How You May Be Unknowingly Destroying your Digestive Health—Especially if You Are Vegan!

By: Cat Ebeling, RN, MSN-PHN, co-author of the best-sellers:  The Fat Burning KitchenThe Top 101 Foods that Fight Aging & The Diabetes Fix

You may be eating lots of beans and grains because we’ve been told they are healthy and full of fiber, but this could be causing your health issues as well. You see, legumes and grains are full of a substance called ‘lectins’.

Lectins are a type of naturally occurring protein that is especially prevalent in grains and legumes. These lectins bind to carbohydrates, forming something called glycoproteins. Although all foods contain some lectins, only about 30% of the foods we eat contain them in significant amounts.

Lectins actually perform a number of healthy functions in the body including regulating the immune system, helping cells and molecules stick together, and fighting off bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Lectins are also known to have anti-cancer/anti-tumor properties as well.

Where lectins get their bad reputation is from eating too many of them—mostly in grains and beans. While lectins are in many highly nutritious foods, lectins can actually act more like a toxin in the body, and can contribute to health issues like leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune problems, and inflammation.

We humans have trouble digesting many of the lectins found in our food. Since lectins are “sticky” they can attach to the intestinal walls and cause digestive distress. Lectins can also separate the tiny intracellular junctions in the cells of the intestines, and cause a condition called ‘leaky gut’. This causes food substances like proteins to leak out into the bloodstream before they are fully broken down and digested. The result is widespread inflammation, and possible allergic reactions to these foreign proteins.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows that lectins can also aggravate autoimmune reactions including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and fibromyalgia. This makes sense, as autoimmune conditions result when the immune system begins to attack healthy cells in the body. This creates fatigue, chronic pain, and painful joints.

Lectins also act as an anti-nutrient, meaning that they can interfere with digestion and absorption of foods, upping the risk of nutritional deficiencies, and creating digestive problems like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and vomiting. Uncooked beans can actually cause lectin poisoning.

Symptoms of eating too many lectins


Here are a few of the most common symptoms that may occur with excess lectin intake:

• Bloating
• Joint Pain/swelling
• Gas
Stomach pains
• Vomiting
• Constipation
Skin problems

Why are vegetarians and vegans at risk? In order to get protein from plant-based foods, most vegans and vegetarians have to rely heavily on grains and beans. In fact, combining grains and beans is one way that vegans can get all the amino acids for protein in their diets.

Legumes including peas, beans (of all kinds), soybeans, peanuts, and grains, contain the most lectins, followed by dairy, and plants in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

Here is a list of the worst lectin foods:

1. Potatoes (regular white potatoes, not sweet potatoes)
2. Red Kidney Beans
3. Eggplant
4. Soybeans
5. Lentils
6. Peppers (all kinds)
7. Wheat/gluten
8. Peas
9. Tomatoes
10. Peanuts
11. Corn
12. Wheat

Why are lectins such a problem?


According to Dr. Gundry, M.D., who wrote the book, “The Plant Paradox” about dietary lectins:

“…our microbiomes are capable of eating lectins…We’ve killed off most of our good bugs [that would eat up lectins] with broad-spectrum antibiotics…and artificial sweeteners…Just one packet of artificial sweetener kills 50 percent of the bacteria in our guts.”

Lectins are controversial, but increased toxins in our environment, glyphosate in our foods, prescription medications and overuse of antibiotics, is definitely changing the shape of our microbiomes.

The ironic thing about lectins is that they are typically associated with foods that are nutrient-dense, so giving up lectin-containing foods means cutting out a large variety of healthy foods. For vegans and vegetarians, this would mean eliminating many foods that supply needed protein in a meatless diet.

Although lectins have been associated with a slew of negative side effects, you don’t need to totally eliminate all lectin-rich foods from your diet altogether. You can actually reduce the lectin content of foods you eat by changing how you prepare them and still enjoy their other qualities.

When prepared properly you can reduce the lectin content in foods. Legumes of all kinds (beans, peas, etc) must be cooked well to lower the lectins. One of the quickest and easiest ways to cook the lectins out of foods is to use a pressure-cooker or Instapot. Be sure beans are well-done. Kidney beans have one of the highest levels of lectins and even a few undercooked kidney beans can make you very sick!

Soaking and sprouting grains and seeds is also effective to lower lectin content. Seeds and beans can be soaked for 24 hours, rinsed and drained frequently and then sprouted. Sprouting decreases lectin content and other antinutrients and also increases the nutrition.

Fermentation is another excellent way to reduce lectins while increasing beneficial bacteria.

However, if you have serious health issues such as autoimmune, digestive issues or celiac disease—all of which are related to lectins in your diet, you may want to avoid them all together.

If you are giving up lectins to see if it improves your health, it may take some time. Most people notice a difference within two weeks, but it can take two, three, four, five, or even six months to really get your gut health back. If you rely on high lectin foods to supply your protein, you may be better off trying to incorporate some other naturally raised animal proteins into your diet.

And an additional note:

– Don’t confuse ‘lectins’ with ‘leptins’ or ‘lecithin’.
LECTINS are a protein substance in foods that can irritate the gut.
LEPTINS are a hormone that has to do with hunger and feeling full.
– And LECITHIN is a nutritional type of fat found in soy and other foods that is good for brain function


About The Watchdog

Mike Geary has been a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for over 15 years now. He has been studying nutrition and exercise for almost 25 years, ever since being a young teenager. Mike is originally from Pennsylvania, but has fallen in love with mountain life and now resides in the picturesque mountains of Utah. Mike is an avid adventurist and when he’s not spending his time skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or paddleboarding on the lake, he has enjoyed skydiving, whitewater rafting, piloting an Italian fighter plane (seriously), scuba diving, heli-skiing, and traveling all around the world, enjoying learning about different cultures. At the age of 40, Mike now feels healthier, stronger, and more energetic than when he was 20... All because of a healthy lifestyle and great nutrition!

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  1. Nutritionwatchdog, Your article is full of unscientifically based information. References weighing heavily using Dr Axe (a chiropractor) and Dr Gundry (his own book sites fraudulent references; his entire lectin theory has been proven WRONG!) tell the tale. Please spend some time reading and/or watching and learning from the following reputable and responsible physicians and scientists: Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr Dean Ornish, Dr T Colin Campbell, Dr Neal Barnard, Dr Brooke Goldner and Dr Michael Gregor. From them and their scientifically proven studies and/or information, you will see that the whole food plant based or “vegan” diet is the healthiest diet in the world. We were meant to eat vegetables, fruits and legumes and we receive all the nutrients we need by eating from these foods for our entire lives. I also encourage you to read/watch Dr Doug Lisle and Dr Goldhammer. Fascinating info on why it is challenging to leave the standard American diet way of eating!

    • no, a vegan diet is not the healthiest diet in the world…far from it

      • the main thing a vegetarian and vegan should think of is Vitamin B12, but if one eats mushrooms that should take care of B12, this will make the homocysteine go up, which in turn will give bad cholesterol blood test results

        • there are a LOT more things a vegan/vegetarian needs to think of than simply b12. While that’s very important, it’s definitely not the only thing

        • there was a error with mushrooms that posting should be deleted, I wondered why my vitamin B12 went up when I started to eat mushrooms it came from something else

        • I try to eat different vegetables and fruits day to day. I am really doing this for health reasons as I have both diabetes II and pancreatitis. The diet for each is bad for the other and so for me it is like walking a tightrope, but I have been doing well so far.

          Thanks for the tip about the worse lectin foods; I will copy this and tape it to the refrigerator to remind me to be wary of them.

    • Tatiana Nicholas

      Thank you for your input

  2. Michelle Staples

    Millions of people around the world would argue that, Watchdog. Im over 70 and I’ve been vegan for over 10 yrs, and veg for 5 yrs before that, and I’ve avoided a hip replacement and still hike, kept my weight down, no longer have digestive problems, and, to me, because of my spiritual practices, I can sleep well at night knowing I’m not responsible for the terror, torture, mutilation, and death of fellow sentient beings. Our culture tells us that this planet, and all that’s on her, were designed for and are the sole property of humans …. mainly white humans. Not so. These fellow inhabitants have a right to live here in peace as much as we do. All your justifications about grass fed this and love my animals that are a specious argument to justify your actions. The vast majority of animal eaters are unhealthy, have heart problems, and mindlessly eat animals because “they taste good”. I’ll put my cholesteral numbers up against theirs any day.

    • The Bible says we can eat meat! Also if you are liberal left wing in thinking then you most likely care more about animals than human babies that are being slaughtered in the millions for so called choice and if that is not bad enough we sell the baby parts for big money??

      Adam and Eve were vegetarians until they sinned!! The sin nature is passed down to us all and it is a curse on Creation, so our bodies break down quicker and we need the extra protein from animals now and then.

      Jesus did come to earth born through a virgin and he was sinless! He willingly went to the cross to die for our sins. You would do well to accept him as your Lord and Savior for Salvation!

      • Hey Larry, this debate about liberals not caring for babies being killed is not true. How is it that non liberals care about babies but do not care about killings of big people and children. Killing is not for anyone but GOD. Just because one is liberal does not mean we agree with killing babies. One issue does not define liberals. Believe it or not I have seen facebook messages saying if you believe in homosexulas you cant be christian. Who here on earth has given us the right to judge anyone. So what are we supposed to do with them, disown them. The Bible says to love one another which is the most important out of all the commandments. Let God and his son Jesus do the Judging not us. I suppose you are a trump suppoter, his son was telling people that he has a meeting with gays for Trump and Trump himself approved for Regenorone, medication for Covid which uses aborted fetus material to make it.

      • We actually stayed vegetarian‘s until after the flood. That’s when God told Noah he could eat some of the animals
        For food.

    • I know a woman that went Vegan and she started to have mental problems!! She bragged how her arteries were as clean as a babies!! She ended up on a pace maker and had other health issues!! She was also atheist and did not believe in God! She died alone in her home and did not find her body for 8 days!!! It was sad

      I tried to talk to her about God to no avail

    • Very well said !
      I have met 3 generations of whole-life vegan-vegetarians: couple in their 70s, their children (2 surgeons:daughter and son-in-law) and their two grandchildren (bouncy, energetic and very happy 7 & 9 y.o.). The older couple said that their parents were vegetarians all their life and they lived to 98 and 102.
      All these people never ate meat and never felt deprived.

  3. You should read Dr Barnars books. I have been a vegetarian most of my life. I grew up in the SDA church, and they are listed in the Vegan books. The only Americans who made it in the Blue Zone Book, are the SDA folks in Loma Linda Calif. These folks live over 100 years old. They are have a Spiritual side, and are Vegetarians.
    I had Endometriosis, and could not get pregnant. I gave up Dairy, and had our Son on Thanksgiving, and I thanked God for leading me to a Dairy free diet. Go the The Harvard study, The Dangers Of Milk. It contributes to breast cancer, and Endometriosis. Had I not given up dairy. We would not have our son, his wife, and our grandchildren. Hope you share this. Pamela Griffin

  4. I meant Dr Bernard’s Plant Based Book.Amazing book. You should read this book. Also, our Rainforest is being destroyed so folks can have cattle. I always say, I do not see a Slaughter house in Heaven. We could feed the children in the world if folks stopped eating meat. You should look to the oain for the cows.
    Please educate yourself..
    And read this with your heart and Brain. Pamela

  5. I think eating meat affects the brain, this is why most meat eaters hate vegetarians and vegans by default.

    And I believe it when they say “that some blood groups can not eat meat”, when I stopped eating dairy I stopped getting blocked up nose.

    I heard a story how a cub (lion) lost its parents and so never saw its lion parents eating meat, when it was given meat to eat that cub never liked the meat and so grew up to be vegetarian, many years later it was seen by a veterinarian, the veterinarian said he had never seen such a fine specimen of a lion before in his life.

    There are some races of people around the world that just can not handle milk (dark skin race), yet they are dictated by the rest of the world by a race that can handle milk (pale skin people) that they should drink milk.

    • not sure I believe that lion story, but even still that would be such a far outlier. That would be just as silly as saying a baby cow (calf) didn’t have its mother to get milk from, nor model ranging on grasses, etc. but absolutely loved chasing down rabbit and deer to devour them. It’s silly, right? Cows have multi-chambered stomachs that are meant for the eating/digestion of grasses, etc. Lions have big pointy teeth meant to tear muscle and kill.

      I do think you’re right about specific types of peoples not being able to handle specific types of foods, and rather being able to thrive on others. Nordic peoples for example.

      Also… meat eating definitely doesn’t make one more aggressive or filled with hate, lol

    • Dr. Bernard Jensen wrote a book back in the 60s the healing food for man you need to eat from where your genetics come from this way you were feeling the best the genetics determine your diet?✌️

    • So you are saying that Lions that are designed to eat meat can get quit eating meat?? Look at their teeth!! Are their teeth not designed for eating meat!!!

    • I think vegetarians and vegans have mental problems!! Most are very liberal left wing, support abortion and dont believe in God!!

    • Most people should not be drinking milk. The nutritional profile of milk is designed for the baby animal of that species.
      That’s why most human babies do far better in their first year of life if they are breast-fed. How is milk is for baby cows. Certainly the way we now pasteurize it it becomes less useful to us and more harmful potentially. I don’t think anyone above the age of 10 years old should be drinking milk. It has been shown to cause all sorts of reactions in the body. In fact many humans are allergic to dairy products.

      This however has nothing to do with whether we should eat meat or not. The cows milk is very different than the Muscle tissue of a steer. The meat we eat is perfectly suited for our digestive systems and our proteins requirements. That does not mean we need to eat meat every day I think most Americans eat way more than necessary. A good solid diet of fruits and vegetables is certainly more nutritious in many ways. We need those Fito nutrients found in all types of fruits and vegetables.
      My biggest concern with fruits and vegetables is the amount of pesticides and herbicides we use. Poisonous fertilizers and just overall poor farming habits. The overused soil we are growing them in. All of these things lead to much less nutrition in the fruits and vegetables we eat and the potential for harm especially if the products are GMO.

  6. Dr Gundry has since said he was wrong about beans as long as they are pressure cooked or cooked in an instapot. In fact all the blue zone one common food is beans.

    • A huge number of people will still have issues with beans. The big problem is too few people actually pay attention to how foods react within their bodies and just eat things because someone, most likely a government-funded entity, said they were “healthy.” Same with vegetables, or highly-processed boxed foods labeled “gluten free.” One of my big goals when it comes to teaching people about nutrition is to get people to pause and pay attention to how the foods they’re eating actually make them feel.

      • You said:

        “The big problem is too few people actually pay attention to how foods react within their bodies and just eat things because someone, most likely a government-funded entity, said they were “healthy.”

        You are aware of how the meat and dairy industry has ‘influenced’ the gov’t on the recommendations on the standard diet?

        Just curious, who funds your website?
        So much malarkey on here, its unreal.

        • More alarming is how much big food companies “influence” the government. Look at the trash that is the various iterations of the food pyramid if you need a basic example. Big food companies influence government entities far more than meat and dairy. That’s malarkey!

          Also – this website is self-funded. No boogie-men behind the curtain 🙂

  7. I am not a doctor but i have read alot of comments. So i will say that i think having a diet that is very flexible in eating a wide arrange of fruits and vegetables,preferably organic if you can does help. I tend to eat lean beef than any greassy chicken or pork. I definitely load up on alot of fish when i can.My total cholesterol is 160. Could use help to lower my bad cholesterol slightly.Glass of red wine does not hurt.I see people getting carried away with the vegan thing.I would be more concerned how things are grown or prepared.Thanks

  8. Bull Shit!!!

    The Bible clearly describe what food a human should eat and it is also clear that he was created to live on plant based food!!!!

  9. I cannot eat animals because of killing a thing. I cannot look an animal in the eyes and say I am going to eat you. Some say to eat animals that have no eyes–like oysters? Is there any other way to counteract this

  10. Two years ago, as a pescatarian of 40 years, I also cut out all grain and potatoes. I lost four stone in 5 months, had clearer thinking, needed less sleep, and all my joint pain went. I eat organic veg. I’m in the uk and during COVID lockdowns (we’re in our third) it’s been difficult to get some of my regular foods eg chickpeas and almond flour, so I’ve gone back to potatoes and bread. The weight is returning and I have joint pains again, as well as being debilitated with a bad back that’s not troubled me since I cut out milk. I do eat butter, cheese and eggs. I’m very conscious of the effect my eating has on my health. When I gave up meat, which I did because of cattle being fed both antibiotics and pellets containing reclaimed animal flesh including from diseased
    animals. It was a few years before CJD jumped from cattle to humans. I was called a crank but, when that happened, I felt vindicated. I grew up surounded by pastureland and had seen scrapie, which presents in the same way as CJD and I’m convinced that was the first species-jump that occurred and that it came through the unnatural foodstuff given to herbivore cattle. The bonus for me in giving up meat was that a muzzy-headedness that was my normal completely disappeared and I’ve probably had not much more than a dozen headaches in the 40 years since I ate meat. I’m 66, on no medication, have healthy readings in all areas (apart from a slightly high iron count – go figure!). My recommendation would be to pay attention to your body and how it reacts and craft your diet accordingly.

  11. All very interesting discussion, I agree to listen to our bodies because we are all different and what one can eat to feel good another cannot so eating a little bit of everything in moderation would probably work best for some. I stopped eating a lot of meat I have pot roast once in a while pork hardly ever, steak hardly ever mostly chicken, turkey, fish which I like a lot. I eat fruit and vegetables nuts mostly organic make salads and juice with fresh fruits and veges. Basically a variety of stuff a few can foods like sardines and tuna few box or bag items that are organic and bottle water oh soy milk. A mix of things but not a lot of anything specific.
    It seems to work for me I am 65.
    Switching to turkey from meat was when I heard about mad cow disease it scared me. But I know natural foods can get contaminated too. So everything is a chance with what we eat there is no one answer for everyone.
    God bless you all! Let’s just do the best we can and have faith.

  12. Just curious if anyone knows the answer to this. I eat a balanced diet but mostly mixed green salad with a healthy oil and clean meat added.
    I recently had a colonoscopy and had quite a few large polyps. Does anyone know if the salad could be causing this? My last colonoscopy 10 years ago, I had none

    • The best thing we all can do is read articles and books about our health. We need to be aware of anything we eat and anything we put on our skin! As there are alot of chemicals in skin care products that are banned in some countries and they go through the skin and can affect the CNS. These are found even in so called organic,/ natural products.! I myself healed a “uncurable” fungus infection in a few of my toes on one foot by improving my way of eating and using natural home remedies. After I read not to use soap on my feet as one of the suggestions while trying to heal I gave up showering with soap all together. The reason behind it is that the fungus is promoted by the soap because the soap takes away the natural flora and healthy bacteria from the skin. The flora is able to fight off bad bacteria and germs and fungus. Anyway its totally gone and once in a while I will soak my feet in warm water with the juice of a small organic lemon for about 12 mins. I don’t use any soap on my skin except to wash my hands, and of course if I get really grimy. I dont use any shampoo or conditioner and my scalp feels wonderful clean, soft and my skin never felt better! I “feel good in my own skin”. Besides that I went to a half price book store and got several books on health one was “Never Be Sick Again” by Raymond Francis I found it very interesting although i don’t agree with everything he says it was very informative. Another preventative book is “The Cure for All Cancer” by Hulda Clark PHD in physiology. Good luck and stay healthy!

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