From the Desk of Carolyn Dean MD ND

My recent article “Should We Avoid Copper, Histamine, Oxalates, and Lectins?” wasn’t necessarily about antinutrients but oxalates and lectins, along with deadly nightshades, gluten, unfermented soy, and phytates, are being ramped up as foods to be feared.

Carolyn Dean MD ND

NOTE: Phytates are antioxidants that are said to bind with minerals, making them unavailable. There’s lots more to learn about phytates, but basically, our body learns to adapt to phytates in the diet, especially if you take enough vitamin C, which helps the absorption of iron that phytates seem to inhibit. Nutrients cooperate; they do not work in isolation.

My brain immediately asks the common sense question – how do animals, who mainly eat plants, survive these scary antinutrients? Oh, I don’t know – maybe if they eat a lot of one food that makes them feel a bit ill and then they don’t eat so much of that anymore. Maybe they eat a wide variety of plants and don’t binge. Could animals be more introspective than humans and put 2-and-2 together?

Why does it take humans so long to connect what they eat and how they feel? Let me count the ways.

  1. Nobody has directed people to assess if what they eat has an effect on the body, mind, and spirit. During my internship, my clinical mentor was a gastroenterologist, and while eating a bag of potato chips and drinking a soda, he assured me that diet had nothing to do with GI health.
  2. Our food intake has become extremely limited – we only eat a tiny number of vegetables and fruits that we could. The farm I sponsor on Maui grows about 80 different vegetables, fruits, and herbs. If we sample small amounts of them, we won’t eat a whole bunch of one thing that could have a problematic antinutrient.
  3. Our foods have become so ultra-processed that we may be overreacting to plant antinutrients because we are already weakened from ingesting so much inflammatory sugar, inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, and toxic synthetic additives.
  4. When we feel ill, we look for the guilty party. So when someone like Dr. Steven Gundry comes along and tells you that it’s not your poor lifestyle choices that are making you sick, it’s those awful lectin plants, you grab onto that excuse. However, as I mentioned in my article, when foods are cooked, most of the lectins (up to 99%) are neutralized.
  5. Yes, gluten can be a problem with people who have gluten enteropathy, but with the massive amount of wheat flour products that we eat and the adulteration of wheat crops with GMO technology and hybridization to increase gluten content, wheat and gluten can be a problem in an already irritated gut. What’s causing gut irritation? Yeast overgrowth and ultra-processed foods.

Back to my point about how animals handle antinutrient plants:

  1. Expand your diet to include dozens of vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
  2. Don’t drink a high oxalate, high phytate smoothie daily with lots of spinach, beets, beet greens, swiss chard, and almond milk, and expect to get off scott-free.
  3. Limit your bread intake to every third day.
  4. Cut back on added sugar, alcohol, and dairy.
  5. Do your own experiment with these foods. When I’ve eaten a couple of pounds of tomatoes for several days in a row, the small joints in my fingers can get swollen and painful. What does that tell me? That the alkaloid solanine in this deadly nightshade was elevated and causing fluid retention and inflammation. The other deadies are potatoes, eggplant, peppers, paprika. I had told an actor/mime with finger arthritis, who really needed his fingers to be functioning, to avoid the top three nightshade plants and forgot paprika. On his return visit, he said he was a bit better. So, I rattled off the deadies and this time remembered to put in paprika. He perked up and said he used paprika every day from his native Czechoslovakia! Avoiding it cleared up his arthritis.
  6. Taking your essential building block nutrients can help you metabolize all these so-called antinutrients. For example, if you are saturated with magnesium, you will automatically bind oxalates and make them harmless. Whereas if you are top-heavy with calcium, you can create calcium oxalate kidney stones. 

Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future