How Lectins Affect Your Hormones
Written by: Danielle Hayden
Ever find yourself struggling to get through the day, only to fall in bed and find your heart and mind wide awake? That’s your hormones.
Ever find your toes and fingers weirdly cold, even when it’s warm outside? Hormones.
Ever eat a huge meal, only to find yourself ravenously hungry an hour later? Yup, hormones, too.
All those classic PMS symptoms like moodiness, breast tenderness, cramping, backaches, acne, and worst of all, constipation, maybe followed by..ummm…the opposite? All linked to hormonal imbalances. (1)
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Hormones—think of them as signals that travel from gland to gland. Their job is to help everything in the body run smoothly. They do their best with what we give them—but too often, we set them up for failure. Hormonal health begins with the things we put in, on, and around our bodies.
“But wait! I already eat really healthy,” you say. “I don’t eat gluten or soy.”
Great start! But eliminating those hot-button foods might not be enough. For optimal hormonal health and disease prevention, you may need to cut out lectins that wreak havoc in the body.
Hormones in the Body
There are eight major glands classified as part of our endocrine system.
- pituitary gland
- adrenal glands
- pineal body
- reproductive glands (including ovaries and testes)
However, it’s easier to focus on the Big Three Hormonal Systems these glands comprise: The Hunger System , The Stress System, and the Sex System. Let’s look at how just one meal can affect all three systems.
Most of us try to eat a good breakfast at the start of our day. My favorite on-the-go breakfast used to be low-fat veggie patties in corn tortillas, smeared with low-fat cream cheese. Then I’d head out the door to go teach in my classroom. Before my class even started, I was shaking with hunger.
That breakfast of low-fat “healthy” whole grains spiked my blood sugar. With my blood-glucose through the roof, my Hunger System generated high amounts of insulin to remove sugar from my blood as soon as possible. The insulin went to work, but then my blood sugar dropped so fast it left me shaking and unfocused.
Next, my Stress System was triggered because I had no energy. And I was panicking about when I could eat my next snack: a granola bar. And class was starting. And eighteen students were confused about the homework. My Stress System released cortisol to get me through. But…
Cortisol requires glucose: because my breakfast had just been stored in my fat cells, the cortisol triggered the production of more glucose (by breaking down protein in the liver) so my body could survive the Crisis That Was 8am. (2) My blood sugar rose again…
Cortisol necessarily shuts down the other Systems in times of stress, like halting progesterone production in the Sex System. (3) Progesterone–produced by the ovaries in women–and cortisol are both made from the same building-blocks. When we experience stress, those building-blocks are diverted to make cortisol, leaving stressed-out women progesterone deficient. And progesterone is responsible for three major (and many minor) tasks:
- Keeping us calm
- Preventing PMS
- Maintaining the uterine lining during pregnancy.
Those are pretty important tasks! You know that perpetually anxious feeling you might get before your period? And those give-me-all-the-painkillers-cramps you’re suffering?
It all started with the “healthy” breakfast that was high in carbohydrates and lacking in the good fats that satisfy hunger.
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Hormones & Lectins
“Okay, I get it,” you say. “Try to avoid blood sugar spikes. What does that have to do with lectins? I really like my black-bean patty (or muffin, or oatmeal, or fill-in-the-blank-grain-based breakfast). And I like to eat it with a side of whole-grain avocado toast, thank you very much.”
We’ve seen how even one meal can affect the delicate hormonal balance; however lectins don’t work quite so quickly. They are the silent destroyers that can trigger the body to attack its own organs. There are dozens of autoimmune diseases involving the hormonal glands. If you’re consuming lectins on a regular basis, your endocrine system may be first on the chopping block. (4) (10)
Most doctors cannot diagnose autoimmune diseases until hormone glands have lost enough of their function to cause you dysfunction. A gland like your thyroid might be under attack for more than a decade before it sends out warning signals. (5) If you’ve started to notice that you don’t feel right, it’s time to make a change before things get out of control.
Isabella Wentz says that gut permeability occurs as early as Stage 2 in Hashimoto’s, a common autoimmune condition. (6) Stage 2 is when antibodies noticeably begin to rise—and it might still be years before symptoms of a weak thyroid begin affecting your life.
You could improve your hormone balance just by eliminating spikes in blood sugar. There are lots of diets that accomplish this. (i.e. any diet that eliminates grains and sugar). Very few diets, however, also seek to eliminate lectins, thereby healing the gut and calming the immune system.
The Plant Paradox
The Plant Paradox is a gut-healing protocol that seeks to eliminate blood sugar spikes, eliminate all problem lectins, and optimize fatty acid consumption. It also boasts a 93% clinical remission rate of autoimmune disease in patients that follow the protocol. (7)
Don’t wait until your organs are noticeably under attack. There are several things you can try that could save your endocrine glands from dietary peril:
2. Drastically increase your veggie consumption: Eat 4-9 cups of non-starchy veggies daily. Try 1 cup at breakfast, 2 cups at lunch, and 2 cups at dinner to start. This will get your digestive system moving and support your liver.
When you optimize your diet for hormonal health, you can reap immediate benefits like clear skin, improved mood, and reduction of PMS symptoms. More important, a diet that eliminates harmful lectins can put you on the path to long-term hormonal health and disease prevention.