Having tried many restrictive diets in pursuit of health, I have to admit I was not enthusiastic about attempting a lectin-free diet, which is quite restrictive, in that when you eat lectin-free, it’s not easy to eat foods served in restaurants or at other peoples’ houses. However, after giving it a go, I am pleasantly surprised, and sufficiently delighted at the benefits that it inspired a high level of commitment.
The first nice surprise was how satisfied and full I felt. Food cravings melted away, and I was able to eat less overall, eat far less frequently, and if I had to skip a meal it stopped being a problem. After steadily gaining weight despite efforts to eat healthily and the minimum I could manage, I found the scales reversed and I returned to a body weight that I think is my ‘normal.’
The best aspect of this diet has been that the pain of my ankylosing spondylitis (AS – a type of inflammatory arthritis) dropped down enormously. Although I had previously managed AS through a starch-free diet, then by drinking vinegar, and finally by taking vinegar tablets, the lectin-free diet resulted in a far bigger pain reduction than any of these strategies. Even though taking vinegar tablets is easy and quite effective, I am very motivated to follow a lectin-free diet given the pain reduction.
I also experienced a small alleviation of some other symptoms, such as orthostatic intolerance (the inability to be upright) and brain fog.
Several of my friends have tried eating lectin-free and even though they don’t have the significant health problems I have, they have been motivated to stick with the diet because of enhanced mental clarity, improved energy, and weight loss.
It only took me 5 days to see a significant improvement after going lectin-free. It can take up to four weeks for some people to experience the benefits though, so if you decide to do this, plan to try it for a month before deciding if it is suitable for you or not.
About Dr Gundry
Dr Steven Gundry is a heart surgeon, cardiologist and immunologist who is also a medical researcher. His entire career has been about how the immune system makes decisions about what is its friend and what is its foe. He has seen tens of thousands of patients with a spectrum of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes and obesity. Through researching how to help his patients, he discovered that he could reverse heart disease with diet instead of surgery. To his surprise, many patients who had used diet to reverse coronary artery disease, hypertension and diabetes reported that their arthritis and heartburn subsided, that they had improved mood and resolution of chronic bowel issues. Excess weight disappeared, along with food cravings, and so did cancers and fibromyalgia. In researching to discover why this was so, he became an expert on the human microbiome, and has written books about how our guts have become damaged, leading to a broad spectrum of health problems, and how to repair them.
A key component of his discovery is that lectins in foods can silently destroy your health. Lectins are large proteins found in the seeds, grains, skins, rinds and leaves of many plants. Plants create lectins as a protective mechanism, to kill or immobilise insects that try to eat them, and these lectins also affect us. Once consumed, they bind to the surface of our cells, preventing them from sending messages or causing inflammatory reactions. In this way they can block the absorbtion of vitamins and minerals we consume. Lectins also assist viruses and bacteria with binding to their intended targets – thus people who are sensitive to lectins are more prone to viruses and bacterial infections than others.
Lectins can pry apart the tight junctions in the intestinal wall by binding with receptors to produce a chemical compound called zonulin. Zonulin opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining, which enables lectins to access the surrounding tissues, lymph nodes and glands, or bloodstream. Once there, our bodies register them as foreign, and go on the attack, creating inflammation in a war against the invaders. When the body is at war, it stores fat in order to ensure it has enough fuel for the war. Having a large amount of fat in your belly area is an indication that your body is fighting a war in this area.
Lectins also disrupt communication between cells by mimicking or blocking hormonal signals. For example, the hormone insulin enables glucose to enter a cell and provide fuel. If there is excess glucose, insulin attaches to fat cells and functions like a doorway, allowing glucose to enter and be stored for later. Once the fat has been received, the insulin detaches from the fat cell. However, lectins can bind to the fat cells, mimicking insulin, but they don’t let go after the glucose has been delivered. The result is that more and more glucose is delivered to the fat cells, instead of going where it needs to go – to feed muscles and brain and nerve cells. So your body asks for more food, which you endlessly store as fat instead of using as fuel.
Much of what we assume is the normal ageing process is actually the cumulative effect of lectin toxicity. By removing lectins and other disrupters to cellular function, Dr Gundry’s diet removes the root cause of inflammation. Once this is gone, the body can heal itself. Dr Gundry’s patients start to feel better and lose weight within days.
Dr Gundry’s work shows that many so-called healthy foods are actually the hidden cause of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity and all autoimmune disease. We need to make a shift in terms of what we consider to be healthy and what is harmful to our bodies.
Conditions that can be helped
By following his diet, Dr Gundry has seen patients resolve the following health problems:
- Aching joints
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Age spots, skin tags
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Autoimmune diseases (including autoimmune thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, colitis, and lupus)
- Bone loss (including osteopenia and osteoporosis)
- Bowel issues
- Brain fog
- Canker sores
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic pain syndrome
- Colon polyps
- Cramps, tingling, and numbness
- Decline in dental health
- Diabetes, prediabetes, insulin resistance
- Fat in the stool (due to poor digestion)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Barrett’s esophagus
- Gastrointestinal problems (bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
- Heart disease, coronary artery disease, vascular disease
- Hormone disorders
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle, miscarriage • Irritability and behavioral changes
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Low counts of immunoglobulin G, immunoglobulin M, and immunoglobulin A
- Low testosterone
- Low white blood cell count
- Lymphomas, leukemias, multiple myeloma
- Male-pattern baldness
- Memory loss
- Migraine headaches
- Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorption—e.g., low iron levels
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Skin rashes (including dermatitis herpetiformis, eczema, and psoriasis)
- Slow infant and child growth
- Unexplained bouts of dizziness or ear ringing
- Weight loss or weight gain
What happens in your body when you eat lectins
Your body responds to lectins as if fighting a war with foreign invaders.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are tiny little radars that are found in all cell membranes of your body (and that of every animal). Every protein, whether it is a virus, lectin, or cell wall, possesses a unique ‘bar code.’ The TLRs in your body and on immune system behave like an early warning system, looking for patterns that indicate foreign invaders, mainly bacteria and viruses. The TLRs constantly scan ‘bar codes’ of everything that enters your body, and decides if it is a friend or hostile invader. If it is a friend, the TLRs allow the protein to pass, but if it decides it is hostile, it sounds the alarm and alerts your body and immune system that an invasion is under way. It also shares the knowledge of the ‘bar code’ with the rest of the body, so that it can quickly be recognised and acted against in the future.
This is what happens when you receive a vaccine. A protein from the virus is injected into your arm. Your immune system sees this protein, reads its bar code as hostile, attacks it—and then makes scanners on white blood cells and immune-signaling proteins that will be permanently on the lookout for this particular bar code. If the real virus enters your system, your body is ready to attack it, pronto.
There are further scanners, G-protein coupled receptors, whose job it is to scan incoming hormones, enzymes and cytokines for instructions about what these hormones and enzymes want the cell to do.
The cause of all of Dr Gundry’s patients’ problems was that their cells’ TLRs and G-protein coupled receptors were inappropriately turning on alarms. That’s because they were receiving information from input sources that never existed fifty years ago, thanks to a fundamental alteration in the foods people eat and the drugs and personal care products they (and you) use. The patterns being detected by their immune system had set off an immunologic and hormonal firestorm within each and every one of them, devastating their health. These conditions resolved when proper communication was restored.
Lectins may create blood sugar problems
Have you ever felt shaky, light-headed or nauseous if you go for too long without food? Do you feel sick if you try to fast? Do you find you are hungry all the time but the food just seems to go to your hips? If so, you might have a problem with metabolic flexibility. Ideally, we burn glucose from our food to make energy, but when the glucose has run out, we should switch to burning fat. If you lack metabolic flexibility, this means you have trouble switching over to burn fat, so when the glucose runs out, you feel sick and desperate for fuel. This is a type of mitochondrial dysfunction which can result in many outwardly different health problems.
What happens in your body when you lack metabolic flexibility
Within our cells are workers called mitochondria, whose job it is to take glucose from our food and manufacture energy (ATP). These workers use ketones (the energy in our fat) as fuel when no glucose is available. It takes half the effort to turn ketones in to energy than it does glucose, so using ketones as fuel gives the mitochondria a bit of a rest.
Our ancestors did not eat continually, so the mitochondria had regular breaks. But when we eat a lot of calories, spread out all day every day, the mitochondria struggle with the constant workload, and our energy sputters to a stop. Without fuel, the brain starves and urgently demands more fuel, sending us a signal to eat more! We then become locked in a cycle where the mitochondria are exhausted, yet continually flooded with food, which is redirected to be stored as fat.
In this state, we can’t easily switch over to burning ketones. This is because an enzyme called hormone-sensitive lipase has to turn your stored fat into ketones. When we are eating and our system is flooded with glucose, our pancreas makes insulin to deliver it to cells, and insulin prevents hormone-sensitive lipase from working. That’s because traditionally, we only wanted to be burning fat if there was no food available.
How to restore metabolic flexibility
To fix this, and give the mitochondria their much-needed regular breaks, you need to dramatically drop your intake of sugars and proteins – the foods that cause your insulin to spike. You also need to stop eating lectins that mimic insulin. But when you do this, you create a gap in fuel for your brain and body, as it takes some time for the insulin levels to drop sufficiently for your body to start manufacturing ketones.
By consuming ketones in a form your mitochondria can access directly, you provide it with fuel to cover the gap. Ketones are found in MCT oil, solid coconut oil, butter, goat butter and ghee. Dr Gundry says to supplement with a tablespoon of MCT oil or coconut oil every few hours, to avoid brain fog, feeling weak and dizziness. If you have difficulty digesting fats, and so struggle with these foods, there’s another option. You can also purchase exogenous ketone salts and take them as a supplement to tide you over while your body adjusts.
Dr Gundry’s 3-day cleanse program (described below) can be used to drop your insulin levels and restore metabolic flexibility, though you will need to some form of dietary ketones to survive it. He reports that most of his patients hate him during the 3 day cleanse but by day 4 they thank him. In other words, it’s an unpleasant process.
A gentler way of restoring metabolic flexibility can be done over a period of six weeks, by gradually increasing the amount of time between stopping food at night, and starting to eat again the next day. Say you finish your dinner by 7pm every night and do not snack in the evening. On the Monday of week one, start your breakfast 12 hours later, at 7am, on Tuesday, start it 13 hours later, at 8am, on Wednesday, start it 14 hours later, at 9am, on Thursday start it 15 hours later at 10am, and on Friday start it 16 hours later at 11am. Take the weekend off and eat whenever you want. Then the next week on Monday, start your breakfast 13 hours later, at 8am, and each day progress to an hour later, just as you did the first week. Moving backwards and forwards like this increases your metabolic flexibility without creating too great a shock for your system. After about six weeks, you should easily be able to cruise until midday before you start eating for the day, and metabolic flexibility will have been restored.
An extra benefit of restoring metabolic flexibility
Unlike in normal cells, the mitochondria in cancer cells are unable to use ketones to manufacture energy, so when you give your mitochondria a break from processing glucose, you are starving cancer cells. If you are experiencing memory loss, Parkinson’s or neuropathy, research shows that the exhausted mitochondria can come back to life if they are fed ketones rather than sugar.
Regularly fasting, such as eating within an 8 hour window each day and then fasting for 16 hours, or fasting two days a week, has the benefit that it can allow your system to go into repair mode as well as starving cancer.
Seven ways lectins become a problem
Dr Gundry refers to disruptors which have opened the door to lectins, to allow them to devastate our health:
- Broad spectrum antibiotics – these kill off important bacteria in your gut, allowing overgrowth of bad bacteria.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS). NSAIDs do not damage the stomach lining, which we can view with a gastroscope; instead, they damage the lining of the small intestine, which is beyond the reach of a scope. Copious research published over the last half century reveals that gulping down apparently harmless NSAIDs is like swallowing a live grenade. These drugs blow gaping holes in the mucus-lined intestinal barrier, causing leaky gut and allowing foreign substances to enter your system.
- Stomach-acid blockers. Stomach acid kills pathogenic bacteria to prevent them going further into your system. When stomach acid is low, the pathogenic bacteria can overgrow, and crawl into your small intestine, where they are not supposed to be. There they can cause leaky gut or small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
- Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, saccharin and aspartame kill good bacteria and allow overgrowth of bad ones.
- Endocrine disruptors, such as BPA in plastic, and chemicals found in cosmetics, preservatives, sunscreens, the ink on cash register receipts, and in the insecticide DDT.
- Genetically modified foods and Roundup – a herbicide. GMO plants produce novel proteins and/or lectins that our bar code scanners recognise as foreign, causing inflammation when we eat them. Crops are genetically modified to be able to withstand Roundup, which kills the weeds around it. Roundup kills plants by utilising what is known as the shikimate pathway. Since humans don’t have a shikimate pathway it was presumed to be safe. But our gut bacteria rely on the shikimate pathway to manufacture essential amino acids for us, such as tryptophan and phenylalanine which make serotonin, the essential feel-good hormone. They make tyrosine which is needed for thyroid hormone production. Thanks to Roundup, our gut bacteria become damaged or die, and we miss out on these essential amino acids. Roundup also paralyses key liver enzymes that convert Vitamin D to a form your body can use to recycle cholesterol – so roundup raises your cholesterol. Even if you avoid GMO crops, livestock and poultry are usually fed GMO grains and beans, so you get a dose of Roundup from eating their meat.
- Constant exposure to blue light via screens and devices and electric light. Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep. It stimulates the production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and cortisol, the awake hormone.
What you can eat on a lectin-free diet
Yes List – foods to eat
Vegetables: all brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, silverbeet, bok choy and cabbage; lettuce, spinach, parsley, fennel, kohlrabi, seaweed, sweet potato, mushrooms, asparagus, radish, okra, carrot, beetroot, celery, onions, leek, garlic, chives, chicory, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, coriander, dandelion greens, basil, mint.
Fruits: berries, bananas, mangoes, papayas, avocados, olives, figs. (Eat sparingly in season.)
Dairy: A2 milk, cheeses and milk from southern European cows, cheeses and milk from goats, sheep and buffalo; organic cream, organic sour cream, organic butter, ghee, high fat French/Italian cheeses such as triple-cream brie. (The problematic protein is not in the fat.)
Protein: grass-fed pasture-raised meat, wild-caught fish, shellfish, sardines, anchovies; eggs from pasture-raised poultry; quorn, hemp tofu, grain-free tempeh.
Grains and starches: sorghum, sorghum pasta, millet, sweet potato, sweet potato noodles, green banana, green papaya, green mango, plantains, coconut flour, almond flour, hazelnut flour, tapioca starch, cassava flour, taro root, coconut flour, tiger nut, grape seed, arrowroot, shirataki noodles, baobab fruit, rutabaga, parsnips.
Nuts and seeds: (max 1/2 cup a day) macadamias, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, coconut, hazelnuts, chestnuts, blanched almonds (the skin contains lectins), pine nuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, hemp protein powder, psyllium, brazil nuts.
Oil and vinegar: extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, macadamia oil, rice bran oil, cod liver oil, perilla oil, algae oil; all vinegar with no added sugar.
Sweeteners: stevia, monk fruit extract, erythritol, xylitol, inulin, yacon, luo han guo.
Herbs and seasonings: miso, all except chilli pepper flakes.
No List – foods to avoid
Vegetables: nightshade vegetables such as tomato, zucchini, pumpkin, squash, eggplant, chilli peppers and capsicum; corn; soy, peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils and legumes. Tomatoes, chilli, capsicum and cucumbers may be fine if peeled and de-seeded as the lectins are in the skin and seeds.
Fruits: melons, goji berries, all fruit that are not in season.
Dairy: A1 milk, yoghurt, kefir, cow milk products and cheese that is not from southern Europe, ricotta, cottage cheese, casein protein powders.
Meat and fish: meat that was not grass-fed or pasture raised, farmed seafood.
Grains and starches: wheat, rice, potatoes, barley, corn, oats, quinoa, rye, spelt, buckwheat, kamut, bulgur, barley, einkorn, popcorn, wheat grass, barley grass.
Soy, nuts, seeds: soy, tofu, edamame, soy sauce, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, cashews.
Oils: soy oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, canola oil.
Sweeteners: sugar, agave, honey, maple syrup, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, Splenda, SweetOne, NutraSweet, Sweet n Low, diet drinks, maltodextrin.
More information about the foods you can and can’t eat
Some of the items on the lists above may seem a little strange. This section explains in more detail and will help you to choose and understand your foods more effectively.
About two thousand years ago, a spontaneous mutation in Northern European cows caused them to make the protein casein A-1 in their milk instead of the normal casein A-2. Casein A-1 attaches to the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells, prompting an immune attack on the pancreas. In southern Europe, cows, goats and sheep continue to produce casein A-2 milk, but because A-1 cows (Holsteins) are hardier and produce more milk, they have become the most common breed worldwide. Guernsey, Brown Swiss and Belgian Blues cows all create casein A-2 milk, while sheep and goats have not mutated – so if you consume dairy, Dr Gundry recommends you only consume milk from these breeds. He says that if you have trouble digesting dairy, it is almost certainly the breed of the cow that is the problem, not the milk itself. A word of warning though, that dairy products do contain Neu5Gc, a sugar molecule associated with cancer and heart disease. Also, when cows and other animals eat grain or soy-based feed, both of which are full of lectins, these proteins wind up in the animals’ milk or meat.
About resistant starches
Resistant starches behave differently in your GI tract than do corn, rice, wheat, and other typical starches or simple sugars. Instead of being quickly converted to glucose (blood sugar), which is burned for energy or stored as fat, they pass through your small intestine intact, and move to the colon where they become healthy food for good bacteria, which convert them to short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, propionate, butyrate (the colon’s preferred fuel, as well as a perfect fuel for neurons) and ketones (the fats you can use directly as fuel). Resistant starches also increase the proportion of good bacteria in your gut, enhancing digestion. They also make you feel full for longer and therefore encourage you to consume less food.
You can find resistant starches in green bananas, green mangoes, green papayas, plantains, taro root, shirataki noodles, parsnips, turnips, jicama, celery root, and Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes).
Our ancestors consumed fruit in small quantities in summer when it was ripe. When you eat fruit, it delivers a chemical message to your body saying to store fat for winter. The fructose in fruit can cause your kidneys to swell and suffer injury, which can destroy them. Cancer cells prefer to ferment sugar in the form of fructose rather than glucose, so omitting fruit helps to starve cancer tumours. The body was able to handle the toxic effects of fruit in the past because it only occurred for a small part of the year, and we had the rest of the year to recover from the damage. But now your kidneys receive 365 days of direct insult with no break in sight. The more fruit Dr Gundry removed from an individual’s diet, the healthier he or she became and the more his or her cholesterol numbers and markers for kidney function improved.
Dr Gundry does recommend we regularly consume green bananas, green mangoes and green papayas, which have not yet increased their fructose content, but are made up of resistant starches. Avocados contain no sugar but are a good source of fat and soluble fibre. Okra is technically a fruit which contains lectin-blocking properties. Other than these, we need to change our perception of fruit as a health food – it is more like a lolly, to be enjoyed occasionally, in season, as a treat.
In the body, protein is converted to glucose, which can raise insulin levels. Dr Gundry says we actually need much less protein than previously thought – about 0.37 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you weigh 65 kilgrams, that’s 24 grams, roughly what you would find in 2-3 eggs or 70g fish or chicken. Our bodies recycle protein so we may actually need less still.
Consuming animal proteins increases your levels of insulinlike growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a marker for ageing. The lower your IGF-1 the longer you live and the less likely you will develop cancer. Low levels of IGF-1 are associated with consuming less animal protein and less sugar. Red meat also contains Neu5Gc, a sugar molecule linked to both cancer and heart disease.
Some more tips to get the most out of going lectin free
- For the first two weeks, while your gut repairs itself, limit your intake of all long-chain saturated fats, such as coconut oil and animal fats, along with most other mono- and polyunsaturated long-chain fats, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and MCT oil. Also limit your consumption of cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, and cream cheese (even from grass-fed animals), all of which contain saturated fats. After that, aim to consume lots of olive oil and MCT oil or coconut oil.
- Eat lots of fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a form of indigestible (for you) sugar in the form of inulin and its cousin yacón, on which your gut bugs thrive. These compounds are found in vegetables such as radicchio, Belgian endive, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), okra, artichokes, onions, and garlic. They are also available as powders and in sweeteners such as SweetLeaf and Just Like Sugar. You can buy FOS and GOS in powdered form which you mix with water and drink daily. You can also try psyllium husks. Mix a teaspoon a day in water and work up to a tablespoon.
- Eat raw or cooked mushrooms, which provide more unique FOS to pamper your gut buddies.
- Consume as many leafy green vegetables and vegetables in the cabbage family (crucifers) as possible. Compounds in cruciferous veggies thus alert the border patrol on your gut wall to calm down and not to shoot anything that moves.
- Consume polyphenols to increase your beneficial bacteria. Polyphenols are found in olive oil, cacao powder, green tea and matcha powder, red wine, cinnamon, mulberry, pomegranate, lemon juice and vinegars, including balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy and in the skin/pulp of coloured fruits (consume the pulp from a juicer instead of the juice). You can also take supplements – Dr Gundry recommends 100 mg of both grape seed extract and resveratrol, and 25 to 100 mg of pine tree bark extract a day. Berberine is a great addition too.
- Eat pistachios, walnuts, macadamias and pecans, which are full of polyphenols and promote beneficial bacteria. Aim to eat 1/4 cup once or twice a day.
- Take fish oil or algal DHA to get 1000IU per day of Omega 3s.
- Consume figs (which are technically flowers, not fruit), and use dates or dried figs as a sweetener in limited amounts. Both are full of the FOS that boost the growth of good gut bugs and overall health. Add figs and dates to salads or toss a couple of dates into a smoothie.
Dr Gundry also recommends taking some supplements. You can find out more about these by reading one of his books.
Dr Gundry says that you can experience the benefits of eating lectin-free faster if you start with a 3-day cleanse. He warns that his patients usually hate him during the 3 days, but by day 4 they thank him. This cleanse clears out a lot of bad bacteria from your gut – the bacteria that can promote an insatiable appetite, for example. It’s a quick start towards rebalancing your microbiome and reduces inflammation.
During the three day cleanse, eat non-starchy vegetables, oils and small amounts of fish or chicken for protein. In particular, focus brassicas and green leafy vegetables, avocado and lemon juice.
3-day cleanse Yes list
Vegetables: all brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, silverbeet, bok choy and cabbage; lettuce, spinach, parsley, fennel, kohlrabi, seaweed, mushrooms, asparagus, radish, okra, carrot, beetroot, celery, onions, leek, garlic, chives, chicory, artichokes, coriander, dandelion greens, basil, mint, olives, avocado.
Protein: max 110g (about the size of a pack of cards) twice a day of wild-caught fish, shellfish or pastured chicken.
Nuts: max 1/2 cup day macadamias, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, brazil nuts and hazelnuts.
Oils: avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, macadamia oil, walnut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, hemp seed oil, flax seed oil.
Seasonings: vinegar, mustard, fresh cracked black pepper, sea salt, fresh herbs, fresh spices.
Additional measures for people who are seriously ill
If you are very ill with diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, or another life-threatening condition, Dr Gundry recommends that you take the lectin-free diet a step further, by completely eliminating all fruits and seeded vegetables, and significantly reducing animal proteins.
- Limit animal proteins to 2-4 ounces per day (60-115g) – the size of a deck of cards, preferably in the form of wild fish, shellfish and mollusks. If you have cancer, try eliminating animal proteins altogether. They contain a greater concentration of the amino acids that cancer cells use than do plant sources of protein.
- Consume absolutely no fruit except for avocados, green bananas and plantains, green mangos, and green papayas.
- Initially concentrate on medium-chain fatty acids or the short-chain fatty acids in butter or ghee, but a word of warning: too much coconut oil or MCT oil in too short a time can give you diarrhea. As a starting point, aim for about 3 tablespoons spread out across the day and work your way up to what your system can tolerate. Egg yolks are almost pure fat, one your brain needs to function properly, so include plenty in your diet. Greens, vegies and resistant starches take on the role of being fat-delivery devices.
- Macadamias become the preferred nut, with other nuts (ideally pecans, walnuts and pistachios) taking a supporting role.
- Eat extra dark chocolate – at least 90% cacao. Lindt makes such a bar.
Dr Gundry recommends that suffer from IBS, leaky gut, or any autoimmune condition, consider adding the following supplements:
- Oregon grape root extract or its active ingredient berberine
- Grapefruit seed extract (not to be confused with another great supplement, grape seed extract)
- Mushrooms or mushroom extracts
- Spices such as black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and wormwood to kill parasites, fungi, and other bad gut flora.
He says if you have cancer or neurological or memory issues, stay on this version of the diet for the rest of your (longer and better) life.
If you have been addressing issues of obesity, diabetes, or kidney failure and have succeeded in achieving improved health, try switching to the regular version of his diet.
If symptoms return, go back on this version.
You may not need to eat lectin free forever
After about six weeks, most people experience vastly improved health. At that time, most people can reintroduce some lectins, properly pretreated, in moderation. When you can answer yes to the questions below, then it’s time to experiment with adding in more foods.
- Have your bowel movements become normal? One test that many of my successful patients report is that they no longer need toilet paper.
- Have your joints stopped hurting?
- Has your brain fog cleared?
- Has your skin cleared and any acne disappeared?
- Is your energy level good?
- Do you sleep without restlessness or awakening several times a night?
- If you were overweight, are you now wearing a smaller size? Or, if you were underweight at the start, are you filling out your clothes more?
To add in more foods
- Gradually reintroduce small amounts of immature (no seeds or only tiny seeds) lectin-bearing foods such as cucumbers, zucchini, and Japanese eggplant to test your tolerance. Try one at a time for a week before trying another food.
- Later, if you can handle these foods, try to introduce heirloom tomatoes and peppers that have been seeded and had the skins removed. Give each a week to see how you do, before introducing another.
- Next, try to introduce pressure-cooked legumes in small amounts. Pressure cooking removes lectins from some foods. Again, do this one week at a time.
- Finally, after you’ve reintroduced the lectin-containing foods and are doing well, you might be able to introduce Indian white basmati rice in extreme moderation or other grains and pseudo-grains that have been pressure cooked—with the exception of barley, rye, oats, and wheat, all of which contain gluten.
If your scale is heading in the wrong direction after reintroducing fruits, or if your symptoms return, simply reverse course. Don’t eat any food that stimulates weight gain or makes it difficult to control your appetite.
Eventually you should arrive at a sustainable diet that you can be on for the rest of your life, while experiencing excellent health.
Some more tips for excellent health long term
- Eat less food overall and have less frequent meals to give your gut, brain and mitochondria a rest from the work of digestion and energy production.
- Progressively reduce your animal protein to no more than 2 ounces (60g) a day, and aim to get most of your protein from leaves, vegetables, mushrooms, nuts and hemp, and a few small fish. This reduces your levels of IGF-1.
- Periodically fast. This also reduces your IGF-1 levels and helps to mitigate the damage of consuming animal proteins. You could do this by fasting 16 hours overnight, 5 days a week. Or fast two days a week. Or eat vegan foods at 900 calories a day for five consecutive days a month – simply follow the vegan version of Dr Gundry’s 3-day cleans for 5 days.
- Get eight hours of sleep a night and regular exercise.
- Restore daily and seasonal rhythms with exposure to daylight, ideally for an hour each day, at or near midday.
- Avoid blue light as much as possible in the evenings.
There are a great many lectin-free recipes out there. I recommend reading Dr Gundry’s books which have many recipe ideas, checking out the recipes and posts on Dr Gundry’s website, Lectin-free Mama, and Lectin-free Foodie.