For the past year or so I have noticed a significant decrease in my energy level and suffer from constant “brain fog”. I can’t seem to concentrate on anything for very long and get distracted very easily. Most people I complain to shrug and laugh saying “its just age” As I just turned 50, I find that hard to swallow!
After a complete physical from my G.P. I was told my iron stores or ferritin levels were very low and I was put on an iron supplement. My ferritin level is climbing back up, but still has a long way to go to “normal” levels. My hormone levels are within the normal range; so I am classified as perimenopausal. It was also suggested by two different doctors that I am suffering from depression. I also found that hard to believe, so I started digging deeper…
I found a naturopath online and…
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Although lectins are proteins, they are not as good for us as one would think. They are beneficial in plants as they keep insects (kind of like a defence mechanism) away and contain nitrogen which is essential for plant growth. In the human body however, lectins can be toxic!I
The reason lectins cause us so much grief is because they are incredibly sticky and therefore cannot be digested properly. Instead, they adhere to the cells in our guts so that vitamins and minerals do not get absorbed. They also stick to insulin receptors, blocking the hormone called Leptin, so your brain never recognizes when you are full. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. Yes, lectins increase your appetite. Amongst other things.
Increased appetite means weight gain is at the top of the long list of bad things lectins cause. The rest of the list includes achy joints, indigestion, digestive damage, fatigue, brain fog, constipation, mood swings, immune system suppression, depression, and overall poor health.
Everyone has heard of gluten and how millions are avoiding it whether they need to or not. Gluten is a lectin, but there are many other lectins that cause just as much grief (or more) for people with food sensitivities. In fact, if you have been diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, you should avoid all lectins.
Well, people like myself that suffer from a wheat (but not gluten) allergy realize that it is a protein in wheat that triggers my reactions. I was never told however that it was a lectin or that I might be lectin intolerant. This probably explains why those without Celiac’s disease or a gluten allergy (like myself) who have eliminated wheat from their diets feel so much better.
Wheat germ lectin has been shown in research to impact the immune system by increasing inflammation within our bodies. Not just in our stomach or intestines, but all over our bodies. Have you heard of “leaky gut syndrome?” This happens because lectins punch holes in our intestines (hence the leaky gut) letting toxins and bacteria out of your gut to invade and cause inflammatory responses in many other organs.
This resulting long-term inflammation has been linked to many serious medical conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, uterine fibroids, breast and ovarian cysts, auto immune diseases and small airway obstruction (asthma) in lungs. I was experiencing most of these health issues when I was first diagnosed with my wheat allergy. It took me persistence and quite a long time to figure this out.
Now for the good news! Lectins are not always bad. Recent research reveals that lectins have been shown to be beneficial in some revolutionary uses. I say revolutionary because the use of natural plant extracts instead of harmful and expensive chemical medication is just that. This is quite exciting, except perhaps to the mega-rich and powerful drug companies. Oops, sorry, I am digressing….Here are some of the revolutionary uses I spoke of:
- Small amounts of lectins may help the good bacteria that live in human digestive systems.
- Research suggests that lectins may be useful for helping to identify and diagnose cancer. Lectins are also being studied for their potential to slow down the rate that cancer cells multiply.
- Researchers are even looking at lectins as potential treatments for illnesses caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
So, do you continue to consume foods containing lectins or eliminate them from your diet? Well, that depends on how badly they affect you. In my case I avoid wheat. Keeping a journal of foods (lectins) you eat and how they affect you can help decide which ones to eliminate from your diet.
These are the foods with the most lectins, in descending order:
- legumes (peanuts, cashews, beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lentils) with uncooked red kidney beans the worst, as well as butters from these (peanut butter, hummus)
- wheat, corn, rice, oats and quinoa
- nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers)
- dairy products containing casein A1 (most North American cows)
- corn, soybean and sunflower oils
- squash family (zucchini, melons, cucumbers)
- soy products (milk, beans, sprouts, tofu, oils)
- many fruits, including bananas. See list below for lectin-free fruit
The answer for those of you without an obvious reaction is to simply reduce the lectins you eat. It is not necessary to completely eliminate them, and there are ways to reduce the amount of lectins you are putting into your body. Sprouting, fermenting, removing the seeds, or cooking the culprits well will severely diminish the lectins’ potency. Get your pressure cooker out and dust it off!
What foods are left to eat that are lectin free you ask? If you don’t have any of the above health issues to try to clear up, don’t worry about them, lectins obviously don’t affect you. If you do feel the pain (literally), eat the lectin rich foods (above) but ensure they are well-cooked and in moderation, and eat more of these lectin-free foods:
- mushrooms, onions, garlic, celery, and carrots
- broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus
- leafy greens (spinach, kale etc)
- sweet potatoes (cooked)
- cherries, apples, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, and lemons
- pasture raised (grass fed) meat and chicken
- sheep, goat, and coconut milk as well as South European (A2) cow’s milk
- almonds, almond butter
- olives and olive oil
The moral of this story is to listen to your body. If you suffer from many or any of the health issues listed above, maybe you are lectin intolerant! I wish I had this information ten years ago when I was going through my personal battle to figure out what was wrong with me. My doctor wanted to put me on antidepressants, but I refused, believing it was more complicated than that. I’m sure glad I did. I feel better now pushing 60 than I did throughout most of my 40’s and early 50’s!
The book I read recently, called The End of Alzheimer’s, is the inspiration for this post. It is written by Dr Dale Bredesen and can be purchased here.
Seven years ago I was struggling with various health issues including a terrible short term memory. As I worked through the process of finding out what my problem was, I discovered that many common dietary habits are linked to poor short term memory and the general fatigue I was experiencing.
More recently I heard about this book that claims to contain the solutions to preventing and even reversing the cognitive decline of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. I was intrigued since the causes of cognitive decline outlined in this book are eerily similar to what I discovered were the causes of my earlier health issues. That is my excuse for why there are so many internal links to my previous posts.
I will attempt to summarize these causes and their solutions, but read the book for full details if you are seriously concerned about yourself or someone you care about. What I took away from reading this book is that the main cause of cognitive decline (dementia including Alzheimer’s) is an overproduction of sticky amyloid plaque that destroys the synapses of the brain.
This amyloid is produced naturally as a defence mechanism when our immune systems detect irritants or pathogens in our bodies. The problem becomes when our immune systems face a chronic (consistent) bombardment of irritants to fight and never shut off.
According to this book, the three culprits that cause our immune systems to be overworked resulting in the overproduction of amyloid are:
- inflammation including infections (viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic) poor hygiene (gum disease) and poor food choices (trans fats, omega 6 fats vs omega 3s, sugar, dairy, gluten)
- the shortage and decline of nutrients, hormones and molecules that are necessary to support our brains
- toxins (metals, chemicals, antibiotics, medication, alcohol) and biotoxins (mold)
So, how do we prevent or reverse the onset of cognitive decline and yes, even Alzheimer’s? The author uses the analogy of terrorists on an airplane. If you prevent the terrorists from getting on the plane, they cannot blow it up mid air. Likewise, we can thwart these neuroterrorists (listed irritants) that are wreaking havoc on our immune systems by not ingesting them.
Note that the first two irritants on the list are diet related, meaning they should be easier to control. Removing the toxins in your home and life may be more complicated, but can be done. Note too that this neglect or abuse of your immune system has (most likely) gone on for years. That means fixing it won’t happen over night!
From my own personal experience I can say that eliminating gluten, reducing sugar and trans fats, choosing omega 3s over 6s, and reducing my exposure to toxins for the past seven years has made an incredible difference in my overall health.
Please be sure to visit my other blogs:
Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at Your Daily Chuckle
Be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW
My gardening website can be viewed at gardens4u.ca
Food allergies can be a pain (literally) to live with. Some are much more severe than others, with the most severe allergies, called anaphylactic, potentially fatal. Allergic reactions vary from mild skin rash, slight cough, or itchy throat, to stomach cramps and diarrhea, to heart failure, complete throat/airway obstruction, or unconsciousness.
Common to all allergic reactions is the fact that our immune systems treat the allergen as a foreign substance. Our immune systems are designed to protect us, so when such a foreign and potentially dangerous substance (called an allergen)is identified, the body goes into attack mode.
In the case of an anaphylactic reaction, the immune system produces massive amounts of histamines which cause the muscles in the lungs to contract, blood vessels to dilate and heart muscle to overwork to a point of heart failure.
A non-anaphylactic, but potentially just as painful, reaction results when the allergen results in the production of antibodies that are deposited in many organs throughout the body. This is called a CHRONIC reaction, meaning not acute. This buildup of anibodies takes years to accumulate, so reactions are often hard to diagnose and identify. Symptoms can mimic asthma, arthritis, high cholesterol and more. My WHEAT allergy is this chronic, yet painful and unhealthy type of food allergy.
There are many misconceptions of wheat and gluten allergies as well as other gastrointestinal disorders. Here are some of the important facts:
- People allegic to wheat and or gluten can and do have anaphylactic reactions as described above.
- It is a protein in the wheat that is the culprit in wheat allergies. Gluten is one of, but not the only protein found in wheat that can cause allergic reactions. So if you are allergic to wheat you do not have to be allergic to gluten, but if you are allergic to gluten, you are allergic to wheat.
- Gluten is present in wheat, barley and rye. Semolina, spelt and kamut are less common types of wheat that contain gluten.
- Oats do not contain gluten, but most products that contain oats have the possiblity of cross contamination from gluten within the grains listed above. For this reason, people that suffer from celiac disease or a gluten allergy often avoid oats too.
- Celiac disease results when the allergic reaction to gluten happens within the small intestine. Most people are aware that celiac disease causes digstive problems such as bloating, gas and diarrhea, but are unaware that edema, fatigue and anemia are common symptoms as well. Diagnosis is made from a biopsy of the small intestine.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) causes similar symptoms to celiac disease and chronic food allergies but affects the large intestine. It is often caused by a bacterial imbalance within the digestive system, and can often be treated with a probiotic.
- Crohn’s disease causes intermittent patches of inflammation between normal patches within the whole gastrointestinal (GI) tract, but predominantly the lower small intestine and upper large intestine (colon). The inflammation can extend through the layers of the intestines into surrounding mesentery (tissue) The cause of Crohn’s disease is suspected to be related to an overactive immune system.
- Ulcerative Colitis usually starts in the rectum and extends upward into the large intestine. It only involves the inner lining of the intestine and is more localized (not patchy) than Crohns. Although diet and stress aggravate UC, the exact cause is still unknown, but also thought to be linked to the immune system of its victims.
Many people not diagnosed with a gluten or wheat allergy have chosen to eliminate those substances from their diets because they believe that fewer carbohydrates in their diet can result in a healthier lifestyle. As suspected by many doubters, this decision may turn out to be temporary like many other fad diets that have come and gone.
If you suffer from the symptoms common to the conditions listed above and cannot control them with your diet, seek advice from your doctor. Why people choose to eliminate wheat and gluten from their diets does not matter if their lives are improved.
Unfortunately, for many of us, it is not an option.
A few days ago I made the best gluten-free chicken chili in my slow cooker. My husband said it was the best “soup” he has ever tasted. Regardless of what you call it, chili or soup, it was fantastic. The only problem is, as usual, i did not follow a recipe, so the measurements I am giving you are approximations only. These quantities are for my family of five with leftovers (hopefully) for the next day…
-5 uncooked, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-2 cans white kidney beans, well rinsed and drained
2 cups sliced baby portobello mushrooms
-1 cup chopped spanish onion
-2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
-1 cup roasted red peppers (cut up two sweet red peppers, toss in a bowl with olive oil, bake the peppers on a cookie sheet at 400 until they start to turn black at the edges)
-2 cups green tea (i know, sounds gross, but I didn’t have any fresh chicken broth and needed some liquid, not to mention green tea is good for you!)
-2 tsp each chili powder and curcumin (or more chili powder if you like it HOT)
-2 tsp minced garlic
I cooked the above ingredients for 6 hours on the low setting of my slow cooker, then removed the chicken breasts, chopped them up, and returned them to the pot. At this point I also squished the tomatoes against the side of the slow cooker to make them burst. I then let the concoction simmer for another hour on low heat.
Approximately 20 minutes before serving, I turned off the heat on the slow cooker, and then added 1 cup of jalapeno flavored Greek yogurt, (see my last post about this amazing product http://lorieb.com/2013/11/10/my-favorite-gluten-free-secret-ingredient-skotidakis-jalapeno-flavored-greek-yogurt/) and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. I buy the yogurt at Costco and use it in many recipes instead of sour cream or cream cheese. It provides a nice, mildly spicy flavor and adds much less fat. This is my secret ingredient that I use to thicken any sauces, soups, and gravies without adding gluten.
You can serve this chicken chili up in a bowl with a sprinkling of shredded cheese or a dollop of the greek yogurt on top, or even on a plate over a bed of rice. Left over the next day, this chicken chili tastes even better as is often the case with many stew, chili, or soup recipes. That is if there are any leftovers to be found!
Check out this link for cooking with coconut flour as an alternative to wheat flour. I’m always looking for substitutes to try in my everyday cooking; will be sure to try it soon!
A year ago I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy and low iron stores (ferritin). Since then I have read many books and discovered the two issues may be related. The book I liked the best is “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, M.D. The basic information below is what I derived from his book. For further details and explanations, please read the book!
For years we have been told to eat more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and less of the simple carbohydrates found in candy or soft drinks, but studies have now shown that modern wheat is the culprit, making us fat and unhealthy!
This is because amylopectin, the glucose units found in wheat, is easily digested and quickly absorbed into our bloodstreams, increasing blood sugar levels. Gram for gram, wheat increases blood sugar faster than all other simple and complex carbohydrate foods. The insulin we produce naturally in our bodies converts the glucose to fat. The higher the blood glucose level after a meal or snack, the greater the insulin level, the more fat deposited. The fat is deposited in our abdomens, encasing our livers, kidneys, pancreas, intestines and stomachs. This is called visceral fat and is uniquely capable of causing many inflammatory processes and health conditions.
For the past 50 years, wheat has been genetically altered to increase farmers’ yield by making the grain heat and drought tolerant, as well as disease resistant. Changes have also been made to modify its properties making the wheat more suitable for the baking industry. These changes have made wheat very popular in our lives, but have also had tremendous consequences on humans ingesting the wheat: increased blood sugar levels, inflammatory processes, pH changes, activated immune responses, neurological disorders, heart disease, cancer, skin rashes and obesity.
Wheat consumption can effect almost every organ of your body; the liver, lungs, pancreas, skin, heart, brain, stomach and intestine, thryroid gland etc. Wheat converts quickly to blood sugar, not only causing us to gain weight, but also leading to many debilitating conditions not just associated with excess weight. Wheat has also been proven to worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia, autism and ADHD.
In patients diagnosed with celiac disease, the most common wheat related illness, gluten protein causes an immune response that inflames the small intestine resulting in stomach cramps and diarrhea. Gluten is the component of wheat that makes baked products doughy and able to rise in the baking process. Wheat is the main source of gluten in our diet. Other less common sources of gluten include kamut, tricale, rye, bulgur, and barley. Gluten however is not the only villain in wheat flour, there are also thousands of other strains of proteins, enzymes and starches. These ingredients cause allergic reactions triggering rashes, asthma and even anaphylaxis.
Unfortunately wheat is not so easy to remove from your diet. Wheat products are convenient, readily available and satisfying to eat. To avoid wheat, be sure to read the ingredients list on food labels keeping in mind that wheat is in many items other than just bread. Fill the gap in your diet left by wheat with meats (not processed), vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs, avocados, olives, and cheese. You can actually eat larger portions of these items.
By eliminating wheat, your body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as B6, B12, folic acid, iron, zinc, magnesium and thiamine will improve.. Your fiber intake will also increase. Eliminating wheat from your diet may be inconvenient, but I guarantee you will notice a difference in as little as one week! You will have more energy, sleep better, feel more alert and look trimmer.
If substantial weight loss is your goal, please read my next post…