4 /5

Dr. Steven Gundry: Stop Autoimmunity with a Lectin-Free Diet

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

Dr. Steven Gundry is an inventor, researcher, and top doctor. Check out Joe and Dr. Gundry’s discussion on lectins & autoimmunity here.

I’ve been looking forward to speaking to Dr. Gundry ever since I came upon his study regarding lectins and autoimmune disease. I had already been suspecting lectins as a cause of inflammatory problems and autoimmunity, but had little evidence before seeing Dr. Gundry’s study.

In my personal experiments, I’ve found food to have the most significant impact on my health – in particular, dietary lectins and other plant toxins. Note that this is not the case for many others, which is why people have to do their own experiments. One possibility is that lectins activate an as-of-yet undiscovered autoimmune condition affecting my hypothalamus and limbic system, since my whole limbic system gets deregulated when I introduce dietary lectins. It could also be lectins directly cause inflammation in my limbic system without any autoimmune component.

Since the limbic system has a profound impact on so many bodily functions including the circadian rhythm, motivation, wakefulness, memory, mood, sexual desire, etc., its dysregulation has seriously impacted my life.

About Dr. Gundry

Dr. Gundry is internationally recognized as an inventor, researcher, and one of America’s top doctors.

He is a former researcher at Yale University and has held a director’s role numerous times, including Head of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Dr. Gundry has written more than 200 articles and books about cardiac surgery, the nutritional reversal of heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension.

Currently, Dr. Gundry is the Director of The International Heart and Lung Institute in Palm Springs, California, and the Founder/Director of The Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara.

Dr. Gundry and Lectins

Dr. Gundry exposes the dangerous truth behind lectins and how they relate to autoimmune disease. Most importantly, he shares his vast experience and research on why lectins are so harmful for the body, and how to reverse the damage they cause.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I am very ‘anti-lectin‘ for people with autoimmune/inflammatory issues. Dr. Gundry, originally a very famous heart surgeon, discovered how dangerous lectins are and altered his career to help people reverse autoimmune disease through his matrix diet. He has completed the only human study related to lectins and is now the most knowledgeable person on the subject. He’s also written books on the topic – one that will be coming out soon, and his first, “Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution.” I was very excited to hear about his research and to have Dr. Gundry on for the interview.

Video and Podcast Links


Q: How did you get into the research of lectins and autoimmune disease?

A: He was chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at Loma Linda University for many years, and was one of the pioneers with his partner on pediatric and infant heart transplantation. He pioneered xenotransplantation. They wanted to fool the immune system. He completed the longest pig to baboon heart transplant in the world, 28 days, with conventional immunosuppression. The previous was 5 hours. About 15 years ago he got turned on to the idea that heart disease could be reversed with food. As a very famous heart surgeon, he figured that this was actually a really good thing to do. So he started experimenting on himself. At that time he was 70 lbs overweight, and had pre-diabetes and hypertension even while running 30 miles a week and going to the gym 1 hour a day. All those issues reversed with his diet. He started doing this for his patients he operated on; not only did their cholesterol and heart disease reverse, but so did their arthritis and diabetes. After about a year of this at Melinda University, he decided to resign and set up an institute in Palm Springs where he could teach people how to reverse disease with food and supplements. This resulted in his first book, “Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution.”

After that book was published, a lot of people with autoimmune diseases began showing up in his office from around the world. He didn’t know much about autoimmune disease but knew a lot about how the immune system works. He viewed every patient as their own research project. As years went by he got more sophisticated tests on looking at inflammatory cytokines and other hormones. He started doing these tests every 3 months on every one of his patients, getting a very interesting history on people. The first thing that popped up: everyone that had hypothyroidism, particularly those told they had Hashimoto’s, always had an elevated hormone called adiponectin. In diabetes, cardiovascular, and obesity literature, if adiponectin is low, that’s considered a bad thing, but if adiponectin levels are normal or even high, then that’s considered a very good thing. If you look deeper, in the Harvard nurses study, they showed that thin women with elevated levels had very high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. This didn’t make sense. These are the people that were screened for the APOE gene, so you couldn’t account for it with that.

He kept digging and found that people with rheumatoid arthritis have high levels of adiponectin. Every human being whose hypothyroid he studied had an elevated adiponectin level, and there were a number of people who had elevated adiponectin levels who weren’t hypothyroid. So he started looking for other markers and inflammatory cytokines that might tell him when someone was interacting with a food. Then he stumbled on TNF-alpha, a major inflammatory cytokine. These people with elevated norepinephrine levels, for the most part, had elevated TNF-alpha levels. This was another puzzle piece.

Q: I’ve been studying adiponectin a little. It’s released from fat cells. It causes you to lose weight, and is a weight loss hormone in a way. It activates AMPK, which helps metabolism and is an anti-inflammatory. So, it does a whole bunch of good things. On the other hand, like you said and especially with lectins, it’s coming out high. Why would it be that it’s coming out high when it’s a good hormone? What is it about lectins that cause it to go higher?

A: His personal feeling is that it’s actually a marker. Lectins get through the tight junctions in the gut and also allow those tight junctions to break.

When this happens, bacterial particles such as LPS (lipopolysaccharides) get through and cause inflammation. He calls them “Little Pieces of Sh*t” because that’s exactly what they are – cell walls of gram-negative bacteria.

His theory is that our immune system in the tissues around the gut is the first sensor of this bacterial invasion.

He thinks adiponectin is a pretty good marker that something is wrong with the gut wall. You can call it leaky gut, but somehow permeability of the gut wall is different in these people. He thinks genes have a lot to do with it, because when he takes a family history, people who have autoimmune diseases have a remarkable family history – not only irritable bowel, thyroid issues, MS, Crohn’s, colitis, and lupus, but also a strong history of lymphomas and leukemias.

My Theory on Why Elevated Adiponectin Is Associated with Lectin Sensitivity

This section is not part of the interview.

After the interview, I kept the adiponectin question in the back of my head until I realized why adiponectin is higher in lectin-sensitive people.

I’ve identified the variation rs1049353 in the cannabinoid 1 receptor SNP in my clients with lectin sensitivity. This variation causes the CB1 receptor to not function as well. This SNP is associated with higher adiponectin. Then, I found a study showing that adiponectin increases when you block the CB1 receptor.

Hence, adiponectin is a marker of lectin sensitivity because of the CB1 receptor genetic variations.

Another variation in the MTHFR gene is also common in my lectin-sensitive clients, which can contribute to undermethylation. One of the effects of undermethylation may be higher adiponectin – as obesity is associated with over-methylation of adiponectin and lower adiponectin production. Hence, under methylators are more prone to higher adiponectin.

Gut Lining, Cortisol, Leptin, and Stress

Q: What is it about the gut lining in a person’s genes? If you asked me I would say maybe it has something to do with toll-like receptors 4 (TLR4), especially if they’re activated by lectins and LPS, but it seems like I deal with clients who are almost always lectin sensitive, and a symptom is being tired after consuming lectin foods etc. What I notice is that whenever people have a really stressful period, that really triggers lectin sensitivity. My theory is that certain stress hormones like corticotropin-releasing hormone cause permeability in the gut. Is this something you have looked into, or that you would be able to comment on?

A: Most of these people that he studies have normal cortisol levels, and he rarely sees elevated cortisol levels. This goes against the current belief that cortisol is the cause of all weight gain, or leptin is the cause of all weight gain. He takes care of 10,000 people, and he’s probably seen an elevated level of cortisol in maybe 20 of them. He does see cortisol elevation, but it’s not necessarily in lectin sensitive people. It remains true that stress clearly can change the gut barrier. All you have to do is look at elite marathoners who have bloody diarrhea at mile 25 to realize that something dramatically wrong is happening at the gut level, because all the blood is been shifted away from the gut. In his experience in cardiac surgery, if you put someone on a lung machine, and change their circulation, even temporarily, a good number of these people will develop pancreatitis, even though they have never touched their gut. Many clients can think of a single event that started symptoms. For one client, it started with the death of her mother and she developed Crohn’s, lupus, fibromyalgia. It wasn’t until then when they realized that this was the starting point, so they healed the gut for it all to go away.


Q: You measure cytokines like TNF, and you notice that they’re elevated. What about other cytokines, like Interleukin 6? Is there something unique about TNF?

A: TNF is low-grade marker that he looks for. For instance, people with rheumatoid arthritis, frequently have consistently elevated levels of IL-6. A few of his lupus patients and also some of his rheumatoid patients have elevated levels of IL-17. As he gets lectins out of them, then all of these levels fall to normal, except their adiponectin levels stay elevated. He thinks adiponectin is a marker that indicates a likely susceptibility of your gut being permeable. Again, whether it’s because of gut flora, lectins, or other material, or whether there’s a genetic component, he doesn’t know yet, but what they’ve found is that if they eliminate lectins, and change gut flora by manipulating them with polyphenols (EGCG, kombucha) and polysaccharides (chitin/chitosan), they can then watch the inflammatory cytokine numbers go down. The really interesting thing is when they re-challenge a particular lectin, then they can watch those TNF markers or IL-6 go right back up.

Permeability, WBC

Q: So you see elevated TNF-alpha, and you’re assuming there’s also intestinal permeability. I’ve had clients I know are sensitive to lectins. They’ve done a cytokine test, and they’re low on TNF or I know they’re sensitive to lectins and they’ve done an intestinal permeability test and it came back fine. What do you think about the permeability test – it seems like they have lectin sensitivity even if they’re passing that test.

A: Yes. It’s really an end of the line test. You really have to destroy your gut barrier to show up for that test. So if you’re positive for that, it’s Hurricane Katrina. You’re right, there are people who have “normal” TNF-alpha levels, but the interesting thing is in those people, either they’ve been taking Advil, ibuprofen, or the doc has them on some kind of Monoclonal Antibody, and they’ll suppress their TNF-alpha. Statin drugs will suppress TNF-alpha. Statins work by blocking toll-like receptors. Lowering cholesterol is a side-effect of statins, really nothing to do with how they work. All they do is hit the ‘mute’ switch on toll-like receptors so that the immune system never hears the air raid siren go off, and so immune cells are not called to the area back. So there’s a number of people who won’t have super high TNF-alpha levels. But it’s interesting when you take lectins away from them you actually see their supposedly normal TNF-alpha levels continue to go down. The other thing early on in his experience is a lot of these people (particularly women) would say they have almost a life-long history of having a low white blood cell count. That their white blood cells usually in 3,000 maybe high 2s, and they’ve had all kinds of blood work . He thinks that’s a great marker for lectin-sensitive people.

(ME): I also see that very often, more than TNF. I had that myself-I was 3.9. That would be considered low you say. What would be considered a marker for you? I generally see people who are lectin-sensitive that have them in the 4s, sometimes in high 3s.

A: They cluster in mid 3s, low 4s. He’s seen some in low 3s, a couple of 2s. You’d think that if someone was being bombarded with particles that are stimulating the immune system you ought to see a high blood count. But he thinks the opposite has happened. The white cells have actually been marginalized out of blood vessels, and they’ve gone into the peri-intestinal fat to the lymph nodes where the battle is actually happening. We know that what happens in an infection is white cells marginalize on the surface of the endothelium and then leave the endothelium to go out. So in a reverse sort of way, a low white blood cell count tells him white blood cells have already been pulled out of circulation and they’re in the periabdominal fat where the battle is taking place.

TNF, Local Inflammation

Q: Interesting, leading to my next question, when we were talking about TNF, I was suspecting if someone has low TNF, these blood tests for systemic levels of TNF don’t check your local levels in your gut or places where you’re having inflammation.

A: That’s very true. And probably one of the things that all of us as clinicians miss, is someone telling us their gut doesn’t work right. They’ve got a gut sense that something’s wrong, at the gut level. Their neural humoral system is sending a powerful message. Now it’s probably so involved there and localized you probably never, or could possibly ever get into a systemic level.


Q: What about CRP? I think that it’s a bad measure, but could be a good measure in a certain way. For instance, I know that when I was eating lectins my CRP was low for the conventional standards, (less than 1), but higher than my own retest. So my hs-CRP was .7 while eating lectins, but as I stayed away from lectins it went to .25.

A: So years ago when CRP and ESR were really our only markers that we could get at a non-university setting, he noticed, in general, most of these people with some form of irritable bowel or fibromyalgia had high CRP. He wrote a paper at the American Heart Association, that elevated CRP was a marker of oral dysbiosis, and if he had people floss every other day, their CRPs would fall (every day is good, he just hates flossing). He studied 500 patients over a 5 month period and found the more they flossed the lower their CRP went. He was convinced a lot of what was going on was happening in the mouth, which is an important part of the gut. Then there were these people who were still running low levels of highly sensitive CRP. It wasn’t until inflammatory cytokines became more available that he started measuring them in lectin sensitive people. When he took lectins away, that was the final straw that broke the CRP back. The problem with CRP is it’s an acute phase reactant. If a dog scratches you, you have a cough or cold, or a bruise, or just had dental work, this can affect it… but it’s a good screening tool in if you were to see someone every 3 months with chronically elevated CRP. Then you can’t account for these other causes like daily bruises or dog scratches that day. Many of these people are hypothyroid. He learned this very early when he first started practice in restorative medicine. A lot of his patients were overweight husbands who were brought kicking and screaming by their skinny wives for him to fix them. He made the wives do the blood tests too, and do the complete physical and history. The amazing thing about these women was they were almost all hypothyroid, on antidepressants, on stomach acid reducer, had arthritis, and high cholesterol. These supposedly healthy, skinny women had arthritis on their knuckles, which they assumed was normal, and was a sign they were lectin sensitive. When they got on the diet their husbands were on, the nodules on their knuckles were gone. He’s now convinced that all arthritis is from lectins.


Q: I also get a lot of the skinny types – skinny and anxious. I actually have a post on reasons why you’re thin, anxious, and have inflammatory issues. There are two transcription factors- PPAR-gamma and STAT3… lower PPAR-gamma will cause you to be thinner but have more inflammation, and if you have more STAT3 you will be thinner but have more inflammation. TNF-alpha is a fat buster as well. I’ve also noticed low T3. My explanation is that it’s from inflammation and oxidative stress. Do you have any insights on why people are having low T3 when they are lectin sensitive?

A: Good question. We also look at reverse T3 in all of our patients and I’ve never been too impressed with getting reverse T3s. There may be 2 reasons: they either have Hashimoto’s, some of them it’s as simple as replacing iodine in the diet. One of the striking things over last 10 years, everyone switched to sea salt. The only smart government mandate that was ever made is that you have to put iodine in salt. So a lot of times getting Morton salt, adding chlorella, spirulina to the diet will pop up T3 pretty interestingly. On the other hand, there’s about 20 percent, particularly women, who won’t convert T4 into T3. He’s gone toe to toe with endocrinologists who claim his doesn’t happen, and if you talk to any pharmacologists they will say that’s crazy. These are the women who years ago when all we had was armor thyroid (combo ofT4 and T3) that when Synthroid/levothyroxine came out, everyone said well we don’t have to do pig thyroid anymore… we’re going to put all women on T4 because we know T4 is the active hormone. 20 % of women would come back and say they don’t feel the same. Endocrinologists would say T4 levels are perfectly normal and TSH is normal, you’re crazy, here’s a SSRI. What was happening with these women was they didn’t have enough free T3. You often miss it when you just do T3. If you had 5 or 10 micrograms of T3 and 2 weeks later they come back and they’re normal. T3 is still to this day really not appreciated as an incredibly important missing piece of this hormonal puzzle. He doesn’t know why lectins do this, and knows from Hashimoto’s standpoint he likes the theory of molecular mimicry, and thinks it explains almost everything -not only why plants use lectins as a defense mechanism. And if you want you can go into why particularly since you know about TLR and TLR4, the idea is that toll-like receptors are looking at a molecular barcode. All TLRs are doing is deciding if this protein is known to you, or unknown, or if it matches a protein that you’ve had experience with in the past that is probably a bacteria or virus. Before the days of antibiotics, those would be very bad things that you ought to inform your immune system about.

Q: What do you think the ideal levels of T3 are? The ranges are picograms. Every lab is different usually it’s over 2.5. I noticed I would like mine to be over 3. Historically I’ve been about 2.6, which has been improving since. What are your ideal levels of free T3 and total T3?

A: The idea is the right level is the level that restores your sensation of normalcy. Surgeons are taught to not listen to people. You must listen to people. Lab tests are great but so many times it’s the subjective feeling that we have a normal 2.5, 2.8 or 3, or maybe 4, and TSH is down to 2 or maybe 1.5. Everything looks great and yet someone is saying they have fatigue, hair is still falling out. So then he says let’s do 5-10 more micrograms of T3 and then looks at numbers. Example: Man in 60s, TSHs always running about 5, so he’s clinically hypothyroid, even though free T3 and free T4 are in the low normal range. He has fatigue, low motivation. So he does iodine, and he felt a little better but still not right. Then he gave him 25 micrograms of Synthroid, a ‘placebo dose,’ and the next time he came in, not only was T4 higher, but also T3. TSH was down to 1 or less than 1. He felt great. We have to listen to people.

Q: Definitely. I think in those cases we know the sensitivity of T3 varies. I’m studying circadian rhythms and T3 now. For example, certain circadian rhythm genes influence the sensitivity of T3, and we know that that varies throughout the day. So a lot of times these people with T3 problems also have circadian rhythm problems, I think SIRT1 as well.

Blue Light

A: Yes, and you probably know the gut microbiome has its own circadian rhythm. And many times we’re beginning to realize the gut microbiome receives information in terms of even circulating melatonin. They actually receive information from blue light receptors in our retina. If you’re getting blue light at 11pm, it’s the middle of summer in Minnesota, and you should be eating and awake, but if you’re sitting in front of computer/tv and getting bombarded by blue light at night, you’re not only screwing up your brain melatonin, but you’re probably changing the circadian rhythm of your gut flora.

(ME): Very interesting. I’m definitely a blue light nazi- I keep away from blue light. I’m assuming that you also put emphasis on that.

A: Yes, blue light is great in the morning, it’s great right after lunch when everyone is falling asleep, but after 6pm, particularly in the winter, you have to put blue blockers on, or you have to put a red filter on your screens. There’s actually a great new lightbulb that’s come out, called the sleep light, by lighting sciences. It just got released and got a big write-up. He knows these guys. It’s been put out for mothers because they don’t sleep and it helps babies too. Even red lights weren’t doing it, so a light was invented that specifically emits no blue light. It is a LED light but looks like a regular light bulb. The mother can see, she can read, it doesn’t wake her up, and it’s almost as if the baby is sleepwalking. She/he wakes up to eat, then falls back asleep, it’s really exciting.

(ME): Interesting, I have some cheaper fluorescent bulbs that block out the blue light, hopefully, they are blocking out all of the blue light. As far as the program that you’re talking about, f.lux, I spoke to a researcher who measured if there was blue light coming out of it. He said it was less, but there still is, which is interesting.

A: Yea so these guys are amazing scientists, they came about because of NASA, and on the space station one day is like 28 minutes or something like that. Their sleep patterns were so crazy disrupted. They worked with this company out of the Kennedy Space Center in Coco Beach, FL, to come up with lights that would totally eliminate the blue spectrum by using LED. It’s on in the space station; these lights are actually how they control sleeping patterns in the space center.

Lectins, Autoimmune Disease

Q: What percent of people with autoimmune conditions get better with a low-lectin diet?

A: All plant tissue have lectins in them, so you can’t completely get rid of lectins. Plants were here first. They had it great before animals arrived because nothing ate them. Plants don’t want to be eaten, they have a life. It’s difficult convincing people that plants have no desire for you to eat them or eat their seeds/babies unless their seeds end up being surrounded by an impermeable cell, surrounded by fruit, then they do want you to eat them so you’ll excrete the babies somewhere else. When plants arrive they have predators, particularly insects. Plants can’t run, or fight, but they are chemists. They can turn sunlight into matter, so they use chemical warfare. This chemical warfare causes the animal to not feel well and think, “You know, every time I eat these plant babies my stomach hurts,” or, “I’m not growing, I think I’ll go eat something else.” Plant and animal win, everyone’s happy. Then humans arrive. Plants to this day can’t imagine how stupid they are. We keep eating these things then keep taking prescriptions. The best example of that sort of feature: cows are designed to eat grasses. On the other hand, no other mammal has been seen eating grasses or grains. No great apes will, although occasionally baboons will. We have no system for interacting with the lectins of grasses. Our immune system sees lectins, leaves, tree leaves, and feels that you don’t have to get excited about them. Imagine what happened 10,000 years ago when we started interacting with the lectins of grasses, which we had never seen. Now all of a sudden you don’t have a gut flora that’s adapted to grass lectins, but your immune system has never seen these things. If you think of it from that standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. Men and women were 6 feet tall 10,000 years ago. Our brain was 15% bigger than it is today. All cultures that use agriculture, except the cultures who have lower lectin diet, have arthritis.

Q: What did they do 10,000 years ago or 5,000 years ago? I am assuming these problems weren’t nearly as problematic as they are today?

A: Yea, he thinks they were. Grains and beans are a storable form of food, which is convenient. At the same time, every study shows we’ve suffered immensely – we’ve dropped in stature and our illnesses increased. He thinks the priest class was essential to convince people that these new foods were from heaven – “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Q: What percentage of the population is lectin-sensitive?

A: He thinks everyone is lectin sensitive, and the degree depends on how your gut flora has evolved to handle lectins, how your gut flora teaches your immune system about whether they should stand down or get hyper-excited. We can think of our ‘normal’ gut flora as 5lbs sitting around on the beach, and we have patrol cars going by, saying those guys are good kids, they aren’t going to get into any trouble tonight, let’s let them be. Imagine a couple gang members move into your neighborhood. Now all of a sudden you’re putting up bars on windows, gated communities, and neighborhood watch patrols that are shooting guys with hoodies without asking questions. So that’s the difference. You can have a gut flora that educates our immune system that things are good here, and to just calm down, or you can have a couple of gang members and now your immune system is on high alert… and TNF-alpha is up. Where on the spectrum everyone falls, clearly there is a genetic component, but environmental factors also come into play (such as roundup). It’s multifactorial. He thinks everyone is sensitive, though. Another reason he got interested was that years ago he took a low carb approach like Ron Rosedale. If you know his work he’s a huge defender that low T3 is an amazing sign that you’re eating a ketogenic diet. Logic escapes him.

Q: Do you eat a ketogenic diet?

A: No. He does a lot of intermittent fasting. What he tries to do is limit the time food is being digested. It’s during digestion that you have to open borders to get food into you, and every time you eat, your body is flooded with billions of LPS (“little pieces of sh*t”). Logically that doesn’t seem like a good idea. We have to look at what we assume our ancestors did, also what current hunter gathers did. They aren’t sitting around snacking all day.

Q: Since you’re the only one who’s done a human study on lectins, can you tell me about this? You didn’t publish it yet.

A: Yes, he presented it at the American Heart Association. He’s too busy publishing his second book and he doesn’t have time. Next week he’s going to a microbiota meeting in Paris, in the Institute in Pasteur, where he’s going to show that limiting lectins dramatically improves ulterior flexibility, determined by plethysmography. It’s pretty exciting because you can reintroduce lectins and show that arteries get stiff, then take lectins out for a month, and show that arteries become flexible again.

Plant-Based Lectin Diets

Q: What do you think about a whole food, plant-based lectin diet? In studies like Campbell’s and others, what do you think about this group’s seemingly contradiction? Especially with studies related to heart disease?

A: Great question. I have a lot of T Campbell and Ornish failures who have progressed their heart disease. And you’ll actually notice that Ornish, Campbell, and Esselstyn have never published a study of ulterior reversal except for six patients in Esselstyn’s group, and six patients in Orner’s group.

Q: And they were probably a selected bunch.

A: Yes, 50 percent of Esselstyn’s group checked out because they couldn’t do the diet, and 50% of Orner’s group checked out because they couldn’t do the diet. 1. We weren’t designed to eat these foods or 2. If you look at the China study, what T Campbell did is univariate analysis, where he wanted to prove that animal proteins are evil. So, all he did was look at animal protein consumption. This is one variable and placed all conclusions on that. There was a huge fan of his, Denise Minger, who writes the Raw Food SOS blog. She was such a huge fan that she wanted to prove how correct he was by using multivariable analysis. So she took the raw data and put it through linear regression multivariable analysis. What she found was the opposite of what he found. She found that animal protein was a confounding variable because people in the south who were eating a lot of fish had a ton of liver flukes that were causing them to die prematurely because of cirrhosis of the liver. But the most telling of the data was that if you looked at the grains that were consumed, people in the north have a wheat-based diet, where the south has a rice-based diet. Incidentally, the rice is white rice, not brown rice. The people in the north, if you solve for that kind of grain, have a much higher incidence of heart disease by eating wheat, than those in the south eating rice. So actually this profoundly changed her, and she got into warfare with Campbell, writing blogs, and she stopped being a raw vegan.

He likes to look at the Kitavans. The Kitavans are south pacific islanders. They are fascinating, have been studied extensively. About 95% smoke. They all live into their mid-90s with basically no medical care. Never been documented case with coronary disease or stroke. One of the theorists in this is that they don’t have a major lectin-containing diet. Their biggest starch is cassava, and they cook it (it is high in lectins if you don’t cook it). This is one of the lectins that can be destroyed by cooking (wheatgerm and glutenin can’t be destroyed by heat, however). 30% of diet is coconut or coconut oil, then they eat some fish, and some fruits and vegetables. They ought to have massive heart disease, but they don’t.

Q: A question I get asked a lot is if you get rid of lectins when you cook them.

A: It depends. There are certain lectins that clearly can’t be destroyed without a pressure cooker. He has a number of vegans and vegetarians that will not give up grains for either religious or moral reasons, even though he can convince them it’s killing them. He’s never seen sicker people than vegans who aren’t taking some form of DHA supplement. With those people he makes them use a pressure cooker to cook everything. They will do fine if they use a pressure cooker.

Q: So if someone uses a pressure cooker, are there still lectins? Is that still ok?

A: That is ok, the lectins are destroyed.

Q: Do you eat lectins with a pressure cooker?

A: No. He doesn’t eat things that we weren’t designed to eat. There are still plenty of other things like phytates that are bad for us. Beans are so dangerous that the federal government requires all canned beans to be pressure cooked. It’s the only requirement for pressure cooking of any canned good.

Q: I’m still sensitive to beans, and they’re pressure cooked. What does that mean? Am I sensitive to something else other than lectins?

A: Yes, we’re just beginning to understand the proteins, because no one’s really been interested in them. I think most people who think they’re sensitive to gluten, are actually sensitive to wheat germ or glutenin or the other lectins. If you think about it, no one’s really been sensitive to wonder bread growing up. For 10,000 years we’ve been trying to make bread white. Only the poor people got the brown bread because the brown bread had the whole bran in it… 5 billion people use white rice as their staple. If brown rice was so good for you then why do 5 billion people go through the trouble of taking the hull off of rice and eat it white, which is devoid of nutrients?

Q: Playing devil’s advocate… there are studies on whole grains that they are beneficial for certain aspects of health. How would you interpret those studies if the whole grains have lectins?

A: He doesn’t have a problem with whole grains in an isolated culture that has not been on antibiotics their entire life, that the grains haven’t been sprayed with glyphosate, etc… Studies are taken out of context… Plus the vast majority of whole grain studies are done in rodents. Rodents are grain predators – they have a completely different ecosystem for dealing with grains.

Q: I think there may be some studies looking at populations who are eating whole grains or certain cohorts. Do the studies say they have higher benefits or lower; I don’t know.

A: It’s interesting those studies actually show that those people have a high incidence of arthritis. The Sardinians are some of the longest-living people. They are held up in very high respect. We are told that they eat grains, beans, they must be good for us. But Sardinians have the highest incidences of autoimmune disease of any population.

Q: The Romans used to look at legumes as spiritually polluting.

A: Beans don’t like us. Five raw kidney beans or raw black beans will kill you in 5 minutes by agglutinating your blood.

Q: You mentioned lectins in the blood, what do you think of Dr. D’adamo with his blood type diet… there’s no study on it but do you have a take?

A: His original thinking was that he set up a paper tiger to knock it down because the vast majority of people are type O. Isn’t it interesting that the type O diet is the best selling diet and easiest to manipulate. But there’s a couple of recent papers that show that Enterocytes (gut cells) have blood group antigens detection on them. So I want to give him his due. He may be far ahead, may be onto something here. Gundry’s next book is about pattern receptors and pattern matching and how we communicate basically through pattern signals. It’s the same thing with lectin and the thyroid. Lectins look remarkably like thyroid proteins, the synovial tissue of joints, myelin sheaths, and so on, and if you’ve stimulated your immune system and then your immune system has scrambled fighter jets and white cells are roaming the body, they come across your thyroid. They think, “oh my gosh this poor guy, his thyroid is covered with lectins, we should shoot to kill, we shouldn’t ask questions. We need to surprise them.” So it’s basically friendly fire. Plants are supposed to do this-they had 4 billion years to figure this out. They don’t think like we supposedly think, but it’s probable that our bacteria is doing most of our thinking. Plants are subject to certain evolutionary pressures. If they come up with a chemical formulation that makes their predator less prevalent or less effective, then that chemical formulation gets propagated and everyone wins except their predator.

Q: How long does someone have to be on the lectin-avoidance diet in order for their markers to change, or in order for something to change?

A: What happens is everyone has a degree of damage in their gut, whether it’s because gut flora is totally deranged, we know from the human microbiome project that one round of antibiotics can pretty much decimate bacterial flora for 2 years. What people have to understand is that this is a complex ecosystem within us. It’s kind of like an Amazon rainforest. If we think we drop napalm on this rainforest and burn it to the ground with antibiotics which are what we’re doing, it’s really naive to think in 2 weeks with prebiotics and probiotics we’re going to have a rainforest again. No, we’re going to have a few populations that grow and then they will intermingle. So he’s seen in some people it’s taken a year to seal their gut, or reestablish their rainforest. On the other hand, just someone this week, a new patient who was on the wrong diet for 2 years, felt immediate effects after 2 weeks. Best 7 days in her life since she can remember.

Q: More about the study that you conducted – which autoimmune conditions did you notice the biggest benefit from staying away from lectins? Also curious about how you selected the foods in the diet- How did you figure which foods were the worst?

A: He started years ago with his first book. The diet you see in the matrix was the original diet he designed. His editor knew it wasn’t going to be a popular diet. The book is a compromise. There are autoimmune people in that book because they are actually following the matrix – it’s not mentioned in the book. So when the book came out and a lot of people with autoimmune disease started seeing him, he recognized it and put them on the original autoimmune diet.

He started researching lectins – there’s not a whole lot out there. Then he started doing some things like looking at people who had their tonsils out. Many people with autoimmune disease have had their tonsils out. Your tonsils are basically the two fortresses that guard the harbor and is the initial place that lectins meet. The other thing is that mucous is a mural polysaccharide and lectins target our sugar molecules, that’s what lectins bind to. So mucous production is actually designed to trap lectins, it’s not there for any other purpose because nothing else is going to get trapped in it. So when you start interviewing people, asking if they had a lot of tonsillitis growing up, if they had a lot of post-nasal drips, sinusitis, it’s usually a yes. Tonsillitis and tonsillectomy are a big marker for these people. He had these tonsilloliths, little white rocks that come from your tonsils. He didn’t know what they were-they are bunches of dead white cells from lectins. Many people with autoimmune disease have had them. This is another marker of how important our immune system is. Have a ton of people with sinus congestion who had drainage, their sinuses clear up once you take lectins out because you no longer have a reason to pump out mucous.

Lectins: Anti-Cancer or No?

Q: What about cancer and lectins? We know that lectins are anti-cancer. What’s your take on that?

A: He tracks a marker that looks at about 8 genes associated with colon cancer. It gives a score, it’s off of a blood test, and he repeats the test usually once a year. Starts with a baseline score, and when he takes lectins out of their diet, their score becomes more and more negative. So you’re turning off more of these genes. If the score starts advancing, they will have a colonoscopy and almost always there’re some polyps that ought to come out. But they’ve been really excited to see these scores -2 to -10 fold risk for example, from a client that morning, after a year of lectin avoidance. So he went to a perfect score in just one year.

Autoimmune “Cure?”

Q: Wow. What percentage of your study participants, those 800 people, got cured of their autoimmune conditions after six months with lectin-avoidance diet?

A: Knock on wood haven’t seen anyone remain with an autoimmune condition on this program. He’s sure he will but hasn’t yet.

Matrix Program

Q: Can you describe your matrix program?

A: Basically eliminate all foods you would have come in contact with since 10,000 years ago. So that’s all grains, beans. All of us in the United States are either European, Asian, or African ancestry. That means none of us ever encountered a lectin from North or South America until 500 years ago when Columbus started to trade. All of us actually encountered Asian lectins because Asian trade and African and European trade was established since beginning civilization. So then you want to eliminate American foods, they are particularly dangerous, like-corn, quinoa, nightshades, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, goji berries.

(ME): I do horribly on goji berries.

A1 Beta-Casein

A: Yes. Chia seeds are also American; two human studies show that chia seeds promote inflammation in humans. Peanuts and cashews are American beans; they aren’t nuts. Sunflower and pumpkin are American seeds, terrible for lectin-sensitive people. Squash family-zucchini, pumpkins, and tomatoes and peppers, in general, if you peel and de-seed they are pretty safe (lectins are primarily in the peels and seeds).

The last thing is casein A1. 2,000 years ago Northern European cows suffered a genetic mutation. They started making a protein in their milk that’s called casein A1. It’s a very potent lectin-like substance. It’s changed into beta casein morphine 1 which is a direct attacker of the beta cell the pancreas. Unfortunately, Northern European cows are heartier, they get more milk, so almost all cows in the world are the wrong breed of cow, including ours. Southern European cows, goats, sheep, and water buffalo are Casein A2 producers and they’re perfectly safe. So what he asks people to do is avoid all American or Northern European or Australian or New Zealand cow milk products, even if it’s grass fed. Grass feed does not change the fact that they make casein A1. If they see a black and white cow on the label, like Irish butter, it’s A1. Goat butter and yogurt are safe. In general cheeses from France, Italy, Switzerland, are the right breed of cow. Greek yogurt doesn’t come from Greece, it’s American cow yogurt-just stay away from it.

Q: What about legumes, are there any grains that are allowed?

A: No grains.

Q: Are there any fruits that are out?

A: Yes the fruits that are out-tomato, peppers. Persimmons are one of the safest fruits. It’s a resistant starch. Also, crispy pears-hard skinny pears are actually a very safe fruit. Interesting data shows it improves gut flora – the type you want. Take Apple Cider Vinegar 1-2 times a day. Can put in Pellegrino for your ‘new diet coke.’

Lectin Blockers

Q: I’ve experimented with lectin blockers… I’ve taken high dosages of various kinds: EDTA, Sialic Acid, N-Acetyl-Glucosamine, Mannose, etc.. are some of the main ones I’ve tried. What do you think of taking lectin blockers?

A: I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Timing is probably everything. A lot of these are ground up shrimp. Shells and chitin are a major attractor of lectins. I just tell clients to go to Costco and buy MSM, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and swallow a couple of these before every meal. On the other hand, there are so many lectins in food that capsules aren’t going to capture everything.

(ME): I only found these to work when taken a really large dosage, so I have to take like 10 capsules of sialic acid, but I don’t because of issues like GI discomfort.

A: Yes, it could be a little mischievous to neurotransmitters.


Book: “Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution: Turn Off the Genes that are Killing You and Your Waistline.“


  • Chitosan
  • Chlorella
  • Spirulina – before, after meals to detox and bind to excrete heavy metals. Buy this type. Not recommended for people who have food sensitivities
  • Fish oil/DHA
  • Probiotics
  • Glucosamine

The Lectin Avoidance Cookbook

Due to frequent queries about how to implement a lectin-free diet, I have released the Lectin Avoidance Cookbook. This cookbook will help you overcome autoimmune issues, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, histamine intolerance, chronic inflammation, or simply make you feel optimal.

While I and Dr. Gundry both agree that lectins can cause health problems, we have different opinions about how the diet should be implemented. Therefore, the SelfHacked Lectin Avoidance Diet is not a cookbook for Plant Paradox. My version is more restrictive as it is meant to guide you through an elimination diet, in order to identify foods that you can eat without increasing inflammation. In addition, I designed the diet in order to drastically reduce other plant substances that can activate the immune system.

The cookbook has 51 93 recipes and counting. We’ve also added the Lectin Avoidance Diet Companion Guide which answers the most frequently asked questions about lectins and lectin avoidance. The price is $37.

After you pay for the book, you will be redirected to a link where you can download it. The redirect takes about 5 to 10 seconds, so be patient. If you have any issues, email [email protected].

Try the cookbook, and if you don’t start feeling better within 30 days, I will give you 100% of your money back!

If you are not happy with the cookbook for any reason, email me within 30 days of your purchase, and I will refund your money!


About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen flipped the script on conventional and alternative medicine…and it worked. Growing up, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety, and other issues that were poorly understood in traditional healthcare. Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a learning journey to decode his DNA and track his biomarkers in search of better health. Through this personalized approach, he discovered his genetic weaknesses and was able to optimize his health 10X better than he ever thought was possible. Based on his own health success, he went on to found SelfDecode, the world’s first direct-to-consumer DNA analyzer & precision health tool that utilizes AI-driven polygenic risk scoring to produce accurate insights and health recommendations. Today, SelfDecode has helped over 100,000 people understand how to get healthier using their DNA and labs.
Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, with a mission of empowering people to take advantage of the precision health revolution and uncover insights from their DNA and biomarkers so that we can all feel great all of the time.


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(48 votes, average: 3.96 out of 5)

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles View All