No carbs, no gluten, now no lectins… what’s left to eat?
The latest item to join carbs and gluten in the sin-bin is lectin, a plant protein found in lentils and beans and other foods. It has been accused of being an ‘anti-nutrient’ and a ‘gut-irritating, inflammatory protein, despite the fact that lentils and beans are a staple in the diet of entire nations and have been for centuries. Millions of people are doing fine eating beans and grains. These foods are also a critical component of healthy plant-based diets.
There is a whole host of lectin-free diet books out now suggesting avoiding not just beans and lentils but squash, peas, tomatoes, eggplant, fruit, dairy and grains. The fad diet phenomenon is getting out of control. We can’t keep giving things up, there will be nothing left to eat. I think that instead of inventing new diets, we need to look at why so many people have digestive issues in the first place and, generally speaking, this is not down bread or beans, it is lifestyle.
We are living in a way that is creating internal havoc, particularly in the interactions between the liver and spleen (the spleen is the hub of digestion in TCM). Constantly rushing, stressing out over financial over-commitment and debt; the feeling of time deprivation, and an emotional roller-coaster of aggravation, anxiety, depression, bitterness or resentment are now normal. Combine this with a diet that is low in chi, lack of exercise and sleep and a sense of urgency becomes the default state.
This creates an internal environment that prevents the absorption of nutrients (anti-nutrient) and turns foods into a gut-irritating, inflammatory issue. You can test your urgency levels by seeing if you can sit down and take 20 minutes to eat breakfast without doing anything else (no phone, no email, no reading). If you feel a rising sense of angst and can’t just sit, your lifestyle needs an adjustment. That sense of urgency comes from an imbalance of yin and yang and deficient chi and our organs can’t handle this. Especially the liver. The pathologies of ‘liver yang rising’ and ‘liver invading spleen’ are the result.
The liver controls our perception of time. If you feel like there’s no time for anything, you eat on the run, you rush all day but then your liver gets more imbalanced. It becomes a vicious cycle and liver yang rising can get to the point where everything seems critical, and more and more urgent and you can’t stop. The liver is the only organ that has its own chi and it can use it for good or bad (which is why it is known as the General in TCM). With the internal anarchy created by contemporary lifestyles, the liver turns and invades the life-giving ‘mother’ spleen, which is responsible for digestion (hence the rise in food intolerances). If you can’t digest proper food, snacks replace meals, this depletes your chi, and symptoms avalanche.
What happens with the lectin free diet is that it regulates the irritation for some people, but this is targeting the symptom, it’s not getting to the cause. And we have to get to the cause because if digestion is becoming a problem it is serious. All your organs rely on this process happening smoothly and if it doesn’t, it has a direct effect on your emotional stability as well as your physical health.
I’ve had clients with severe food intolerances who have experienced amazing results with orthomolecular therapy. I’ve developed a special form of this that combines Chinese herbal formulas and high-dose powerful nutritional supplements. Top quality nutritional supplements are concentrated foods, they replenish your life force, and can quickly restore physiological and emotional function. The plant-based Chinese herbal formulas work on the chi level to promote chi flow and create organ health. These formulas have multiple active ingredients and harmonise with the nutritional supplements to help digestion, nutrient absorption and boost overall health. But lifestyle is always the secret ingredient. My book Clock On To Health outlines how to live in a way that creates inner peace.
Forget the foods and fads, and focus instead on building chi, creating balance and nourishing your organs. This is what matters because if your organs are healthy you are healthy. It’s that simple. Your organs don’t want crazy fad diets, they don’t want to live on green smoothies and raw foods, they don’t want you lying awake at night stressing over debt, or past or future dramas. They want some balance; they want you to take breaks from stress and angst to create internal calm; and they want you to sit down and eat every meal in peace so they can work properly, absorb nutrients and create health and happiness.