The Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain
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Steven Gundry’s Perspective
Steven R. Gundry, MD, is the director of the International Heart and Lung Institute in Palm Springs, California. Plus, he is the founder and director of the Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara.
After a distinguished surgical career as a professor and chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at Loma Linda University, Dr. Gundry changed his focus to curing modern diseases via dietary changes. He is the bestselling author of The Longevity Paradox, The Plant Paradox, The Plant Paradox Cookbook, The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy, and Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. He has also written more than three hundred articles published in peer-reviewed journals.
The Plant Paradox exposes the hidden dangers in plants and animal meat that make people fat and sick. The book goes beyond textbook explanations of crucial substances and ingredients in foods recommended in the standard American diet.
The Plant Paradox also introduces the highly toxic plant-based protein called lectin and how it destroys the equilibrium in our gut flora. Foods that fall under this category are included in several dietary regimens to achieve optimum health and wellness.
This is a book written for people seeking to understand why they’re not losing weight, despite their best efforts. It’s also a book for patients diagnosed with diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. The author, Steven Mundy, suggests that cutting out certain foods can reverse diseases.
The Plant Paradox is not written to favor one diet regimen over another but to illuminate the dangers of seemingly healthy foods. It’s not a miracle cure that immediately takes effect. It is a gradual progression that involves learning about one’s body and how it reacts to certain foods. It’s a journey and not a race to the finish line.
The Plant Paradox Program aims to debunk myths and expose the agricultural and industrial practices that cause more harm than good. It offers a solution by providing substitute ingredients, teaching detox processes, developing lectin-free recipes, and showing how to enjoy plant-based meals.
StoryShot #1: The Purpose of Lectins
Lectins are proteins that serve as a protection mechanism for plants against insects and other plant predators.
Prey develop defensive mechanisms that prevent predators from eating them. Steven Gundry suggests the same can be said of plants. Plants are less willing to be our next meal than first thought. Like animals, plants have evolved defensive strategies that make them less prone to predatory attacks. A specific protein, lectin, is the primary weapon used by plants. Lectins are naturally present in the leaves, seeds, skins, and grains of most plants. Specifically, lectins are produced in the plant’s skin as an outside barrier. They are also concentrated in the all-important seeds, which are the next generation of the species. Italians have traditionally always removed the skin and seeds of the tomato. Whether they knew it or not, they were removing most of the lectins.
StoryShot #2: The Negative Side of Lectins
Once consumed, lectins bind to sugar molecules in the animal’s brain and nerve endings. So, the animal’s nervous system becomes less efficient. Reduced efficiency in the nervous system can be associated with brain fog in humans. Brain fog relates to moments when you experience difficulties with your memory and focus. For humans, lectins are also associated with weight gain. One of the worst types of lectin for weight gain is called Wheat Germ Agglutinin. This lectin is found in wheat and causes sugar to enter our body’s fat cells. Our fat cells then transform this sugar into fat, which ultimately means we put on weight.
These points are supported by humans from northern climates favoring wheat as their choice of grain. Eating wheat helped these people maintain their weight while food was scarce. Wheat helped them survive the harsh winters. That said, the benefits to these historic northern societies are no longer relevant. We live in societies with an overabundance of food and widespread central heating. So, putting on weight only negatively impacts our health.
The same plant toxins that can kill or weaken an insect are also capable of silently destroying your health. Due to our size, the effects of these lectins are subtle. Still, over the years, they can accumulate and cause conditions like autoimmune diseases.
The good news is that these issues can be reversed by healing your gut and learning which lectins you are sensitive to.
StoryShot #3: Which Lectins Are Fine
Not all lectins are harmful. In fact, some are actually healthy. How well you handle specific lectins is dependent on your ancestry.
The longer your ancestors have consumed lectins, the more time and opportunity their immune system and microbiome had to develop a tolerance to them. We will have inherited some of this tolerance.
Our bodies have an elaborate defense system towards lectins. Our saliva, mucus, stomach acid, and microbiome, all contribute to neutralizing and digesting lectins. If all is well with your gut health, lectins should not be successful in getting through your intestinal wall and entering your blood. Your blood is where lectins can do real damage.
Through molecular mimicry and being almost indistinguishable from other natural proteins in our body, lectins trick the immune system into attacking our organs. They also can act like hormones, sometimes blocking our actual hormones from working.
The book outlines a few major occurrences in the recent history of humans that have introduced problematic lectins into our diets.
StoryShot #4: The History of Lectins
The agricultural revolution of approximately 10,000 years ago was the start of lectins’ impact on humans. Up until that point, humans had never consumed legumes or grains. Human skeleton remains show that after this period, average human height and brain size decreased dramatically. This time was also associated with the first case of arthritis.
Our ancestors adopted specific approaches to minimize the adverse effects of lectins. For example, they utilized fermentation by developing specific technologies to streamline this process. They also preferred to remove the outer bran or hull from the grain.
Wholewheat contains a harmful lectin called wheat germ agglutinin, which the refined version does not. This lectin binds to your joints and cornea, among other things.
The second significant change was a mutation in northern European cows about 2000 years ago. This mutation caused them to create the protein casein A-1 instead of the previous casein A-2. During digestion, it turns into a lectin-like protein called beta-casomorphin. Because this type of cow produced more milk, farmers preferred them. Now they are the standard milk-producing cows and fill us with harmful lectins when we consume their milk.
Thirdly, new plants from America arrived in Europe approximately 500 years ago. Europeans discovered America and brought back new foods to their homelands. Some of these were foods that they had never consumed before. This includes the nightshade family. The nightshade family of foods includes many types of beans, legumes, grains, squashes, and certain types of seeds.
Over the last five decades, innovations in food production have severely impacted our gut health and increased our sensitivity to lectins. The following sections will cover these innovations.
StoryShot #5: Antibiotics and Your Gut Bacteria
Antibiotics can be lifesavers for certain extreme conditions. They also have a devastating effect on your microbiome. Using them is like carpet bombing your gut microbes. It can take up to two years for your microbiome to recover. That said, some microbes will be gone forever.
StoryShot #6: Improve Your Diet Rather Than Relying on Drugs
NSAIDs, short for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are popular for relieving mild pain, fever, and inflammation. These drugs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and celebrex. These NSAIDs were developed in the 1970s and marketed as a safer alternative to aspirin. Aspirin has been found to damage stomach linings if used over an extended period. This damage to the mucosal barrier of the small intestine and the colon allows lectins to pass through the intestinal wall. The drug companies celebrated finding a new alternative.
Unfortunately, modern humans aren’t so savvy. If we eat something that doesn’t agree with us or makes us sick, we find or invent something equally damaging. We create drugs, like ibuprofen, that lessen the pain of eating foods that are destroying us. We should simply stop eating foods that contain harmful lectins.
StoryShot #7: Drugs and Foods That Overgrow Bad Bacteria
Acid from the stomach naturally acidifies the small intestine, confining most of our gut bacteria to the large intestine. PPIs disrupt this and can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. These bacteria don’t belong here. Artificial sweeteners, like sucralose, saccharin, and aspartame, kill healthy bacteria and allow overgrowth of the bad ones.
StoryShot #8: The Negative Influence of Phthalates
These are chemicals found in many plastics, cosmetics, preservatives, sunscreens, and cans. They can prevent proper vitamin D conversion by your liver, preventing cell regeneration in your intestinal wall.
People with autoimmune disease almost certainly have low levels of vitamin D. One category of these are called phthalates. Phthalates can permanently attach to cells, like thyroid hormone receptors. This process blocks the real hormone from delivering its message.
A study found that the most significant source of these in America was grains, beef, pork, chicken, and milk products.
StoryShot #9: GMO Crops Are Full of Lectins
Genetically modified foods have foreign lectins put into them, without a proper understanding of how they affect humans. The herbicide used on genetically modified foods, glyphosate, has a devastating impact on the microbiome.
It should be noted that beans, lentils, and quinoa are okay after establishing that you don’t have an issue with them. That said, they should always be pressure-cooked to minimize the amounts of lectins in this food.
We also have to be careful about the meat that we eat. The food that your food ate matters a lot. Many modern livestock are fed grain and soy. This is a completely unnatural diet for them. Subsequently, modern livestock are unhealthy for human consumption. Eating modern livestock causes you to consume the lectins that they consumed.
StoryShot #10: Foods to Avoid and Foods to Eat
Foods to Avoid (Contain Lectins)
- Grains – Wheat, quinoa, rice, and corn. This includes whole-grain foods.
- Legumes – Beans, soy, lentils, peas (also cashews and peanuts, which are actually legumes)
- Nightshades like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, sweet or hot peppers, and eggplant
- Any industrially farmed meat or fish because they’re fed lectin-containing grains
Foods to Eat (Lectin-free)
- Cruciferous vegetables – Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens – Spinach and romaine lettuce
- Certain oils – Olive, perilla, coconut, and sesame seed
- Nuts – Macadamia, walnuts, pecans, etc.
- Naturally-fed meat – Wild-caught fish, pasture-raised chicken, and grass-fed beef
- Resistant starch foods – Sweet potatoes, yams, and unripened bananas
StoryShot #11: The Plant Paradox Program
The Plant Paradox Program focuses more on what you don’t eat rather than what you do eat. Ridding your body of harmful foods will have a more powerful impact on your life than eating more beneficial foods.
As well as cutting out harmful foods and introducing beneficial foods, Steven recommends having a three-day cleanse before starting the program. This should help prepare your gut for significant changes in your diet. Your body will not benefit from healthy foods if your gut is damaged. So, a cleanse will help heal your gut. Firstly, you want to remove all possible traces of lectin. Keeping away from lectins will reduce inflammation in your body and let your gut start healing.
The author recommends supplementing with Vitamin D3 and omega-three fatty acids DHA and EPA to heal your gut.
Even in Dr. Gundry’s practice in sunny California, 80% of his patients are deficient in vitamin D3. This is a worry as vitamin D3 is essential to improving our gut health. It helps us grow enterocyte stem cells, which repair our gut wall barrier.
As a rough guide, Dr. Gundry says to take 5000 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily. Many people need more, but it’s best to do that under the advice and observation of a doctor.
Once you have repaired your gut, you can start introducing a food item one at a time. This way, you can see the specific foods that you react to negatively. Often when symptoms of the autoimmune disease return, they will return with a vengeance. This makes it evident that you do not tolerate this particular food.
StoryShot #12: Chronic Health Problems and Lectins
Like any organism, plants don’t want to be eaten. Subsequently, they have many defense systems. This includes producing lectins designed to hurt insects who try to eat them. Dr. Gundry suggests lectins also cause problems for the human gut and immune system. Lectins are also responsible for many chronic health problems modern people face.
Multiple conditions have been successfully treated by the plant paradox diet protocol. Here are some examples:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
StoryShot #13: Curing Health Problems With the Plant Paradox Program
The author describes how a patient of his was able to cure his vitiligo, a skin condition, by following the Plant Paradox Program. Steven does not argue that this diet had specific foods that healed this patient’s body. Instead, Steven suggests that the improvements were due to the patient no longer eating the wrong foods. For example, the patient stopped eating lectins.
Ridding yourself of unhealthy foods will hugely improve your wellbeing and health. It will also reduce your chances of certain diseases. For example, Steven describes a finding of the Center for Disease Control. In 2012, they found that ⅕ of food poisoning incidents in the US were from lectins in undercooked legumes.
StoryShot #14: Incorporate Supplements Into Your Diet
We have known since 1936 that our modern-day fruits and vegetables lack a wide variety of expected vitamins and minerals. Almost 100 years later and things are even worse. Since the 1950s, we have been overusing strong petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides on our crops. Historically, our ancestors would have eaten plants growing from soil that was organic and rich in minerals. Animals that were eating these organic plants themselves. This is no longer the case. But we now have supplements that fill in the gaps currently left by poor quality fruits and vegetables.
The most important minerals to supplement are vitamin D and B12. Vitamin D is crucial for cell regeneration in your intestinal walls. Vitamin B12 is vital for protecting the inner linings of your blood vessels.
Final Summary and Review of The Plan Paradox
The Plant Paradox challenges the belief that all plants are good for you. The author explains that certain plants have evolved to produce high amounts of lectins. These lectins are supposed to prevent insects and other animals, such as humans, from eating the plants. It is a defence mechanism. That said, we continue to eat foods high in lectins and we suffer from the health conditions associated with them. The key to improving your health is learning what foods are high in lectins, like grains, farmed animals and fish, and cutting them out of your diet. This is all outlined in the Plant Paradox Program.
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