Lectins and Digestive Problems

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/18/2024

While there are an endless number of possible causes for upset stomachs, if you are suffering regularly, this may mean lectins are the root cause.

Learn about the protein lectin, how it affects your digestive tract, and how you can avoid the harmful side effects it can unleash on your body.

What are Lectins?

Lectins are a type of carbohydrate-binding protein found in various foods, especially in legumes, grains, and certain vegetables.

These proteins play a role in plant defense mechanisms, helping plants defend against pests and pathogens.

How Lectins Affect Digestion

Research suggests that lectins may contribute to digestive issues, inflammation, and nutrient absorption problems in some people. However, the impact of lectins on health can vary widely depending on factors such as individual tolerance, cooking methods, and overall diet.

Identifying High Lectin Foods

Foods high in lectins can sometimes cause digestive discomfort. Let's look at some common ones.

Animal Products and Legumes Rich in Lectins

Lentils might be small, but they're mighty regarding their lectin content. The same goes for soybeans and peanuts - all three are legumes are packed with this protein.

Even certain animal products make the list if they've been fed on grains – another reason pasture-raised is best.

The Role of Food Processing in Reducing Lectin Levels

Not only does what you eat matter but how it's processed may also be vital in lowering lectin levels. Specific food processing methods can help lower the levels of lectins in your food.

Germination and sprouting, for instance, have been found to significantly reduce lectin content. When seeds germinate, they use their stored nutrients, including lectins.

Fermentation is another effective method. It involves bacteria or yeast breaking down the sugars in food. This process not only reduces lectins but also produces beneficial probiotics.

  • Cooking at high temperatures (like boiling or steaming) can deactivate most lectins.

  • While soaking grains and legumes before cooking helps remove some surface-level ones.

  • Pressure-cooking may also be particularly useful against stubborn plant-based proteins.

Low Lectin Foods for a Healthier Diet

To reduce your digestive issues, consuming low-lectin foods can be beneficial.

Nuts and Seeds with Low Lectin Content

Pecans, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pistachios, and walnuts are all low-lectin options for those looking to reduce their lectin intake.

Animal Products Low in Lectins

You don't need to sacrifice protein intake while reducing lectins. Choose grass-fed dairy products, beef, pasture-raised chickens, and eggs for low-lectin alternatives. If seafood is more your style, wild-caught fish fits the bill, too.

Plant-based Foods with Minimal Lectins

Coconut oil provides flavor without the extra serving of unwanted proteins. Olives and their extracted oils also fall into this category. Extra virgin olive oil is another excellent choice. Let's not forget berries either, which are low on lectins.

The Ketogenic Diet and Lectin Consumption

When discussing the ketogenic diet, it is commonly commended for its possible weight reduction advantages. Beyond weight loss, the ketogenic diet has other advantages.

The Ketogenic Diet Defined

A ketogenic diet prioritizes fats over carbohydrates. This triggers a metabolic state called ketosis, where your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel.

This dietary shift typically involves consuming less than 50 grams of carbs daily while consuming foods rich in healthy fats and moderate protein.

Ketogenic food

How the Ketogenic Diet Reduces Lectin Intake

Lectins are found predominantly in carbohydrate-rich foods such as grains, legumes, and fruits with seeds - many of which are restricted or minimized on a keto diet. So, by default, adhering to a ketogenic regimen can lead to reduced lectin consumption.

Studies suggest this may contribute to better gut health because lectins, when consumed excessively, have been associated with inflammation and digestive issues.

Symptoms of High Lectin Consumption

Consuming a diet low in lectin-containing foods such as legumes and dairy may help reduce the risk of digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or gut damage. If you've ever felt unwell after eating beans or whole grain bread, there's a chance it was due to their high lectin content.

Benefits of a Low-Lectin Diet

Moving towards low-lectin diet options like pecans, flaxseeds, and grass-fed animal products can help soothe an upset stomach.

Research has shown decreased symptoms for individuals who have reduced their lectin consumption.

Probiotic and High Lectin Food

Probiotic-rich foods have gained significant attention for their potential benefits, especially when consumed alongside a diet containing high-lectin foods.

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that support gut health, aiding digestion and maintaining a balanced gut microbiome.

Probiotics can play a crucial role when paired with high-lectin foods, which are often plant-based and include legumes and certain grains. The benefits of probiotics may consist of reducing the impact of lectins on the gut lining and promoting better overall digestive health.

The synergy between probiotics and high-lectin foods can help mitigate some potential adverse effects of lectins, such as gut irritation.

However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist to determine the most appropriate dietary choices for your specific needs and to ensure that you receive the full benefits of probiotics while managing lectin consumption.


If you're experiencing frequent upset stomachs, lectins might be the culprit. These carbohydrate-binding proteins found in certain foods like legumes and grains can contribute to digestive issues and inflammation.

Identifying high-lectin foods and opting for low-lectin alternatives such as nuts, seeds, and grass-fed animal products can help alleviate symptoms. Additionally, following a ketogenic diet, which naturally limits lectin intake, may support gut health.

Probiotics can also be beneficial in managing lectin consumption and promoting overall digestive wellness. Consulting with a healthcare professional or nutritionist can help tailor dietary choices to your needs and alleviate discomfort associated with lectin consumption.

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan