Dietary lectins are associated with some intolerance reactions to food. Lectins are not considered a part of the food chemical intolerance syndrome, though they can cause similar negative reactions in vulnerable people. The effects of lectins are dose-related, and lectins can produce illness in any individual.
What are Essential Sugars?
“Essential sugars” is a bit of a misnomer, but one that is widely used. “Biologically active” sugars or “glyconutrients” is a more appropriate term, because like “essential fatty acids” from fish oils, we can actually make these valuable nutrients in our bodies. It’s just that our bodies would rather not go to the effort of making these nutrients because the process is laborious, inefficient, and sometimes lacking.
Some people, such as the very young and old, the sick, and those with chronic health problems such as thyroid, adrenal, blood sugar, or hormonal problems, people with certain ancestries, or those whose bodies are under stress due to toxicity reactions or a lack of nutrients have difficulty making essential fatty acids, and the same seems to apply to essential sugars.
Essential sugars are sugars that have specific biological functions within the body. Different types of sugars coat the surfaces of cells and help them to communicate with each other. These sugars are monosaccharides (made from one molecule) like glucose or fructose, not disaccharides like sucrose (which is a molecule of glucose and fructose joined together) or lactose (which is a molecule of glucose and galactose joined together.
So far eight sugars which have specific biological functions in the body have been found. They are:
- N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc)
- N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc)
- N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac), a form of sialic acid
All eight sugars are found in the myelin sheath that coats nerves and are important in correct nerve transmission inside and outside the brain. The sugars are woven together with amino acids to produce special protective proteins called glycoproteins. Low levels of glycoproteins have been connected to diseases like MS and schizophrenia. Salicylates are known to depress the ability of the body to produce essential sugars, particularly xylose, and weave sugars into glycoproteins, which is why they are relevant to failsafers.
Essential sugars are found in high concentrations in the kidney tubules suggesting they are important in correct kidney function, as well as in the testes where they may play a role in reproduction. They also have an important part to play in immune system modulation and normalisation and are found in white blood cells, macrophages and T cells.
They are also found in mucus and mucins (the excretions of the mucus membranes, both in the mouth and the intestines) which protect the body from invading pathogens and as such help the body to defend itself from infection. They may be relevant factors in preventing GERD, stomach ulcers, intestinal infections and diseases like Crohn’s, coeliac, and ulcerative colitis.
Fucose (not fructose, which has no biological function) is found in certain mushrooms, seaweeds including kelp, and beer yeast. As well as the above functions, Fucose also suppresses inflammatory reactions in the skin and can kill invading bacteria.
Galactose is found in the lactose of dairy products, and as a monosaccharide in many fruits and vegetables. Galactose is known as “the brain sugar,” and is vital for the correct brain development of babies and children (part of the reason that genuine lactose intolerance is extremely rare in babies). Excess galactose can be stored as glycogen and converted easily to glucose, though it does not stimulate insulin release by itself.
Glucose is found in or can be made from all carbohydrate foods, as well as from some amino acids and even the glycerine component of fats. Its primary role is in correct brain function and energy production associated with insulin release and glycogen storage. The body’s glucose storage capacity is limited and excess glucose is made into triglycerides (fats). Glucose also appears to have some body-building functions as it is present in the myelin sheath and the kidney tubules.
Mannose is found in cranberries, blueberries, black and red currants, gooseberries, green beans, fenugreek, capsicum, cabbage, aubergine, tomatoes, turnips, shiitake mushrooms, kelp, and aloe vera. It is vital in preventing and curing urinary tract infections and stomach ulcers. E. coli and salmonella, common food-poisoning bugs, are vulnerable to mannose supplementation. Mannose is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic. Mannose also stimulates collagen production and therefore plays a role in preventing arthritis and heart disease.
Galactosamine is similar in structure to galactose. It is found in bovine and shark cartilages and is a constituent of chondroitin sulphate, one of the building blocks of collagen. It appears to play a role in preventing inflammation and in joint function and collagen formation and is a popular arthritis remedy. When taken together with glucosamine, the absorption of both is enhanced.
Glucosamine is found in bovine and shark cartilage and in shiitake mushrooms. It is the major component of the arthritis remedy glucosamine sulphate. It too plays a role in preventing inflammation, in joint function, and collagen formation and repair. It is also found in the thyroid gland, the sebaceous glands of the skin, and the retinal tissues of the eyes. Glucosamine has been shown to decrease insulin secretion. When taken together with galactosamine the absorption of both is enhanced.
N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac), a form of sialic acid
Sialic acid is found in eggs and the whey component of dairy. Most animals produce a different form of sialic acid (Neu5Gc) which humans cannot use directly due to a mutation in our genetic makeup. Neu5Gc is particularly found in red meats and the whey component of dairy and may be a potential hapten-style allergen. Sialic acid is a particularly important immune modulator. High levels are found in the brain, kidneys, bronchial tubes and upper airways, skin and reproductive organs and it may play a role in protecting the lungs and skin from infection and disease, in intelligence, and in fertility.
Xylose is found in guava, pears, blackberries, loganberries, raspberries, kelp, echinacea, boswellia, psyllium, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, peas, green beans, okra, cabbage, corn, and aloe vera. Xylose is antibacterial and antifungal. It is a team player, and is a key sugar in cellular communication, forming the outermost protective layer of many cells.
Several of the essential sugars are found in aloe vera juice, which is used widely in the field of alternative health for preventing inflammation and easing digestive aliments such as stomach ulcers, and may have some use in Crohn’s, coeliac, and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Essential sugars work best as a team and most have overlapping functions in the body, so supplementation with essential sugars works best when they are taken in combination.
For more on glyconutrients visit:
What are Plant Lectins?
Plant lectins are poisonous proteins. Ricin is a lectin made from castor beans, and a well-known poison that has been used by the KGB and terrorists in the USA that causes massive blood clotting. Lectins have a wide variety of different structures and are grouped together under the term “lectin” based on their effects on human blood. Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that attach themselves to essential sugars in the human body. They are glycoproteins just like their protective counterparts. Essential sugars typically coat the surfaces of cells and help them to communicate. Lectins bind to the essential sugars and disrupt cellular communication. When they do this, they can cause agglutination – that is, the blood may clump together. It is thought that plant lectins exist as defence mechanisms. Many have lethal effects on various insects and cause stomach upsets in foraging animals – and humans.
Plant lectins act directly to cause disruption in the functions of essential sugars. Pathogenic microbes make lectins and use them to attach themselves to potential host cells. The human body contains its own innate lectins that perform friendly roles in the body, such as on vascular endothelial linings to allow blood to escape into the tissues, in the liver to capture microorganisms, and as part of the immune system where they bind to antigens to make them vulnerable to destruction by white blood cells.
Plant lectins are found largely in:
- Legumes (all beans including kidney, chickpea, soy, and peanuts)
- Grains and seeds (wheat, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, oats, rye, barley, millet and corn)
- Nightshades (potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers)
They can also be found in:
- The Allium family (onions, leeks, garlic, shallots)
- Some vegetables (cabbage, herbs, celery, cucumber), peas, squashes, and fruits
- Dairy (being dependent on the lectin content of the diet of the animal)
“My grandmother would have laughed her head off if I told her that 20 years ago I got something like half a million dollars to find out whether uncooked kidney beans were good or not for us.” – Dr. Arpad Pusztai, plant lectin specialist.
A well-known lectin, phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), is found in kidney beans and other legumes in the kidney bean family (black beans, pinto beans, etc). PHA binds to many essential sugars; it agglutinates white blood cells, reacts with mast cells (immune system cells) causing excessive histamine release, binds to the insulin receptors of fat cells mimicking insulin, and is highly toxic. When eaten in significant quantities, PHA causes gastrointestinal upset identical to food poisoning. A misguided hospital “healthy eating day” lead to one such mass poisoning event.
In addition to PHA, wheat germ agglutinin, concanavalin A (found in jack beans), and several other lectins are known to be insulin mimetics and are probably best avoided by those wishing to prevent unexpected blood sugar fluctuations.
Other lectins target specific essential sugars. For example the following lectins all work by specifically binding glucosamine:
- Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
- Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
- Rice (Orysza sativa)
- Rye (Secale cereale)
- Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum)
- Wheat Germ (Triticum aestivum) aka (T. vulgare)
- Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)
- Pumpkin, Marrow, Winter Squash (Cucurbita maxima)
- Tamarillo, Tree Tomato (Cyphomandra betacea)
And the following work by binding galactosamine:
- Soybean (Glycine max)
- Corn, Maize (Zea mays)
- Lima Bean (Phaseolus limensis) aka (P. lunatus)
We know that deficiencies in the essential sugars are associated with a variety of ailments. For example, deficiency and dysfunction of galactosamine and glucosamine are associated with many cases of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition where the body attacks its own cartilage. It is also known that many cases of rheumatoid arthritis are diet-responsive, and that by removing the above list of foods from the diet, rheumatoid arthritis can be halted, reversed, and even in some cases effectively cured so long as the individual abstains from eating these particular foods. It may be that some diseases suffered by failsafers, such as arthritis, progress through the effects of a combination of food chemicals. For example, salicylates first depress xylose production, followed by a lectin binding to the exposed sugars underneath.
Plant lectins have also been associated with behavioural and neurological problems, such as autism and ADHD, and schizophrenia and MS. Indeed a complex carbohydrate free diet has proven useful for children with autism. Perhaps part of the real reason for this is that the diet cuts out beans and grains, the two biggest suspects in lectin-related diseases.
Many pathogens act by producing lectins, including the streptococcus bacterium family which is often responsible for respiratory tract infections and skin infections.Helicobacter pylori is the bacterium responsible for stomach ulcers. H. pylori has a special affinity for blood type O glycoproteins. It acts by binding to several essential sugars, in particular mannose, fucose and glucosamine. The mucous lining in the stomach is designed to prevent such infections by providing essential sugars onto which the bacteria can attach and be washed away, rather than allowing it to attach to the sugars in the stomach wall. Dietary lectins, particularly ones that react with mannose such as:
- Broad bean, Fava bean (Vicia faba)
- Corn, Maize (Zea mays)
- Garden Pea (Pisum sativum)
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Jackfruit – tropical relative of breadfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)
- Leek (Allium porrum)
- Lentil (Lens culinaris)
- Onion (Allium cepa)
- Shallot (Allium ascalonicum)
- Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
And fucose such as:
- Garden Pea (Pisum sativum)
- Lentil (Lens culinaris)
As well as the glucosamine list mentioned above (that contains many grains including wheat and several nightshades including tomato and potato), work by stripping away this essential mucous in vulnerable individuals and allowing h. pylori to gain a foothold into the stomach lining. There the h. pylori lectins act by disrupting the communication of immune system cells, which stimulates excessive histamine production, which in turn stimulates excessive acid production. A reasonable approach therefore, for controlling stomach ulcers is to remove lectins from the diet, remove salicylates from the diet (they depress production of protective glycoproteins), take antibiotics that kill h. pylori, and feed the body a combination of essential sugars.
Eating too many lectin-containing foods or catching a lectin-producing pathogen can lead to autoimmune disease. It is frequently observed that autoimmune conditions (where the body mistakenly attacks itself) often arise after a serious infection. Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Guillian-Barre syndrome, Type 1 diabetes, and a whole host of other autoimmune conditions are associated with both infections and with eating lectin-containing foods. It is thought that lectins work by stripping away certain essential sugars from cell surfaces, making them display incorrect antigens and appear to be foreign to the body’s immune system. They may also work simply by binding irreversibly to particular cells or proteins, forcing them to be taken out of circulation by white blood cells. These are the mechanisms through which coeliac (celiac) disease is thought to be mediated. Food allergies may also be mediated by lectins.
“Lectins stimulate class II HLA antigens on cells that do not normally display them, such as pancreatic islet and thyroid cells. The islet cell determinant to which cytotoxic autoantibodies bind in insulin dependent diabetes mellitus is the disaccharide N-acetylgalactosamine, which must bind tomato lectin if present and probably also the lectins of wheat, potato, and peanuts. This would result in islet cells expressing both class II HLA antigens and foreign antigen together—a sitting duck for autoimmune attack. Certain foods (wheat, soya) are indeed diabetogenic in genetically susceptible mice. Insulin dependent diabetes therefore is another potential lectin disease and could possibly be prevented by prophylactic oligosaccharides.” - David L J Freed, Do Dietary Lectins Produce Disease?
The good news is that the effects of dietary lectins only extend for as long as they are in the body, and the effects of both dietary and pathogen produced lectins can be reduced with supplementation of essential sugars. Furthermore some lectins in foods can be reduced (but not eliminated) by a variety of methods:
- A minimum ten minute boiling period (skimming off the scum), in beans and grains
- Cooking thoroughly, in vegetables
- Sprouting beans and grains
- Fermenting of bean and grain products
The bad news is that not all lectins are completely destroyed by these methods, and that some particularly stubborn lectins in beans remain no matter how lengthy the treatment. Soy (soya) lectins, for instance, are virtually impossible to destroy. To learn more about lectins, visit: