I’ve already explained how having a leaky gut puts you firmly on the autoimmune spectrum. That is why healing your gut is the first pillar of my protocol. Now is the time to make some changes that will bring your gut back to optimal health. One of the best things you can do is stop eating foods that are causing more inflammation and damage to your intestinal tract. Avoiding grains and legumes is important in the process of reversing inflammatory diseases. You want to know why? Read on to understand the reasons and consequences.
Avoid gluten and lentils if you have inflammatory diseases
What is gluten?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, semolina, spelled, rye, kamut, and barley. It’s what gives bread its sticky, doughy texture, but that’s not the only place you’ll find it: gluten is used as a food additive in almost all processed foods, from salad dressing to ketchup.
You may wonder how something so common could be harmful to your gut – wouldn’t we all be sick? Well, unfortunately, chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, or an autoimmune disease has become “fashionable” and the rates are increasing. Gluten has been linked to more than 55 diseases, and it is estimated that 99% of people who are celiac or non-celiac with gluten sensitivity are never diagnosed.
How does gluten cause leaky gut?
In The Autoimmune Solution, I explain in great detail how gluten contributes to a leaky gut which then leads you down the path of autoimmune disease. It stimulates your immune system to attack your own tissues, it is not easy to digest, and it contributes to triggering imbalances such as Candida and SIBO overgrowth. But even more damaging is gluten’s ability to trigger the body to produce zonulin, a protein that can signal the tight junctions between cells in your intestines to open and stay open.
The problem with grains and legumes
Wheat is not the only one. Other grains, pseudograins (such as quinoa) and legumes, contain similar proteins that contribute to leaky gut and worsen inflammatory diseases in several ways:
- By harming intestinal cells.
- By opening the tight junctions of the intestinal mucosa.
- Feeding harmful bacteria to create intestinal dysbiosis.
The edible part of these plants is the seed, which contains the embryo. In order to pass on its genes, a plant produces its own chemicals to repel pests and prevent digestion. These chemicals can be very harmful to a person with an autoimmune disease or also called inflammatory diseases. I highlight some in particular:
Chemicals in plants that worsen inflammatory diseases
Lectins are plant proteins that bind to carbohydrates. The two types of lectins in particular that are known to cause a problem in humans are agglutinins and prolamines.
Agglutinins work as a natural insecticide and can be an aggravating factor in inflammatory diseases. The effects of lectins within our bodies can be subtle and difficult to recognize, but some agglutinins are incredibly dangerous. Ricin, a lectin in castor beans, is fatally toxic, even in very small amounts.
This is why grains that are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are especially harmful to those of us with autoimmunity. They have been designed to produce more of their insecticides from the same natural chemicals that are so inflammatory. Because of this, if you choose to include cereals in your diet, I recommend going for the non-GMO and related varieties.
Prolamins are proteins necessary for seed growth, and therefore are not easily digested. Gluten is a prolamine, and most grains contain a prolamine similar in structure to gluten. In a process called cross-reactivity, these prolamines can elicit a similar immune response in those who are sensitive to gluten.
Phytates and phytic acid
Phytates and phytic acid inhibit digestion and bind to certain minerals (specifically zinc, iron and calcium) that are vital for our immune system to function properly, preventing their absorption. GMO grains contain a higher concentration of phytic acid.
Saponins called “glycoalkaloids,” found in very high levels in pseudograins and legumes, are also a natural insecticide produced by these plants. Once they escape the protective lining of your gut (which is easy to happen if you have a leaky gut), they enter your bloodstream and destroy red blood cells.
It is also recommended that people with autoimmune diseases avoid vegetables in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which includes tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. These plants are very high in lectins that damage the intestinal lining, easily enter the bloodstream, and do not break down when cooked.
Just as the seed (plant embryo) protects itself naturally with chemical defenses, so do other embryos, such as eggs. Like a seed, eggs contain a protective enzyme. The enzyme, called lysozyme, is inflammatory in people with autoimmune diseases.
While you are going through the 30 day program on the autoimmune solution, there will be many foods that you will temporarily avoid and then add back on. Cereals, legumes, pseudograins, and some other foods, you will probably have to keep them out of your diet forever, since many people with autoimmunity are extremely sensitive to them. Gluten is an absolute “NO”. I do not recommend that anyone add gluten back to their diet.
A note for vegetarians
You may be reading this and wondering what the hell are you going to eat now if your diet is one based on rice and beans. I became a vegetarian at 14, and it was very difficult for me to see that my seemingly healthy diet was causing more problems for me. The good news is that there are tons of vegetables that you can continue to enjoy.
Do you want to know more about how to prevent and reverse autoimmune disease?
If you or someone in your family is one of the 50 million people (in the US alone) who suffer from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or another autoimmune disorder, there is hope for prevention and even reversal of the debilitating symptoms that accompany these conditions.
For years, my mission has been to help others find relief in inflammatory conditions, from arthritis to Graves’ disease. The Autoimmune Solution is my step-by-step approach that restores the body to its natural state of health in 30 days by eliminating toxic foods, introducing restorative ingredients, and identifying environmental toxins.