If you know me, you know that I have been living with SLE (lupus) since I was 15 and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) from 12-15. In the late 80s, when I was in my early twenties I found a doctor in Sydney, Australia, who had treated several patients with SLE and other complex diseases using diet and supplements. At that time he was considered unorthodox, “wacko” even by conventional doctors and some were even trying to get him in trouble with Medicare (our universal health system) for prescribing too many “screening tests”. He had a relationship with a very extraordinary pathologist who could and did test for all kinds of antibodies like anti parietal cell antibodies. The conventional thinking was, if you have ANA and Anti-DNA antibodies then you have some kind of autoimmune disease and if you fit the diagnosis for SLE then immune suppression is the way to go. They didn’t think they needed anymore information. They thought it was a waste of money.
But Dr Reading had discovered through clinical practice that diet and supplements can affect the course of autoimmune disease (also Bipolar, schizophrenia and other “too-hard” conditions. He was also trained as a psychiatrist). He published a small paper on SLE in a tiny Journal of Clinical Nutrition and what I want to talk about today is legumes.
Basically if you were his patient and if you had a positive ANA (antinuclear antibody), then he would recommend avoiding not only gluten but legumes as well. People with say, Bipolar, had a similar diet but were permitted to eat legumes: eg beans, lentils, pulses, cocoa, chocolate, peanuts (only I don’t think anyone ate peanuts because of aflatoxins).
It was not until recently when I read The Perfect Health Diet by Jaminet and Jaminet, that I had any explanation WHY one would avoid the bean family. They have a chapter titled “Legumes: Almost grains. Finally someone had looked into this and found lectins, another protein (apart from say, gluten or casein) that is problematic for autoimmune and other diseases. This made total sense to me. I had slacked-off for about 10 years and first hummous and then even tofu had snuck back in my diet, after being very strict for 7 years. This coincided with me traveling to and living in the USA. I also started to eat eggs and corn (oh so much regret about all that (GMO) + corn that I ate…) some nightshades, even some casein. I was eating alot of got cheese by the turn of the century.) I am now ultra strict again due to a recurrence of childhood eczema and a flare of my SLE last year (all healed now 🙂
This approach to working with autoimmune disease (and others) is now often called “autoimmune Paleo” or AI Paleo”. I am wary of the “paleo” movement because some of it’s proponents, and many of the most famous ones are not precise nor rigourous enough and seem to be more focused on weight loss etc. However I highly recommend Chris Kresser (Your Personal Paleo Code, The Paleo Cure) Jaminet and Jaminet (The Perfect Health Diet) and Dr Amy Meyers seems to be of the same quality (although I haven’t had the opportunity to read her book yet).
Anyhow, I wanted to post this link to Dr Amy Meyers page. She is a Functional Medicine doctor (USA, MD) and specialises in Autoimmune disease. Her new book comes out soon (27th January 2015) The Autoimmune Solution.
Here she explains about lectins: