Earlier this month, we shared notes from renowned heart surgeon, Dr. Steven Gundry whose new book, The Plant Paradox promotes a lectin-free diet. We got quite a lot of feedback from our readers, mostly of the exasperated type.
Remember the first time you learned what it meant to go gluten-free? Exasperation city. The lectin-free way of life is much the same at first glance.
Every elimination diet – whether gluten-free, vegetarian or dairy-free – has the potential to be profoundly polarizing. We’re the first to admit that special diets can quickly become meaningless trends – or obnoxious ways to find a sense of personal identity with your waiter – but they’re also profoundly meaningful to those for whom the diet solves major health issues.
As disruptive and overwhelming as the lectin-free, soluble fiber rich diet that Dr. Gundry ascribes to may be, he’s achieved incredible results for a variety of patients. We encourage readers to leaf through The Plant Paradox to learn more. We don’t promise it won’t piss you off – and we don’t know that this diet is for everyone – but it definitely has us thinking.
Q: You’re a huge proponent of soluble fiber — a topic we didn’t have much interest in before this book. Talk to us about the relationship between this fiber and the gut…
A: I’m a huge proponent of soluble fiber as it’s used by your “good” gut bugs. Sadly, it is exactly the kind of fiber we don’t eat in the States. We’ve been told by the agriculture industry that the hull of the grain — which is insoluble fiber — is healthy. But the exact opposite is true. Did you know ‘the father of insoluble fiber,’ meaning the man behind the ‘whole grains are healthy’ campaign, Dr. Denis Burkitt, died of colon cancer?
“You see, the bacteria in your gut has nutritional needs. Your gut bacteria need fibers that are indigestible to humans but digestible by them.”
Examples of insoluble fiber are things like wheat germ and bran. Why does it help you go to the bathroom? Not because it’s good for you, but because it irritates the lining of your gut and your body wants to eject it as quickly as possible.
Conversely, if you consume soluble fibers, such as artichokes, jicama, a product called Miracle Noodles, or a prebiotic supplement, it feeds the good bacteria, which helps them makes lots of babies. And when your gut lining is populated with a host of good bugs, they actually eat the calories you eat — preventing your body from absorbing them. That’s why you can lose weight even if you’re eating a lot of the right food.
Q: How did we lose our traditional understanding about soluble fiber and lectin-rich foods? Our ancestors seemed to know all about when you look at their diets?
A: Because of modern, ultra-processed foods that are made up of corn, wheat and tomatoes — all huge lectin bombs. And because none of us cook much anymore. What used to be passed on through the generations on how to make food safe is lost to us these days. For example, I have a patient who grew up in Peru but moved to the States and continued to eat her Peruvian diet, mostly consisting of quinoa. She developed IBS and came to see me. I advised her that unless the quinoa was pressure cooked, it was toxic. A lightbulb went off in her mind. “My mother taught me this my whole life. I always thought it was an old wives tale!” she said. After she started pressure cooking her quinoa, her IBS went away.
In general, we don’t use natural methods that people have used for tens of thousands of years to make these substances less harmful, all for the sake of efficiency and convenience.
Another example of this in modern times is how none of us bake our bread from scratch anymore. Yeast or sourdough starters break down most of the lectins. But most industrial bread, even ‘healthy’ breads, don’t use yeast and thus, are full of lectins!
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.