. Of course, this is wonderful news for people who may have to contend with Celiac disease. The problem is, however, is that many replace wheat products with foods loaded in other lectins.
You see, what many people don’t realize, is that all the buzz around gluten is a bit of a red herring. You know how in your favorite mysteries, there’s always a clue that’s meant to mislead you? Well, when it comes to the danger of lectins – that red herring is gluten.
You see, while many people believe they have allergies or sensitivities to gluten – the truth could well be that they are sensitive to more than just gluten – the truth might be that their diets consist of too many lectins in general.
As I’m sure you know by now, gluten – the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and often in oats – is just one kind of lectin. For some reason, gluten has gotten the lion’s share of attention when it comes to educating folks about lectins – probably because some people suffer from severe gluten allergies.
So, food companies have made gluten-free food available to the masses… and are selling a false bill of goods in the process. You see, people may think they display sensitivity to gluten in any variety of symptoms ranging from brain fog to joint pain to inflammation – their reactions might be to a bigger culprit – lectins in general.
How gluten-free products trick people
The first thing you’ve got to realize is … every gluten-based food contains lectins, but not all lectin-rich foods contain gluten. But, that’s not necessarily great news, because almost all grains contain gluten-like lectins.
And it turns out, there are thousands of other lectins. Also, much to my dismay, the Standard American Diet (aka SAD) is full of them. Unfortunately, most of those other lectins are even more dangerous than gluten.
Now, when you purchase and eat these so-called gluten-free products, you could be doing more damage than you realize, because these products often consist of the following lectin-filled grains and other foods –
So, when patients arrive to my office, one of the first things I ask is if they’ve eliminated B.R.O.W. – Barley, Rye, Oats, and Wheat.
Many actually already have – but they still complain that they suffer from digestive issues, being overweight, being underweight, and other health concerns. They don’t understand why – if they eat a “‘healthy, gluten-free” diet – they’re still suffering. And most people don’t realize weight gain (for one thing) can actually be a result of eliminating (only) gluten.
Why do people gain weight when they quit gluten?
Well, when people omit certain foods from their diets, it stands to reason they’d start looking for replacements. For instance, if you nix gluten, you’ll likely wander down the gluten-free aisle at the grocery store looking for gluten-free breads, crackers, snacks, and cookies.
While this might help you steer away the symptoms of celiac disease, each of those products are – you guessed it – bombing your system with sugar! This can really take a huge toll on your body.
And for lots of people, going gluten-free can also be a negative experience, because they’re throwing out a huge source of their daily protein intake. So, they start to eat foods that are more problematic – those with a higher lectin content, and a lower protein content.
Part of the problem there is, many people assume gluten-free foods are also grain-free. But …
Gluten-free and grain-free are not synonymous.
For starters, while you may not be able to find wheat, rye, and barley on a list of gluten-free food ingredients, you’ll be surprised at what you see when you take a look at what is on the the list.
Grains like corn, rice, or teff contain various lectins like zein (the principal protein of corn), or oryzenin (the principal protein of rice). Not only that, they often include soy or other bean flours. These flours naturally contain those and other lectins. And again, sugar is often right at the top of gluten-free ingredient lists.
Another reason bread and baked goods seem to mislead people is that, for decades, commercial bakers have been replacing yeast (the agent responsible for creating the “rise” in baked goods) with transglutaminase. Transglutaminase has earned the nickname “meat glue” among the culinary community because of its ability to bond together protein-containing foods.
Yeast is MIA in Modern Times
But, yeast is what’s necessary to ferment and destroy the lectins in wheat. It tames their effects. So, taking it out only to replace it with “meat glue” can have serious repercussions.
In fact, let’s say you find yourself somewhere where the bread is produced using traditional yeast-rising techniques … you’ll usually find that though the bread contains gluten, it’s usually digested by the yeast and there’s no wheat germ agglutinin. That’s why certain breads like sourdough – made by fermenting wheat with bacteria and yeast – are safer and cause less harm when it comes to things like spiking blood sugar. The bacteria and yeast work together to “eat up” the lectins and a significant amount of the sugars.
The problem is, transglutaminase can sometimes act as a neurotransmitter disruptor, which makes it harmful in certain circumstances. It can also be the cause behind gluten ataxia – a rare neurological autoimmune condition – so clearly, it’s not a perfect replacement.1
The dangers of preservatives
Finally, when food manufacturers use whole grains in processed foods, it’s necessary to add potentially harmful preservatives like butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) to curb the destructive effects of oxidation on the polyunsaturated oils in those grains. So, if you purchase a grain product, and the date isn’t the day it was made or baked, it likely contains BHT or one of it’s dangerous sister preservatives.
But, BHT is a major endocrine disruptor – that means it’s a chemical that can interfere with certain hormones in your body if you consume too much of it. Also, BHT might also stoke fat storage – so you definitely want to stay away from processed grain products.
In the end, be careful when assuming gluten is the source of your dietary woes. Remember, gluten is just one of many kinds of toxic lectins. So, do your best to eliminate all lectins, and look to my blog for recipes and information about how to safely assume a lectin-free diet.
For more helpful health articles, keep reading here:
1. Hadjivassiliou M, et al. “Transglutaminase 6 Antibodies In The Diagnosis Of Gluten Ataxia. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 July 2017.