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Why Going Gluten Free Doesn’t Always Work

Why Going Gluten Free Doesn’t Always Work

Over the last few years a new label has been creeping into your supermarkets… “gluten free.” Back when I was in medical school, you’d only see those labels in health food stores. Now they seem to be everywhere.

And with good reason. Serious cases of gluten intolerance have grown by 400% since the 1950’s.1

Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye, barley and a few other grains. It’s also added as a binder to countless packaged foods. It can irritate and damage the lining of your digestive system, making it hard to absorb nutrients.

If you develop a sensitivity to gluten, you may experience anything from mild stomach upset to excruciating pain and violent vomiting. But gluten can do long-term damage, too.

Tens of thousands have switched to a gluten-free diet in the last few years. Many of them experience immediate – almost miraculous – relief.

But some don’t.

Some folks continue to suffer with gas, abdominal pain and other digestive issues. And the reason may be another type of protein that’s found side-by-side with gluten. But these proteins – lectins – are in a lot of other foods, too.

If a gluten-free diet hasn’t helped your digestive trouble – or only helped a little – it could be that you’re also sensitive to these lectins. You’ll find them in many plants – especially grains, seeds and beans. But many vegetables, eggs, dairy and some seafood also contain lectins.

Lectins all have two things in common. First, they bind very easily to sugar molecules. Including to the sugars in the cells that line your stomach and intestines. And the sugars found in your blood cells.

Second – and here’s what makes them so dangerous – they’re practically indigestible. So your saliva – and even your stomach acid – can’t break them down. Instead, lectins arrive in your stomach and intestines intact.

If a lectin binds to a cell in your gut, it knocks that cell out of action. The digestive process starts to break down – cell by cell. Your stomach and intestinal lining become irritated.

You may feel gassy or bloated. You may have an upset stomach. You may wind up vomiting, or having constipation or diarrhea.

Even worse, your irritated intestinal lining may become “leaky.” In other words, it may start letting molecules into your body it shouldn’t. Including lectins. And now those lectins are free to bind with blood cells, knocking them out of action.

Not everyone who’s sensitive reacts to all lectins. So some foods that contain lectins may be okay for you to eat. Only experimenting can tell you for sure.

Your doctor can help you fine-tune your diet for maximum relief. There are no tests for lectin sensitivity (yet). So an elimination diet may be your best bet. This involves taking suspect foods out of your diet, then adding them back in, one at a time. That way, you can see which ones give you trouble.

Many foods contain lectins, but these are probably the most common offenders…

  • Grains (wheat, rye, barley, etc.) and foods made from grains
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Legumes (beans, peanuts, soy, etc.)
  • Nightshades (potato, eggplant, tomato, etc.)

You may find that a little of one of these foods doesn’t give you trouble, but combining two causes a reaction. It may take a little time to figure out all the details, but the relief will be worth it.

Many people feel like throwing in the towel when cutting out the gluten doesn’t solve their problem. If eliminating gluten hasn’t brought you relief, this may be the answer you’ve been looking for.

Yours in continued good health,

Best Life Herbals Wellness Team

1 “Gluten-free diet fad: Are celiac disease rates actually rising?” CBX News. Jul 31, 2012.

Other sources:

“Plant Lectins,” Cornell University, Dept. of Animal Science. (No date).

Pierini, C.P., “Glutens and Lectins: A Dangerous Dietary Duo,” (No date).


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