Lectins can attach themselves to Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) receptor sites and play havoc in two ways. The first is that the Lectins are able to “fit” the receptor sufficiently enough to stimulate the thyroid but the effects are different in those with hyperthyroid or Autoimmune Hyperthyroid and low thyroid or Hashimoto thyroiditis. The second effect is that the immune response to the lectin stimulation starts an autoimmune response to the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) receptors on the thyroid.
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What Is a Lectin?
The production of lectins, alkaloids and secondary metabolites are a defense mechanism to protect themselves and their seeds from consumption while the plant is growing and before the seeds are ready for dispersal. For the purposes of this blog the listed secondary metabolites listed below will be referred to as Lectins unless specifically mentioned. Lectins occur naturally in organic and conventionally grown vegetables and fruit. Lectins occur artificially in Genetically Modified and Selectively Bred – organically or conventionally grown vegetables and fruits.
Plants are naturally genetically modified to survive in the primal environment of nature and are artificially genetically modified to survive their trip to the grocery store.
Plant Lectin Regulation of Vegetable & Fruit Consumption
Plants invest energy into the production of seeds. Plants have evolved to encourage vegetable and fruit seed dispersal but also evolved mechanisms to decrease consumption of vegetables and fruits when unripe and from non-seed dispersing predators. To this end, plants have developed physical and chemical deterrents.
- Cryptic coloration (e.g. green fruits blend in with the plant leaves)
- Unpalatable textures (e.g. thick skins made of anti-nutritive substances)
- Resins and saps (e.g. prevent animals from swallowing)
- Repellent substances, hard outer coats, spines, thorns.
When immature or out-of-season, the seed, grain, vegetable or fruit are protected by chemical deterrents such as lectins to keep themselves from being eaten to extinction. Chemical deterrents in plants are called secondary metabolites, i.e. trypsin inhibitor, chymotrypsin inhibitor, α-amylase inhibitor, phytohemagluttinin (lectin), phytic acid, oxalic acid, nitrate and nitrite, L-mimosine, canavanine, L-DOPA, glucosinolates, cyanogenic glucosides/cyanogens, tannins, gossypol, chlorogenic acid, saponins, phorbol esters and alkaloids.
Damage Caused By Lectins:
- They bind to the thyroid TSH-receptors acting as long-acting thyroid stimulator (LATS) stimulating the activation of TSH-receptor antibodies.
- Lectins acting as LATS stimulate overproduction of thyroid hormones in those suffering from Hyperthyroid or Graves disease.
- Lectins acting as LATS block production of thyroid hormones in those suffering from low thyroid or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Lectins are toxic to wounded cells and inhibit the natural repair system of the GI tract.
- Lectins are known to “unlock” (breakthrough) the barrier variables of the GI lining and allow large undigested protein molecules into the bloodstream.
- Lectins serve as a “Trojan horse” allowing intact or nearly intact foreign proteins to invade our barrier variables (natural gut defenses) and enter behind the lines causing damage well beyond the gut and into the joints, brain and skin of affected individuals provoking cytokine immune responses.
- They can bind to red blood cells causing the cells to clump together resulting in a form of anemia.
- They can damage collagen and connective tissues in joints.
- They are directly related to Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- They can bind to the stomach lining even when the pH is 3 or less.
- They stimulate abnormal thickening of the pancreas interfering with exocrine cells production of enzymes and endocrine cells production of insulin.
- They stimulate abnormal thickening of the lining of the gut.
- They damage the villi lining the gut.
- They stimulate the shift the microbial ecology promoting the overgrowth of E. coli.
- The abnormal thickening of the pancreas and gut lining plus the microbial shift exacts a nutritional penalty on the absorption of nutrition.
- They can provoke IgG and IgM antibodies causing Type 2 Hypersensitivity immune responses.
- They provoke a direct cytokine driven immune response causing cytokine storms, invisible illness symptoms and cytokine-induced sickness behavior.
Effects of Dietary Lectins on the Thyroid
Lectins can attach themselves to a thyroid receptor site and play havoc in two ways. The first is that the Lectins are able to “fit” the receptor sufficiently enough to stimulate the thyroid but not enough fit sufficiently to produce thyroid hormones. The second effect is that the immune response to the lectin stimulation starts an autoimmune response to the thyroid.
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) at various concentrations significantly increased the response of lymphocytes to both lectins found in legumes and in other vegetables and fruit. Lectins may cause the activation of ‘long-acting thyroid stimulator (LATS)’ also known as thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins, or TSI, in the blood. TSI or LATS are antibodies that bind to special receptors on the thyroid gland than normally bind to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is the hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete thyroid hormones. TSIs mimic the effect of TSH, thereby causing the thyroid to secrete excess thyroid hormone. LATS mimic the effect of TSH only stimulating the thyroid but not producing any thyroid hormones.
Lectins act as Long-Acting Thyroid Stimulators (LATS) and cause the activation of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Receptor Antibodies (TSH-R Ab). These LATS appear to act similarly to TSH after attaching to the TSH receptor. The LATS are able to “fit” the receptor sufficiently well to stimulate the thyroid while blocking the production of thyroid hormones. This activates the immune system to produce TSH-R Ab to the thyroid stimulating hormone receptors. TSH-R Ab Autoantibodies act as thyroid stimulator agonist in autoimmune hyperthyroid (Graves disease) mimicking the effects of TSH and causes the overproduction of thyroid hormones with hyperthyroid symptoms. TSH-R Ab act as TSH antagonist in autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto thyroiditis) causing an inverse reaction blocking the production of thyroid hormones making it seem as if the individual is suffering from a low thyroid.
Fill out the Thyroid Health Assessment Form (pdf file)
For those with low thyroid, their TSH levels will be low but the thyroid is being stimulated resulting in swelling, tenderness and irritation to the thyroid. Those who have Hashimoto’s, hyperthyroid or Grave’s disease the TSH-R antibody will stimulate the production of TPO antibodies resulting in an immune attack on the thyroid causing further destruction. This is often the case for those with elevated TPO antibodies who are doing all the right things but still have high TPO Ab.
Lectin excited T cells, which produce immunoglobulin excited thyroid function, causing hyperthyroidism. Although pituitary TSH release is suppressed, thyroid-stimulating antibodies not subject to negative feedback maintain the hyperthyroidism. These antibodies appear to act similarly to TSH and via the TSH receptor.
Lectin Exposure Symptoms
Symptoms could be obvious, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation (or both, alternating). Less obvious food related symptoms may include headache, fatigue, ‘indigestion,’ skin problems including hives, psoriasis, acne, swollen joints, or water retention. While some symptoms will resolve quickly after eliminating an offending family, other symptoms may take 6-12 months. Be patient. If you are genetically intolerant, you will never be able to consume that group of foods safely.
Some symptoms may occur chronically and may seem unrelated to a gut/food or lectin intolerance reactions. This group of symptoms includes the so-called degenerative diseases and autoimmune diseases like those mentioned in the list at the beginning of this report including ‘Invisible Illness,’ Cytokine-Induced Sickness Behavior, atherosclerosis, hypertension, osteoporosis, senile dementia, osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis, inflammatory joint diseases, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and adult onset diabetes. Obesity has been associated with consumption of ‘edible enemy’ lectins.
Lectin Toxicity Evades Antibody-Based Blood Tests
The type of harm lectins do is harder to diagnose than in classically defined food allergies or sensitivities. In other words, confirmation of intolerance will not be found in IgA, IgG, IgE antibody, allergy or intestinal biopsy testing because the damage done is a direct cytokine driven response, and not necessarily immune-medicated or only secondarily so. Intestinal biopsy testing may be suspect because lectins cause a thickening of the intestinal lining. The medical community is looking for thinning and damage to the intestinal lining.
The diagnostic “invisibility” is why lectin consumption is rarely linked to the ailments that afflict those who consume them. While lectins are not the sole or primary cause of a wide range of disorders, them are a major factor in sustaining or reinforcing injuries or diseases once they are initiated and/or established in the body. This response will deplete your anti-inflammatory cytokines and inhibitory neurotransmitters. Many will suffer cytokine storms during flair-ups. Some will develop into an invisible illness known as Cytokine-Induce Sickness Behavior.
Once lectins make it through a compromised mucosa and/or digestive lining. It can exert systemic effects which can easily become overlooked as being caused by eating legumes, fruits or vegetables. The best tests to determine how lectins are affecting your cytokine immune status and neurotransmitter levels are the:
- Neuroscience Stimulated Cytokine Analysis Comprehensive
- Neuroscience NeuroEndocrine Comprehensive
Four Different Hashimoto Patients – Four Different Immune Responses
All had bad reactions with the Th1/TH2 challenge. Why? All suffered a lectin driven immune response. All have an overactive Th17 immune response. Three have a suppressed TH1 response. One has a suppressed TH2 response. The upper right is immunocompromised. The lower right is immune stimulated to everything. The lower left is a raw vegan over-consuming Soft and Hard Lectins. The upper left TH1 immune system collapses when exposed to bacteria driving straight into TH17.
Systemic Effect of Lectins
Lectins may influence absorption, metabolism and systemic availability of nutrition by two different but possibly simultaneous mechanisms.
Lectins can indirectly influence hormones (the endocrine system of the body) by binding to the neuroendocrine cells of the gut and as a consequence of this input, release message molecules (hormones) to the blood. Alternatively, lectins can pass through the gut wall into the blood circulation and thus may directly influence peripheral tissues and body metabolism by mimicking the effects of endocrine hormones. The organs most often affected are the pancreas, skeletal muscle, liver, kidneys and thymus.
Thymus, spleen and other organs: Overconsumption of Soft Lectins causes the thymus and spleen to begin decreasing in size wasting away. Some of these are irreversible with potentially serious consequences for the immune system, especially T cell-mediated immunity.
Effects of Dietary Lectins on Inflammatory Cytokines
Cytokines are several different types of substances that are produced by cells within the immune system. These substances relay signals between the immune system cells. By relaying messages between the cells, these cytokines help to trigger the immune system’s response to whatever threat is present.
Lectins strikingly increase levels of multiple pro-inflammatory cytokines (especially interleukin 2 receptor (IL-2), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), IL-6, IL-8).
Cytokines, (mediators of acute inflammation) are generated to induce cell breakdown and death. Cytokines can produce an inflammatory response to food independent of the allergic reaction that most are familiar with. Food allergy or cross-reactive testing will not detect a cytokine induced inflammatory response to food. This requires specialized testing done with the NEI Stimulated Cytokine panel that measures these cytokine and chemokines.
A phenomenon involving the function of inflammatory cytokines is known as a cytokine storm. Essentially, this is a situation where the balance of communication between immune cells and the cytokines present is interrupted.
When the inflammatory cytokines are involved in some sort of storm situation, there is a loopback created between both types of cytokines and the immune cells. The pro-inflammatory cytokines go wild – like college students on Spring Break. There are several common signs that indicate that a storm is present, including fever, body aches and nausea, along with stronger symptoms that are related directly to the ailment itself. Similar to how the college student feels after a week long binge that does not wear off.
Immune Supportive Supplements
A person is said to be immunocompromised when their immune system is incapable of working at full capacity. The immune system is how the body fights off diseases and protects itself against new infections, so someone who is immunocompromised will usually get sick more often, stay sick longer, and be more vulnerable to different types of infections. They may be more inclined to use supplements to stimulate the immune system. Until they become immune suppressed. Then they rarely get “sick.” Immunosuppressed individuals never feel well and start developing symptoms associated with Cytokine Induced Sickness Behavior (CISB).
Information from secondary sources suggests that supplementing with immune stimulating supplements, i.e. thymus gland extracts, have been shown to enhance responsiveness to Lectins and have been able to produce an cytokine storm in immunocompromised patients.
Fill out the Thyroid Health Assessment Form (pdf file)
Lectins: Edible Enemies
Being realistic regarding diet is that there is always a sliding scale of lesser evils that we exchange for the experience of enjoying our foods and obtaining the comfort they provide. Because some food toxins cannot be removed from foods and other may be created during processing or cooking, consumption of small quantities of food toxins is unavoidable.
How problematic or reactive lectins are for you depends upon the health of your gastrointestinal lining, the behavior of your microflora and your immune status. If you have a Ghetto Gut where the gut lining is impaired, the microbes are misbehaving, and your ability to produce digestive chemistry is less than optimal. Any food you commonly eat will provoke a reaction including organic foods. This combination of factors will change your immune status depleting the inhibitory neurotransmitters and anti-inflammatory cytokines necessary to control the Neuro-Endo-Immune Super-system. When it comes to the immune response, small insignificant changes in lectin exposure can mean the difference between being reactive or not.
The Lectin Free Diet Seasonal Avoidance Guidelines will reduce your exposure to lectins, GMOs. The Seasonal – Four Day Rotation diet will add variety to your diet while reducing your risk of creating food sensitivities.
Your chances of eating your way out of this will be significantly increased by following these guidelines. You will still need help re-regulating your neurotransmitters, cytokines and restoring the sequencing of your digestive tract.
Use this link to see a preview of Autoimmune Diet Lectin Avoidance Guidelines
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