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.

After lectins, the second most compelling topic in The Plant Paradox has to do with soluble fiber. We’re exploring Dr. Gundry’s fascinating perspective in the second half of our interview below…

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. 

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  1. Exasperation with contradictory information: did the ancients have pressure cookers for their quinoa? How can this guy say that one must pressure cook. How did the ancients cook it? I have always carefully rinsed quinoa before using it and there is no mention of the need to do this.

    Diane Glotzer | 05.18.2017 | Reply
    • Then perhaps we should be asking if the ancients were overweight etc while keeping in mind many ancients were slaves working day and night doing high calorie burning tasks. . I don’t think many ancients actually lived all that long considering the wars, disease, and so forth. I think a mistake people make is to assume because ancients ate something it must be healthy. With unsophisticated farming and so forth their diets had obvious limitations and they ate what they had to survive.

      One person, on another site, wrote, “but the Romans ate Chia seeds and they were known are the barley men”. OK, well the Romans also had slavery, crucifications pedafilia etc. It’s not as if they were the smartest people ever to be on the planet. So they ate Chia seeds. They also probably ate a bunch of other stuff that we would never eat in modern times. Heck, the Spartans ate a soup made from pig’s legs, salt, vinegar, and blood.. Yip, I’m gonna eat that because the ancients ate it.

      My point is the ancients weren’t eating for health. They ate what was available. In cold months they didn’t eat fruit because it didn’t grow. In summer months they did. etc

      In my opinion, what the ancients did or didn’t do has no relevance.

      Leslie B | 12.04.2017 | Reply
  2. I’m a bit with Diane on this as well. I’ve got some stomach issues at the moment and have just come across this book. Trying to navigate a fructose free, sugar free, dairy free etc etc way of eating to heal my gut is becoming very confusing although I’m slowly trying to educate myself in all areas of above mentioned to better understand what I should be doing. Thanks for interview.

  3. yes… I am trying to eat healthier and incorporate quinoa. this thing about a pressure cooker as ‘a must’ is throwing me off….

    Eileen | 05.19.2017 | Reply
  4. Dr Denis Burkitt didn’t die from colon cancer he died of a stroke…google it

    Amanda | 05.30.2017 | Reply
  5. In his book, he explains that it used to be soaked, fermented, and then cooked. But no one would do that, now. Thus, the need for a pressure cooker.

    Leslie | 10.16.2017 | Reply
  6. many of us struggle with health , a medical community not delivering in chronic things, thoughts about the influence of food, our main owned variable.
    diets are extremely complicated if you dive in more, you need to be a chemist, a microbiology expert and a docter, and even then you are lacking knowledge.
    I agree to dr Gundry that taking out off your diet is important.
    Taking out a lot reduces complexity. Dr. Gundry: 25 to 50 grams of protein is enough.
    And because the well known problems with meat, make it fish. Thanks Dr. Gundry, a mayor reduction in complexity.
    Carbs. is energy and gutfeed in the form of resistant starch. gone complexity.
    Fats, well known already, use the omega 3 more, etc. established knowledge, no complexity.
    Antinutrients, now we are talking business.
    Far more important than a bit more or less of the abundant macro nutrients.
    What causes the gut to function or to go to hell.
    For the gutwall , lectins are important troubemakers. Maybe I am allowed to add saponins. Without a good functioning gutwall to much gets trough. Is that rocket science? DR. Gundry, thank you.

    Harrie Geenen | 07.22.2022 | Reply
  7. and on getting obese. our pigs farming industry has figured out for us what makes pigs (or humans) thick. eat like a farmed pig and you will look like one.
    or eat the opposite, ask Dr Gundry.

    harrie geenen | 07.22.2022 | Reply
  8. addition, page 142 and others

    harrie geenen | 07.23.2022 | Reply
  9. and a comment on your story.
    USA genetic plant modification strongly increases the plants own anti insects etc. contents,eg. strongly increasing lectines in wheat and corn.
    The Duch agricultural University (Wageningen) lowered, so the opposite to USA practice, contents of saponins in quinoa. The quinoa you describe is Andes quinoa, the quinoa on the USA market and loaded with saponins. Duch quinoa does not need pressure cooking.

    harrie geenen | 07.25.2022 | Reply
  10. and, to further complicate the picture, you may have heart of histamin intolerance.
    many foods contain histamine, but you can also release histamine in your gut from your mast cells, reacting on eg chocolate, red wine, old cheese, smoked meat, or a number of other substances. Gut histamin is normally broken down by the enzym DAO, produced in the gutwall, but this production is problemised in a bad gutwall.
    A smaller problem of histamin when someone is young, gets more problematic when older and other gutwall problems help to create a mess.

    harrie geenen | 07.26.2022 | Reply

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