Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and grains. There is another protein called wheat-germ agglutinin (WGA) which is a lectin, or a protein that likes to bind to carbohydrates. One of the carbohydrates WGA likes to bind to is a blood-type sugar, causing a clumping process known as “agglutination” which comes from a German word meaning “sticking together”. When your body sees cells stuck together, it tries to separate them and goes about a process to get rid of the clump, causing inflammation in the process. So, if you ingest these lectins and they start binding to sugars, your body will create inflammatory symptoms trying to get rid of them. These symptoms can be brain fog, muscle pain, aches, weight control issues, headaches, migraines, or more. Many people find that going gluten-free makes them feel better, but it is not necessarily going gluten-free but rather going away from these specific lectins that will lead them to feel better.
Celiac disease is a process where your body makes antibodies to gluten, creating an immune reaction that attacks some of the cells in your digestive tract. Celiac is an autoimmune disease. This is different from sensitivity. The term gluten sensitivity is medically inaccurate and can lead to confusion. For most people, they will start feeling better because by avoiding gluten, they’re primarily avoiding WGAs. There are substitutes for people who want to avoid these lectins, like sprouted bread. With sprouted bread, the lectin is usually on the outside of the seed and is destroyed during the sprouting process. Another substitute is spelt bread, which has reduced levels of WGA.
Some people find they won’t have the same reactions overseas, and that’s because of monoculture farming. In the US, our monoculture farming leads to Americans having more proteins in their brain, which allows for WGA to have a stronger reaction. Another possibility to consider is that there could be underlying symptoms or causes that aren’t being noticed until inflammation caused by WGAs draws more attention. Just as there can be a “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, there can be one specific symptom that appears to hit hard simply by being the most recent or the largest on top of a pile of symptoms. This can be especially prevalent in people who remove gluten from their diet for a time and come back to it. Because their body isn’t used to the inflammation caused by the WGA, it seems like a new reaction as opposed to one that has always been there. But what happens when we switch to gluten-free foods?
Gluten-free foods are generally not good, they are not “more natural”, and certainly not more healthy. Gluten-free means they replaced the gluten with foods like tapioca, potato, or corn which are also inflammatory foods for most people, defeating the purpose of switching. Consumption of wheat-based products with the lectin generally causes digestive symptoms like “leaky gut” or malabsorption. That means particles are able to bypass the thin lining of the digestive tract and interact with the immune system and bloodstream, causing the immune system to go haywire and increase symptoms. There are many types of foods that can “break the camels back”, especially for Type Os. This is why we recommend foods with low to no amounts of the lectin. Knowing where your food comes from, or even making it yourself, makes all the difference.
As far as improving symptoms, diet is important but it ultimately comes down to a case-by-case basis, especially if the symptoms are in the digestive system. Contrary to popular belief, the digestive system is more than just a furnace, breaking down whatever food is placed inside. The digestive system is a microbiota, a living community of bacteria that help you heal, make brain chemicals, and digest food. There are different bacteria that can be present in the microbiota that can break down gluten and wheat-based products, but they are less common in the American populace.
Lectins are interesting, they are all independent of each other. One can be broken down in the stomach, another could be heated up and broken down while cooking, others can be washed off with water – like those on beans, for instance. They all react differently in the body. Not all lectins are bad, in fact, some can be good, and some of the bad ones can be utilized to fight off certain conditions. Although a low lectin diet is recommended, there is a time and a place where specific lectins can be used to increase vitality.
Dr. Peter D’Adamo is one of the frontrunners of research into the study of lectins, and he’s one of the leading experts in lectins. He wrote the Eat Right For Your Type Blood Type Diet books in 1996 after practicing, teaching and studying for years. In 2013, the American Heart Association confirmed Dr. D’Adamo’s belief from his 1996 book that a high-lectin diet is detrimental to a healthy lifestyle.
For a better understanding of Celiac disease, please click here.