We’ve all heard about gluten. It’s that pesky little protein found in grains like wheat and barley that wreaks havoc on those of us (including our pets) who are sensitive to it.
Gluten gets a lot of press – and it should – but there’s a family of proteins found in virtually all food that may be even more sinister and yet is relatively ignored.
Gluten is in fact a lectin, which accounts for its problematic nature, but there are more to lectins to be concerned about…
First there’s lectins’ ubiquitous nature.
When lectins are in pretty much all plants and animals, how are we supposed to feed our dogs?
Which leads us to: Are all lectins bad? Another good question.
To help break things down, we thought this quick list of things you should know about lectins would be the best way to help us all digest the problems of lectins (pun intended) and figure out how best to approach them when it comes to our dog’s diet.
1. Lectins Are A Natural Defense System
Lectins are a plant’s defense system against predators, and are actually considered a plant’s natural insecticide. Since plants can’t run away, lectins are anti-nutrients that cause pests/predators to feel discomfort (some of the more toxic lectins can even cause death), which in turn discourages further consumption of the plant by the plant’s predator.
As a result, those of us who consume some types of lectins will feel the effects. Lectins have been linked to autoimmune conditions in humans, including irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and arthritis.
2. Not ALL Lectins Are Bad
There are many different types of lectins, and some are worse than others. There are two types that are particularly harmful: Prolamins and Agglutinins.
⭕Gluten is a prolamin
⭕Kidney bean and soy lectin are agglutinins
Some foods have higher levels of lectin content than others. Foods with larger amounts of lectins include grains (wheat, for example), legumes (soy), nuts, corn, nightshade plants (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers) dairy and GMO foods.
“Why GMO foods,” you ask?
Remember that natural pesticide ability that lectins have? Well it hasn’t been lost on GMO developers and so lectins are worked into these foods in order to build up their resistance to pests. Just another reason to avoid GMOs.
3. Harmful Lectins = Bad Gut
The more harmful lectins can contribute to leaky gut by causing damage to your pet’s gut lining. This can then, in turn, lead to the body’s attack on itself and possible autoimmune diseases.
In addition, lectins can contribute to the overgrowth of bad gut bacteria like E. coli – which as we all know is a very bad thing!
4. Lectins: Bad For Thyroid
Lectins are bad for thyroid conditions. They can cause too much thyroid hormone in those with hyperthyroidism and too little hormone in those with hypothyroidism – exactly what you wouldn’t want to happen.
Learn more about autoimmune diseases and thyroid problems, here.
5. How To Reduce Lectins
Lectin content can be reduced or even eliminated by cooking, soaking and rinsing, or fermenting the food.
Learn more about the benefits of fermented foods for dogs, here.
For an easy guide on soaking grains, beans, nuts and seeds, check out Yogitrition’s how-to.
So Where Does That All Leave Us?
Clearly, opting for a lectin-free lifestyle for your dog is, well, not an option.
For those feeding a prey model raw diet:
You’re probably already avoiding the bulk of the harmful lectins.
For those feeding veggies, dairy and grains:
It might be a good time to take inventory of exactly what you’re feeding and remove the high offenders: replace nightshades with other vegetables and limit the grains and dairy.
If Your Dog Needs Dairy:
If your dog just can’t live without dairy and you haven’t noticed any sensitivities, choose grass-fed milk over grain-fed and use unpasteurized, raw dairy.
Learn about the benefits of raw goat’s milk, here.