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.
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.
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.