What Are Lectins?Lectins are glycoproteins that are present in grains (even gluten-free grains) and some other foods such as legumes, seeds, nightshades (i.e. potatoes, tomatoes, etc) and dairy. Lectins can be a problem if increased bowel permeability (leaky gut) occurs and the lectins encounter the immune system or the circulation. Due to gluten and lectin’s combined effect on bowel permeability, this seems likely. Like gluten, lectins are difficult to digest and undigested lectins may cause inflammation, increase bowel permeability, and may stimulate immune responses. If immune-related reactions to lectins occur, this could lead to impaired bone health. The bone damage along with the anti-nutritive effects could contribute to scoliosis symptoms.
IgA and IgG antibodies against wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), a type of lectin, have been found in patients with celiac disease demonstrating that our immune system can react to these glycoproteins. The fact that these antibodies don’t react to gluten, only WGA, further demonstrates that they are specifically reacting to lectins. This suggests that immune reactions to lectins can occur with a gluten intolerance. After reviewing many studies, I’m suspecting that reactions to lectins can occur in isolation without the presence of a gluten intolerance as well.
How Could Lectins Cause Scoliosis?
Lectins Increase The Risk For Gluten IntoleranceLectins may increase the risk for a gluten intolerance due to the effects on bowel permeability. Research (animal and human) suggests that lectins may increase inflammation, can increase bowel permeability, and may stimulate immune responses, possibly leading to a lectin intolerance. Unfortunately, the leaky gut effect could also increase the risk for an immune reaction to gluten since the gluten would be able to enter the body’s circulatory system through he permeable bowel and freely interact with the immune system. This could increase the risk for a gluten intolerance.
As discussed in the previous posts, a gluten intolerance can significantly increase the risk for scoliosis. A gluten intolerance combined with a lectin intolerance could potentiate the effect.
Lectins May Affect Bone HealthAccording to studies, lectins may negatively affect the nervous system, the joints, hormonal levels, the cell cycle, and many other parts of the body. As discussed in the previous posts, many of these systems, tissues, and cells support bone health. If damage occurs in any of these areas, then bone health could be hindered and this could, potentially, contribute to scoliosis symptoms.
Lectins have also been found to have anti-nutritive effects which can affect the availability of nutrients for bone health. Phytates, found in grains and legumes, can also bind with nutrients and this along with the anti-nutritive effects of lectins can hinder absorption of vitamins and minerals that are essential for bone integrity. If the intestinal villi are damaged by immune reactions to lectins or gluten, then the malabsorption of nutrients can be increased. This could lead to the soft bendable bones found in rickets or osteomalacia and the result could be scoliosis.
Could A Paleolithic Diet Help?A lectin-free/paleolithic diet is recommended for individuals with a lectin intolerance. A paleolithic diet is often referred to as a cave man/woman diet, close to what our ancestors ate when they lived a nomadic lifestyle. The diet eliminates dairy, grains, sugar (except honey), foods from the nightshade family, legumes, mined table salt, and processed refined oils (cold pressed olive oil is okay).
Unfortunately, testing for lectins doesn’t seem to be widely available. Hopefully, testing for IgA and IgG antibodies against wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) and antibodies against other forms of lectins will be widely available in the future. Identifying a lectin intolerance early could prevent complications and could potentially decrease bone related changes.
Books About Lectins And The Paleolithic Diet1. Loren Cordain. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat. Wiley (December 20, 2002).
2. Robb Wolf. The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet. Victory Belt Publishing, September 14, 2010.
3. Mark Sisson. The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes For Effortless Weightloss, Vibrant Health, And Boundless Energy. Primal Nutrition, Inc.; 1ST edition, June 1, 2009.
4. A. Pusztai. Plant Lectins. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
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4. A. Pusztai. Plant Lectins. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
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8. Liu WK, Sze SC, Ho JC, Liu BP, Yu MC. Wheat germ lectin induces G2/M arrest in mouse L929 fibroblasts. J Cell Biochem. 2004 Apr 15;91(6):1159-73
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10. Gloria V. Guzyeyeva. Lectin Glycosylation As A Marker of Thin Gut inflammation. The FASEB Journal. 2008;22:898.3
11. David L J Freed, Allergist. Do dietary lectins cause disease? The evidence is suggestive—and raises interesting possibilities for treatment. BMJ. 1999 April 17; 318(7190): 1023–1024.
12. LM Solid, J Kolberg, H Scott, J Ek, O Fausa, P Brandtzaeg. Antibodies to wheat germ agglutinin in coeliac disease. Clin Exp Immunol. 1986 January; 63(1): 95–100.
13. K. Fälth-Magnusson, K.-E. Magnusson . Elevated levels of serum antibodies to the lectin wheat germ agglutinin in celiac children lend support to the gluten-lectin theory of celiac disease. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. Volume 6, Issue 2, pages 98–102, May 1995.
14. Borges LF, Sidman RL.Axonal transport of lectins in the peripheral nervous system. Journal Of Neuroscience, 2, pg. 647-53, 1982.