Now, as I said, I have been talking about these foods to my Pilates clients and anyone with inflammatory type conditions like IBS, Arthritis, and skin conditions like psoriasis, but hadn’t quite understood the science behind the potential cause and effects on the body. That is until recently when I listened to a series of interviews with Dr Steven Gundry, the US Heart Surgeon who resigned as Chairman and University Professor of Cardiology in California 17 years ago to help his patients heal through food. I went on to buy his book “The Plant Paradox” as I was also becoming more aware of the potential damaging effects that certain foods can have on so many of our modern-day conditions such as Obesity, Auto-immune conditions like MS, Fibromyalgia/ME, IBS, Parkinson’s and Crohn’s disease.
It appears that the problem with foods like those listed above have in common a property known as Lectins or “sticky-proteins” that can bind to nerve cells and cause disruption in some people. These large proteins can also cause the gut and intestinal walls to suffer damage, leading to “leaky gut syndrome” and an imbalance in the body’s flora and fauna known as the “microbiome”. Plants defend themselves by the protein Lectin. As most of our drugs began as plant compounds, Lectins are just one example of the chemical warfare that plants have developed to survive. Essentially, plants make the proteins in lectins look like proteins in our body e.g. in a joint or our vital organs such as the gut, pancreas or thyroid. Dr Gundry has discovered that the introduction of Lectins in foods (and some common medicines) increases inflammation in the body by causing an autoimmune reaction.
I learned that these modern American foods only came into our diets relatively recently; just 500 years ago, and in fact the Italians and French took some time to be persuaded to eat these foods at all and traditionally would only eat them peeled and deseeded. Hopi Indians have always peeled and deseeded their peppers and chillies apparently.
Now if you are like me, the more I understand the science behind something, the more comfortable I feel about taking-action.
A few months ago, I developed a sore spot at the front of my right ankle which meant that going upstairs was very painful unless I used the ball of my foot only. I used my Pilates exercises, tried extra magnesium, Omegas and vitamin D3, upped my anti-oxidant intake and had various therapies. All to no avail. However, after just 10-14 days of cutting out the nightshade family, the pain has gone! My right big toe is also no longer stiff in the mornings and despite my initial worries I haven’t missed eating tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, the three favourite foods I eat most frequently of the nightshade family.
You may like to know that I have replaced potatoes with root veg like sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips and swede. I am using more mushrooms and courgettes and although I have dropped raw tomatoes, I do occasionally cook with tomato puree or Passata.
I have also adopted some other habits based on Dr Gundry’s findings which means that I have been able to reintroduce some foods and even safely eat most of the other foods containing these pesky lectins that have the potential to cause an inflammatory reaction.
Watch out for my next blog which will cover those other foods that may be the source of YOUR pain or discomfort (some of which may surprise you) and the ways in which you may be able to manage your intake safely.