HPN 20: Can a Low-Lectin Diet Help Heal Autoimmunity? Plus: Probiotics to Increase Nutrient Absorption and Creatine For Plant-Based Diets

August 7, 2020


If you haven’t visited our shop page lately, why not check it out and see if there is a brand or service that fits into your needs this season. 

Like how about finally getting that blood work done you know you need, and making it easy and hassle free by ordering your labs through Inside Tracker, which is geared toward athletes with up to 43 biomarkers that you can test. Get 10% off Inside Tracker packages when you shop through us.

Or what about all the healthy foods offered by Primal Kitchen; when you shop through us you get a free box of bars too! Primal Kitchen is one of the few brands we trust for truly clean ingredients (dressings, sauces and more FREE of industrial seed oils, etc.) and they make cooking that much easier and more flavorful! See Tawnee’s pantry–she’s a faithful Primal Kitchen customer.


  • Julie’s followup on her plant-based experiment, with outcomes of the 30 days and her plans going forward.

Study Discussion

  • Benefits of Creatine Supplementation for Vegetarians Compared to Omnivorous Athletes: A Systematic Review

    • “Creatine supplementation in vegetarians increased total creatine, creatine, and phosphocreatine concentrations in vastus lateralis and gastrocnemius muscle, plasma, and red blood cells, often to levels greater than omnivores. Creatine supplementation had no effect on brain levels of phosphocreatine. Creatine supplementation increased lean tissue mass, type II fiber area, insulin-like growth factor-1, muscular strength, muscular endurance, Wingate mean power output, and brain function (memory and intelligence) in vegetarian participants. Studies were mixed on whether creatine supplementation improved exercise performance in vegetarians to a greater extent compared to omnivores.”
    • Also a supercompensation effect?
    • “Creatine supplementation in vegetarians is effective for increasing creatine and phosphocreatine levels to an extent that vegetarians may achieve higher levels of creatine and phosphocreatine after supplementation, compared to omnivores (i.e., it appears that the lower baseline levels in vegetarians might allow for “super compensation” of creatine or phosphocreatine levels with supplementation; see Table 1). For example, five to seven days of creatine supplementation (at a dose of about 20–25 g/day) results in greater increases in plasma creatine [36], vastus lateralis total creatine [37], and gastrocnemius phosphocreatine [33] concentrations in vegetarians versus omnivores,
  • Creatine for endurance athletes? 


  • Probiotic Administration Increases Amino Acid Absorption from Plant Protein: a Placebo-Controlled, Randomized, Double-Blind, Multicenter, Crossover Study

    • This study looked at “nutritional strategies to raise the blood amino acid concentrations after ingesting a plant protein source to overcome compositional shortcomings.”
    • “Compared with animal protein sources, plant protein sources, with the exception of soy protein, are incomplete proteins lacking in one or more essential amino acids. Plant proteins contain less branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), especially leucine [13], one of the crucial amino acids for muscle health, especially the activation of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) [14]. In addition, plant proteins differ in absorption kinetics and the amount of amino acids absorbed by the host.”
    • “Pea protein is low in methionine and contains lower amounts of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which play a crucial role in muscle health.
    • “certain probiotic strains have proteolytic properties and have been linked to an increased production of digestive enzymes and subsequently improved host protein utilization [12].”
    • Probiotic L. paracasei LP- DG® and L. paracasei LPC- S01 have promising effects and were used in this study because they have been shown to increase absorption of key nutrients of specific importance to athletes, such as amino acids from protein.
    • “Fifteen physically active men co-ingested 20 g of pea protein with either AminoAltaTM, a multi-strain probiotic or a placebo for 2 weeks in a randomized, double-blind, crossover design, separated by a 4-week washout period.
    • “Probiotic administration significantly increased methionine, histidine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, tyrosine, total BCAA, and total EAA maximum concentrations (Cmax) and AUC without significantly changing the time to reach maximum concentrations. Probiotic supplementation can be an important nutritional strategy to improve postprandial changes in blood amino acids and to overcome compositional shortcomings of plant proteins.”
    • “The co-administration of probiotics with pea protein increased methionine AUC levels by 20% in our study, offering an alternative nutritional approach to overcome the low methionine content in pea protein.”
    • Some take-home points:
      • The more support and strength you have in your microbiome the more dietary protein will get digested and utilized. Adding a probiotic, prebiotic and a way to increase stomach acid is a great strategy for most people.
      • Need good levels of Hcl also if you want to absorb dietary protein, as it is needed to convert inactive pepsinogen to active pepsin, the stomach enzyme that digest protein.
      • Not sure if you’re protein deficient? Symptoms to watch for:
        • Fluid retention
        • Dizziness or nausea
        • Cuticles tear easily
        • Muscle wasting
        • Low hormone levels
        • Poor coordination
        • Overall weakness
        • Colds, flu, infections easily
        • Premature aging
        • Dull hair, dry hair, or hair falling out


Eric asks:

Eliminating Lectins for Autoimmunity?

My wife is a marathon runner and we’re learning that she likely has the onset of an autoimmune condition (we are awaiting the diagnosis but it’s pretty certain either lupus or RA). In starting to research for her in natural ways to heal I’ve come across the role of lectins and read that a low lectin diet has a therapeutic effect on autoimmune conditions. Have you guys heard of this? I know Julie has been doing a lot of experimenting with her own diet to alleviate some issues. Curious to hear a discussion. And also, for those without autoimmunity, is it still a good idea to avoid lectins? How does the 80/20 type approach apply to this stuff. Like if she were to have gluten once in a while is that a hard no or maybe ok?

Any other tips on training modifications, or nutritional interventions would be great!


What the Coaches Say:

  • Lectins defined: a protein that binds to sugar molecules in cells throughout the body altering their function. They are part of a natural defense against microorganisms, pests, and insects.
  • Symptoms of lectin overload: swelling, digestive trouble, gas/bloating, brain fog, weight gain.
  • Lectins and their possible role in autoimmune disease: lectins can strip away the mucous coat of the small intestine leaving it vulnerable for an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria.
  • There is emerging research on the link between lectins and their role in autoimmunity but nothing is “proven” at this point.
  • Do Dietary Lectins Cause Disease?
    • “Of particular interest is the implication for autoimmune diseases. Lectins stimulate class II HLA antigens on cells that do not normally display them, such as pancreatic islet and thyroid cells.9The islet cell determinant to which cytotoxic autoantibodies bind in insulin dependent diabetes mellitus is the disaccharide N-acetyl lactosamine,10 which must bind tomato lectin if present and probably also the lectins of wheat, potato, and peanuts. This would result in islet cells expressing both class II HLA antigens and foreign antigen together—a sitting duck for autoimmune attack. Certain foods (wheat, soya) are indeed diabetogenic in genetically susceptible mice.11 Insulin dependent diabetes therefore is another potential lectin disease and could possibly be prevented by prophylactic oligosaccharides.”
    • In other words: lectins have binding properties that can cause intestinal permeability, disrupt digestion, cause nutrient deficiencies, and all around cause severe intestinal damage WHEN CONSUMED IN EXCESS (or genetically susceptible). This damage to the gut creates intestinal permeability which we know is the gateway to various autoimmunity. We need our mucosal layer healthy so it can moderate the absorption of nutrients and water and to prevent harmful substances from entering our bloodstream.


  • Plant Paradox Diet
    • This is another low-lectin diet resource by Dr. Gundry, who says “Plants don’t want to be eaten. They simply want to survive. One of the ways they defend themselves against hungry animals like us is by producing toxic chemical compounds – proteins known as lectins. And when lectins invade our bodies, they can cause some serious inflammatory responses and other health issues, like leaky gut syndrome, weight gain, brain fog, and more.”
    • Abstract: Remission/Cure of Autoimmune Diseases by a Lectin Limited Diet Supplemented With Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Polyphenols (Gundry; 2018) 
      • NOTE: This was a simply presentation at an AHA conference not a peer-reviewed published study.
      • “95/102 patients achieved complete resolution of autoimmune markers and inflammatory markers within 9 months. The other 7/102 patients all had reduced markers, but incomplete resolution. 80/102 patients were weaned from all immunosuppressive and/or biologic medications without rebound.
      • “We conclude that a lectin limited diet, supplemented with pro and prebiotics, and polyphenols are capable of curing or putting into remission most autoimmune diseases.”


  • Grundy’s approved foods vs not approved foods due to lectin content.
  • Interesting things we noticed on this list:
    • The focus on resistant starches instead of grains as carb sources
    • Veg focus can be: Cruciferous and leafy greens largely ok
    • What about oxalates in greens?
    • Carrot greens- a little known thing you can keep & eat!
    • Some foods like cucumber are ok with seeds/skin removed
    • Nuts at a ½ cup day are ok as nut flours (dose matters!)
    • Many plant-based proteins are on the “no” list (soy, tofu, TVP, edamame, etc.)
    • Not allowed: non-southern European cow’s milk products (lol)
    • Also being mindful of animal-based proteins: what does the animal’s diet looks like?! Go for grassfed/pastured, avoid grain or soybean fed animals.
      • This one is hard because it can get expensive to exclusively eat all pastured, e.g. we eat organic chicken but not always pastured.
    • One way to go about this is to look at the “no” list and see what foods you may be eating a lot of regularly and maybe look to modify there to begin, while adding more of the “yes” foods.
  • Actionable steps:
    • Start by eliminating the heavy hitters: Gluten, Nightshades, Beans/Legumes, Peanuts
    • If seeing a reduction in symptoms, but are still uncomfortable, keep trying to eliminate others.
    • What about gluten every so often? Is there a reaction? Then probably should stay away. Depends on the severity! But any reaction, even low grade, will probably be worth it to really minimize it because there is obviously a reaction occurring and the body is stressed.
    • One of the big factors to destabilize lectins is using something like a pressure cooker and/or peeling and deseeding… or just not eating them.


  • Lectins okay with people without Autoimmunity?
    • If you have any of the symptoms above and these foods are frequent in your diet, it’d be worth a shot to get rid of some, test on yourself.


  • Also consider: Training Modifications:
    • Give the gut a break and chance to heal without the jostling of long-distance running
    • Pick a couple months to really ease up, and see if your flares decrease.
    • We know blood flow is diverted to our skin and muscles during long or high-intensity work.
    • This will increase gut permeability and delay healing.



Add your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.