Soy Lectins: To eat or not to eat?

Lectins continue to be all the rage in nutrition but are soy lectins contributing to health or havoc in the body?

Many whole foods are loaded with lectins. Unfortunately, these proteins we call lectins that bind to carbohydrates promote a state of leaky gut which allows undigested food particles, intestinal bacteria, and toxins to enter the bloodstream. 

Lectins can be really problematic for individuals with autoimmune disease, eczema, or inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

What are lectins?

The most common high lectin-containing foods are soybeans, corn, wheat, peanuts, tomatoes, and potatoes. While it’s true that these foods are loaded with nutrients many of these high lectin foods’ nutrient load does not compensate for the excessive immune effect of the food.

A majority of my patients have no issues with tomatoes, peanuts, or potatoes. But a significant number have seen radical health benefits by removing wheat and soy lectins from their life.

Are soy lectins problematic?

I will say that when it comes to high lectin-containing foods, packaging matters. For instance, fermented organic soy products have many benefits that you will not find in the highly processed filler GMO soy found in 9 out of 10 pseudo health products. 

Fermenting soy reduces the lectin content by 95% and sprouting by about 60% so if you are going to consume soy make sure it is organic and fermented like miso or tempeh. If you are a male I would not eat soy products with any consistency as it can have deleterious effects on testosterone and estrogen balance.

I would also like to note that though it is often promoted that soy is consumed in ravenous amounts in Asian cultures this is far from accurate.  The average soy intake in East Asian populations is only around 1.5-3 ounces a day total. This is a far cry from the 20-40 grams per serving of soy protein isolate that countless companies are championing.

Why is wheat problematic?

Wheat through its commercial processing ends up with almost no residual lectins. How can a food like wheat be causing untold negative effects such as digestive irritation, eczema, psoriasis, autoimmune activation, brain fog, and cognitive decline and excess weight gain when the lectins have been removed?

The likely reason that wheat is such a nuisance to humanity is related to the herbicide glyphosate and the fifty-plus times wheat has been hybridized to increase crop yield.

Bottom line, there is a lot more going on with these foods that mess with humanity than just the lectin content.

Are lectins affecting you?

That said, raw nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, grains are a terrible idea and will surely lead to undesirable symptoms. When you do eat lectin-containing food groups like I just mentioned, it is important to sprout, soak, ferment or cook them.  Or potentially perform all of the steps depending on the food item. 

If you have questions about the preparation of particular food items feel free to leave a question in the comment section and we will let you know the best route of preparation.

If you are not sure you really want to do an elimination and re-challenge diet with lectins then you could do a stool analysis to see if you have adequate secretory IgA levels. 

A low secretory IgA promotes a breakdown of your gut barrier making lectin even more irritating. Many researchers refer to secretory IgA as our lectin shield. If your level is low it would be in your best interest to considerably lower your lectin intake and work with your physician to increase your secretory IgA levels and balance your gut microflora.

Have you experienced any negative symptoms when consuming lectin-containing foods? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below?

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