I received the following question from Luke, a Science of Skinny reader, and have added my reply below:
"I have recently found Dr Gundy's infomercial selling his shake. I'm wondering if you are familiar with his product (I'd be surprised if you are not!) and what you think about it. Not only about the shake he is selling, but more specifically the science of the lectins found in several grains (whole wheat, etc) and also the premise of spirulina, flax seed, and hemp being healthier because they are lectin-free. His infomercial claims the lectins ruin your gut.Hi Luke, yes I am familiar with Dr. Gundy's book and products. Yes, wheat has a lectin called gluten, and when not prepared properly, can damage the intestinal lining. This is why I am a strong advocate for soaking and sprouting grains, legumes, nuts and seeds prior to consumption. I wrote about this in my companion cookbook to The Science if Skinny, titled The Science of Skinny Cookbook on pages 34-43.
I would love to hear from you about this so I can continue to make healthy choices for my family and me. Thank you in advance."
I wrote an article with similar information mainly focusing on the lectins and phytates in nuts, but the information also applies to grains and legumes. You can find that article at this link:
I take a different view on lectins from Dr. Gundy because I read two other books about 20 years ago called Your Body Knows Best by Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D. and Eat Right for Your Type by Peter J. D'Adamo, N.D. Both of these books focus on the fact that not everyone is the same when it comes to the body's responses to foods. Blood type is a genetic powerhouse with a primary influence on the immune system, metabolism, and digestive processes.
As you are likely aware, there are four distinct blood types: O, A, B and AB.
It has been discovered that many foods agglutinate the body cells of certain blood types (in a way similar to rejection) but not others, meaning a food that may be harmful to the cells of one blood type may be beneficial to the cells of another.
According to Eat Right for Your Type, your immune and digestive systems still maintain a memory, a certain favoritism, for foods that your blood type ancestors ate and adapted to.
We know this because of a factor called lectins--a word derived from the Latin word legeres, which means "I choose." Lectins are a form of protein found in all kinds of plants and animal foods that can attach to the antigens of our cells and cause agglutination. Lectins are resistant to human digestion (meaning this is a type of protein that does not get broken down in our digestive tract) and they enter the blood intact and unchanged.
Because they resist digestion, lectins can attach to the cells in the lining of the digestive tract, initiate inflammation, and even perforate the intestinal lining and enter into the blood stream.
Once the intact lectin protein interacts with your tissues, it virtually has a magnetic effect on the cells in that region. It clumps--agglutinates--the cells in that region, which targets them for destruction by the immune system, as if your own cells were foreign invaders. This agglutination can cause inflammation of the intestinal lining, disrupt the balance of probiotics in the gut, and can perforate the intestinal lining which causes a condition called leaky gut syndrome.
If intact lectins enter into the bloodstream, they can attach to the cells of different organs and body tissues. Some examples of this are lectins that attach to the cells of the thyroid gland or joint spaces. When this happens, the immune system starts attacking the cells of the thyroid gland or joint tissues, leading to autoimmune disorders like hypothyroid or rheumatoid arthritis.
Fortunately, about 95% of the lectins we absorb from our typical diets are sloughed off by the body and don't create much of an issue. But about 5% of the lectins we eat are filtered into the bloodstream, where they react with and destroy red and white blood cells. The actions of lectins in the digestive tract can be even more powerful. Even a minute quantity of a lectin is capable of damaging a huge number of cells if the particular blood type is reactive.
That is not to say that we should be fearful of all foods. After all, lectins are widely abundant in many foods, especially legumes, seafood, grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables. The key, according to Eat Right for Your Type, is to avoid the lectins that agglutinate your blood type.
For example, gluten, the most common lectin found in wheat and other grains, binds to the lining of the small intestine, causing substantial inflammation and painful irritation in some blood types--especially Type O and Type A. Type O's, incidentally also happen to be very susceptible to thyroid autoimmune disorders.
In Type B's the wheat lectin attaches to insulin receptors in fat cells, prohibiting insulin from attaching. The result is reduced insulin efficiency and failure to stimulate "fat burning."
So, to sum this all up, lectins have the potential to be quite harmful to the gut, depending on which food it is and a person's genetics and blood type.
However, many lectins can be neutralized through proper food preparation techniques, such as soaking and sprouting, fermenting, and pressure cooking.
Fortunately for us, many companies now sell sprouted forms of grains, legumes, and nuts, so we don't have to do it ourselves!
On of my favorite online companies for purchasing sprouted grains, legumes and nuts is To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company. I have no affiliation with them and do not receive any monetary incentive by mentioning them. I just like their products and know them to be a reputable company.
Thanks for your question!
D'Adamo, P., & Whitney, C. (2016). Eat Right 4 Your Type: The Individualized Blood Type Diet Solution. New York: New American Library.