Why Potatoes and Tomatoes Can Be Just As Bad As #Gluten

 I came across this piece today by Sayer Ji which reminded me of that long time ago when I devised the Barrier Plan. The diet excludes specific chitin-binding lectins, including potatoes, tomatoes, soy etc, which can have a similar inflammatory/barrier effect on some people as gluten. In this article, Sayer explains the principle really well.

Rice, Potato, and Tomato May Be As Inflammatory As Wheat

The Barrier Plan was written for people for whom just (just!) going grain and dairy free was not enough. People like me with ongoing reactions, multiple sensitivity, auto-immunity and inflammatory problems. A trulyglutenfree (grain and dairy free) diet is always going to help, but some people just have to take it a bit further to achieve healing. As Sayer explains, his article

it is intended to illuminate how in some cases eliminating wheat and gluten will not be enough to overcome nagging inflammatory problems like osteoarthritis, or maybe more serious treatment refractory and idiopathic health conditions.

Absolutely right.

There are other lectins in the Western diet that have properties similar to wheat lectin (WGA), namely, “chitin-binding lectins.”  Remember, “chitins” are long polymers of n-acetyl-glucosamine, the primary binding target of wheat lectin. Wheat lectin and “chitin-binding lectin” therefore share functional similarities.These chitin-binding lectin containing foods include:


Why is chitin-binding such a problem though?

This is a really complex question but, in simple terms, our epithelial cells that line our mucous membranes (like the gut, lungs, nose etc etc) secrete a sort of coating which lines the membranes. This is called the glycocalyx. It is made up of two types of glucoprotein, one of which is N-acetylglucosamine (yes, it is linked to the glucosamine you take for your joints). The chitin-binding lectins are specifically designed to attach to and disrupt the two proteins so that the lectins can gain entry through the mucosal surfaces. Then, BANG, you have a leaky barrier allowing these lectins through. Not good. Sayer explains why:

..many tissues within humans are comprised of n-acetyl-glucosame (a chitin-like substance) the consumption of seemingly innocuous foods such as listed above could result in a wide range of adverse effects

He reckons too that the massive increase in our use of anti-inflammatory glucosamine supplements has come about specifically because the glucosamine will bind with the lectins we are consuming constantly instead of allowing them to attack the body. Interesting.

Cereals contain chitin-binding lectins

He goes on to explain how it may be that one reason a grain free diet works for some of us best is because most cereals contain the chitin-binding lectins:

The discovery that chitin-binding lectin is broadly distributed throughout cereal grasses sheds light on how the grain-free diet produces health results superior to that of eliminating wheat and gluten containing grains alone.  

Anyway, when I suggest to you that grain free is maybe not enough for you to achieve healing of that barrier breakdown/leaky gut/mucosal surfaces, I am not doing it out of sheer sadistic desire to see you restrict your diet even further; it is based on research and belief , I promise 😉 Some of us need a chitin-binding lectin free diet, which is in effect what I have created with the Barrier Diet. I hate saying it, but, for some of us, it is a necessary step. Only temporary I hope..

Read the full article above. A fascinating read.

4 Replies to “Why Potatoes and Tomatoes Can Be Just As Bad As #Gluten”

  1. Hey Micki,

    Before reading many articles on your web site I just found being a Celiac to be a minor irritation in my life, however after reading through many of your posts I have failed to find any food that isn’t considered to be harmful to Celiac’s.

    Do you know of anything that is truly gluten free that I would be able to eat safely?

    1. Ha, that made me laugh, Johnny! There are loads of foods both celiacs and celiacs not healing can eat, of course. Bear in mind that this site is a lot about celiacs who aren’t healing – and sadly statistics suggest that number is far too high. On the Gluten Treatment page, there are three distinct stages set out and stage 3 is the one that is most restrictive. That tends to be for people who have auto-immune, inflammatory and multiple allergy conditions. For most celiacs I normally advise a grain and dairy free diet. That leaves most food groups left, obviously, so plenty to eat, although it can seem very hard when you look at the standard western diet which is so based around them!

      1. I’m glad you enjoyed my comment 🙂
        Last monday I had accidentally ingested barley in a soup that was prepared at the pre-school I teach at and was feeling pretty bad about being a celiac. Then I checked out some of your articles and saw this one about corn, potatoes and rice not being safe!! Thats when my heart just sunk!
        today I feel better though and a lot less nervous about what I eat.
        Corn, Potatoes and rice never bothered me in the past so I just figured that this piece isn’t referring to me.

        I do have a question though, I eat gluten free wheat starch some times and I feel fine. However is it secretly dissolving my intestines??

  2. Ha, that’s the sixty million dollar question isn’t it?! Who knows. The best way is to monitor regularly. For example, if your villi are healing, that’s fab and suggests your diet is good enough for your specific gluten illness needs. If not, then you need to think why that might be and that’s where this site comes in. Also, it’s not a bad idea to take some steps to help heal the gut anyway – see the wellbeing core nutrients and gut healing recommendations in the TGF Supplement Master list.

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