FIT Talk With Tania  

Is your diet SAD?

Lectins is the new buzz-word in health and healthy food.

OK, they're not not really so new as they've been with us all along, only we didn't realize it until recently when Dr. Steven Gundry, a world-renowned heart surgeon, started sharing his findings.

They've always been in our foods, so what's the big deal about them now? Let's first dive into what lectins are, where they are found and what they do.

Lectins are a type of protein that does not digest. They bind to cell membranes and cause molecules stick together. They also influence how cells interact with each other. Gluten is just one example of a lectin protein.

Lectins are found in abundance in grains, legumes, the seeds of plants where the leaves sprout from, as well as in the coating on the seed.

You'll also find them in dairy products and in some fruits and vegetables. Raw kidney beans for example have so many they can actually be toxic and really make you sick.

Just to put some numbers to this, raw kidney beans have 20,000- 70,000 lectins, while fully cooked beans contain only 200-400. A significant difference.

Grandma was onto something years ago long-soaking her beans overnight and then slow cooking them all day before serving them up for dinner. The same holds true for lentils.

Lectins have always been in foods, however, the altering of plants through GMO has created fluctuations in the amount.

These fluctuations, unfortunately, have happened much more quickly than our bodies can adapt to, resulting in many of today's issues. Processed and packaged foods are also full of lectins.

And when GMO fluctuations are combined with the steady increase in processed foods consumed in the North America, the Standard American Diet (SAD), the result is very sad indeed.

Because our bodies can't digest lectins, it makes anti-bodies to try to counter against them. These antibodies stimulate a variety of responses depending on how lectin-rich a person's diet is and how each individual responds to it.

We're all different, so responses and the severity of them vary from person to person. One person will experience an immune system response while another may have some sort of reaction and no longer be able to eat certain foods.

Others might experience discomfort with gas, diarrhea, bloating, or even feel sick with nausea and/or vomiting. Still others may have a combination of all of these.

Our gut is the brain of our health.

If things aren't working well in your gut, health is compromised. The gut's job is to keep all the bad stuff contained while letting the good stuff pass through to be absorbed into the body.

Sometimes food causes minor damage to the lining of the GI tract which normally heals quickly. Too many lectins in the mix actually prevents healing.

Over time, this can cause leaky gut — a condition where the intestinal wall is compromised allowing bacteria and toxins to seep into the body and wreak havoc with your health.

Infections, toxins, stress, sugar, and alcohol also contribute to leaky gut so best to avoid especially if you're already suffering from digestive issues.

Some signs of leaky gut are:

  • gas
  • bloating
  • chronic diarrhea
  • IBS
  • food intolerances/allergies
  • brain fog 
  • mood imbalances
  • skin issues,
  • fibromyalgia
  • hormonal imbalances
  • auto-immune disease,
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • poor immune system.

Is it just a coincidence that some of the top allergens like wheat, soy, peanut, tree nuts, shellfish) also contain the most lectins? Food for thought....

Society as a whole has been steadily consuming more and more packaged/processed foods while at the same time also consuming several servings of whole grains for good health. Clearly, this is not working. Our food also eats more grains than grass.

You are not only what you eat, you're what your food eats as well. Many of you today will eat grains with your steak, or grilled chicken even though you didn't put any on your plate.

Here are six simple things you can do to reduce lectin intake and restore a healthy gut.

  • Ditch all packaged/processed items including sugar (real and fake) soda and alcohol.
  • Add in some fermented foods to help the gut heal.
  • Work on eliminating stress.
  • Eat small, balanced meals throughout the day to balance blood sugar and put the body into homeostasis (balance) – remember our PFC every 3?
  • Use a pre and pro-biotic to restore healthy gut bacteria.
  • Drink two to three litres of water a day.

If you're experiencing some or all of what we covered today, I invite you to try these six simple things. 

My gut tells me you'll be glad you did.


Listen to your gut

Bacteria is usually something people try and avoid however, what most people may not realize is that it's always with us.

There are more bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your entire body. In spite of the negative connotation the word conjures up, not all bacteria is bad.

If you've struggled with digestive issues, you've likely heard or read about “good” and “bad” bacteria. And as with most things health-related, when the balance is upset that's when the problems start.

Too much bad bacteria creates an imbalance, or dysbiosis, and can wreak havoc, causing things like diarrhea, constipation, weight gain, chronic health issues, skin problems, SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), leaky gut – all those things we feel rumbling around inside, literally. 

The question then becomes, “What causes disruption to this delicate balance and what can we do to restore it?”

There are more than 100 trillion bacteria in our gut that make up what we call the “gut flora” and keeping that gut flora healthy is vital for keeping the micro-biome balanced, which allows us to achieve and maintain optimal health.

What we do as far as diet and lifestyle, along with environmental factors, either positively or negatively affects gut flora and impacts our overall health.

Stress, as presented in a 2008 study following college students at exam time, showed an increase in harmful bacteria, while at the same time found the helpful bacteria decreased.

Lack of sleep was also shown to disrupt the balance, even after being deprived for just two nights. 

We all know smoking is not good for the lungs, but did you also know it prevents gut bacteria from diversifying and doubles your risk for Crohn's? Another study found that those who exercise regularly, even at low to moderate intensity, have a greater abundance of health-promoting bacteria.

Many people like to enjoy a drink now and again, however, when taken to excess, inflammation caused by the alcohol alters the micro-biome in the colon. Again, not doing your body any favours. 

Anti-biotics have long since known to be a cause of poor gut health. Although we do sometimes need them to battle bacterial infections, they destroy all bacteria – good and bad – in the process of helping you get well.

Healthy bacteria typically starts to return between one and four weeks, but does not normally come back up to the same levels and, in fact, can remain like this for up to two years. 

You can see by the length of time it takes for good bacteria to fully recover why some end up living in in a constant state of imbalance and ill health. 

Healthy, good bacteria are important for proper digestion, production of vitamin K, folate, short-chain fatty acids and they help destroy bad bacteria.

Good news is, there are things we can do to help create and maintain healthy gut bacteria, balance gut flora and enjoy a healthy micro-biome. 

What we eat or do not eat has a direct correlation with our level of internal health. Diets lacking in a variety of nutrient dense foods limit the diversity of good bacteria, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections and restore healthy bacteria following anti-biotic treatments. 

Diets high in sugar as well as refined foods that turn to sugar when we eat them, feed bad bacteria and cause imbalance in the gut flora.

Eliminating sugars and replacing refined foods with nutrient-rich fruits and veg cuts off the fuel supply to the bad bacteria and begins feeding the good, to help restore balance and health. 

Pro-biotics are very popular and many people with digestive issues  are using them. Pro-biotics are actual live, good bacteria. They are found in fermented foods or can be purchased as a supplement.

Although that sounds like the perfect solution to restore healthy gut bacteria, using pro-biotics alone may only provide temporary relief. Without “feeding” the new healthy bacteria, any positive results may be short lived. 

Enter pre-biotics. Pre-biotics are an undigestible fibre that passes through the upper digestive tract and stimulates the growth and activity of good bacteria. Dr. Steven Gundry, a world-renowned heart surgeon and health advocate, even goes so far as to say that pro-biotics are useless unless taken with a pre-biotic.

Just like pro-biotics, pre-biotics are found in some foods (garlic, leeks, onions, bananas, apples, flaxseed, cocoa; jicama to names a few) and can also be purchased as a supplement.

Bottom line here is, you want to create healthy gut flora and balanced micro-biome and in order to do that you need to listen to what your gut is telling you. 

If you're experiencing one or more of the conditions we talked about at the beginning, or any digestive or health issues, I encourage you to begin taking steps to restore gut flora and create an environment for your body to thrive. 

Out with the bad, in with the good, spring is the perfect time to start making some changes to improve your health. Book your complimentary health assessment today at www.fuelignitethrive.com.

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About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.