Just what is going on with lectins? What’s the big deal? Do they really cause trouble?
To understand those questions, you have to understand the complement system in your body. This is not about saying a nice thing to you about your hair, or your necklace, this is about your basic lizard brain immune system, your innate immune system. Your innate immune system is the first to respond to threats with non-specific responses. If you think of a series of dominoes, each of which knocks over two more, the innate immune system is the means by which your body kicks back immediately against external threats and makes immediate reactions that happens quickly in response to “invasion”. A cascade of chemicals create tags to place on the invader to tell a white cell to eat that particular invader, (Opsonization is the fancy term) or punches a hole in the wall of the invader with donut shaped proteins so the invader leaks its guts out. You can imagine, this has to be carefully controlled as if it balloons out of control, you get the shaft and your own cells get damaged. The adaptive system, layer two of your immune response, takes longer to gear up and make specific antibodies shaped precisely to attack the invader, or specific white cells armed with bar code readers to find and destroy the invader. Doing all that takes time. In the short term, the complement system is it.
There are several pathways into the complement system. The classical pathway, the alternative pathway and the LECTIN PATHWAY. Did you get that? The lectin pathway is one of the ways you set off your innate immune system. To understand this pathway you have to be able to read the following sentences without pausing: This pathway is initiated by the binding of mannose-binding lectin (MBL), collectin 11 (CL-K1), and ficolins (Ficolin-1, Ficolin-2, and Ficolin-3) to microbial surface oligosaccharides and acetylated residues, respectively. Upon binding to target molecules, MBL, CL-K1, and ficolins form complexes with MBL-associated serine proteases 1 and 2 (MASP-1 and MASP-2), which cleave C4 and C2 forming the C3 convertase (C4b2a). If you drill down into that, it simplifies to the sugar mannose that is part of many plant lectins, and your complement system watching for that sugar signature to fire off a response. Ficolins are protein lectins that come in patterns of five at a time, and also set of the lectin pathway.
Here is the rub. There is now evidence that a low lectin diet will decrease endothelial dysfunction (code word for the first step in coronary artery disease).
What’s the final implied conclusion? This is a new way to look at heart disease. Lectins play a roll is setting off inflammation. That’s a given. Lectins in the human diet have increased dramatically in the last 200 years as our foods from all over the world have become part of a new diet that never had those foods before. And in the 21st century, we have added all sorts of chemicals to our environment that allow our gut to “leak”: NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen, steroids, antibiotics, PPIs. And we have genetically modified many of our foods to create grains resistant to insects by intentionally inserting more lectins into the genome of plants that we then eat. We have tilted the playing field. The slope is in the wrong direction to maintain health.
WWW. What will work for me. I am eager to learn this stuff. I was at a small plate restaurant this weekend and intentionally chose a low lectin dinner: grilled Brussel’s sprouts and calamari. I slept better last night. Hmmm. Don’t know if that’s linked. One meal does not a heart attack prevent, but Gundry has shown that a low lectin diet will reduce damaged blood vessels “endothelial dysfunction” in just a few months. I’ve been off ibuprofen now for two weeks. Never again.
- The Complement System is the method of English Manners and Polite Behavior. T or F Answer: well, yes, true, but not here. In your immune system, it’s your kick boxer – the first line of defense against invasion. Not polite
- Lectins set off the complement system. T or F Answer: True. There are 3 pathways to set it off and one of them specifically is started with lectins.
- Many lectins have a simple sugar on them that is an ID of trouble. What is it? Answer: Mannose
- You can reduce endothelial dysfunction with a low lectin diet? (What’s that? It’s part of what we simplify to call high blood pressure, but is a bigger picture of damaged blood vessel lining.) Answer: Today’s takeaway
- We have had an increase in lectins in our diet in the last 100 years? Answer: Not only an increase by new foods, but intentionally added to many foods by genetic engineering, feeding lectins to our animals, and then the coup de grace of adding leaky gut from modern chemicals.