After first learning about Dr. Steven R. Gundry, MD on Episode #202 of The Ultimate Health Podcast, my favourite (Canadian!) health, wellness and nutrition-based podcast, I knew I had to dig deeper into the topic of The Plant Paradox! What was the epitome of this paradox he was referring to?
This literature digs deep into the science of plants, specifically that of naturally-occurring plant-based compounds that exist to protect particular plants from their predators (i.e. lectins and phytates).
Dr. Steven Gundry provides a wealth of information and insight about this topic, as well as his take on a multi-phase protocol with plenty of recipes to help nourish and support the gut lining with regards to lectin-containing foods.
With my passion for digestive health and optimizing digestion in the body, I couldn’t help but be intrigued about this piece of literature.
Therefore, I have included an overview of a sampling of education on this topic below, to provide you a glimpse of some of the ideas this literature has to offer!
If this topic is of interest to you, I would certainly recommend reading the book in its entirety, to obtain the full picture!
SOME Key Learnings:
Over time, plants have evolved and developed a variety of defence strategies to protect themselves (particularly their seeds) from both animal and human predators alike[i]
The plant compounds plants synthesize are an attempt to reduce their digestibility, so as to remain alive, protect their seeds, and increase the longevity of its species[ii]
Dr. Gundry explains that we are not immune to the long-term effects of particular plant-based compounds[iii]
Apparently, a naked seed contains such chemicals that weaken predators[iv]
These substances include phytates, (commonly referred to as anti-nutrients), act as enzyme inhibitors, preventing the absorption of minerals in the diet[v]
These substances also include lectins, which are designed to disrupt cellular communication by, among other things, causing gaps in the intestinal wall barrier[vi]
Lectins are large proteins found in plants and animals[vii]
Some examples of foods containing lectins include: legumes (beans, peas, lentils and peanuts), squash, the Nightshade family of vegetables (eggplant, potato – sweet potato is the exception, any pepper variety and tomato) and grains (both gluten-containing grains and pseudo-grains)
Corn, soy, wheat and processed foods are packed with lectins[viii]
Sometimes referred to as sticky proteins, they can interrupt messaging between cells or otherwise cause toxic or inflammatory reactions”[ix]
Lectins also foster the ability of viruses and bacteria to attach to their intended targets; therefore, those more sensitive to lectins may also be more vulnerable to viral and bacterial challenges[x]
Lectins can also promote weight gain, as Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA), a lectin, is responsible for wheat’s weight-gaining properties[xi]
This is just SCRATCHING THE SURFACE of the information to be found within this literature!
Dr. Gundry outlines the fact that a four-part defense mechanism exists in the body helps, so as to help protect us from the toxic effects of plants, particularly the effects of lectins[xii]:
First Line of Defense:
The mucus in your nose and saliva in your mouth, collectively called mucopolysaccharides[xiii]
Have you ever noticed your nose run as you consume particular foods? It’s likely you’ve consumed lectins, as this is your body’s first line of defense taking full action!
Second Line of Defense:
Your stomach acid, which often does the job of digesting lectin proteins, although doesn’t necessarily digest all of them[xiv]
Third Line of Defense:
The bacteria in your mouth and gut, which has gradually evolved to be able to efficiently consume lectins, before they have the opportunity to interact with the wall of your gut[xv]
Fourth Line of Defense:
The mucosal layer of your intestinal wall cells, which acts as a barrier to keep the plant compounds you have eaten in the gut where they belong, using the sugars in the mucus to trap and absorb lectins[xvi]
Dr. Gundry also explains that lectins attempt to do the following, once inside your internal environment:
Get Through the Gut Wall:
Lectin proteins target prying apart the tight connections found between the cells of the mucosal layer lining your intestine[xvii]
The cell lining of your intestinal is just one cell thick, so can be easily compromised, depending on the state of your digestive tract!
Confuse the Immune System with Molecular Mimicry
Plants intentionally produce lectins that unfortunately, are difficult to distinguish from other proteins in your body – this inability to distinguish molecules from one another is referred to as molecular mimicry[xviii]
This translates into the fact that lectins are then able bind to cell receptors, mimicking or blocking a hormone and disrupting communication within the body[xix]
Disrupt Cellular Communication
Our present-day chemical overload in our environment has also disrupted the ability of our internal environment to properly; this inevitable chemical overload has impacted the body’s ability to deal with grains, legumes and other lectin-bearing plants[xx]
Dr. Gundry summarizes 7 disruptors of the gut lining: