How spaghetti contributed to my daughter’s headaches is another example (more here and here) of experiencing a health challenge and finding a new answer.
My youngest daughter was getting periodic headaches and made a connection they were occurring every 4H meeting on Mondays. A helpful observation as we had fallen into a routine of spaghetti every Monday because of its simplicity to get the kids fed and off to 4H.
So, headaches after spaghetti with brown rice noodles, what gives?
I have written about lectins before, but they are plant defense mechanisms that humans are susceptible to varying degrees. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family of vegetables. We know these as troublesome for some because of the lectin content in their skin and seeds. Brown rice also has a high lectin content – the brown part includes the protective shell of the grain, where the lectin lives.
Every Monday, she was getting a double whammy of lectins (maybe triple; she loves spaghetti)- and headaches.
“Well, lectins in the seeds, grains, skins, rinds, and leaves of most plants bind to carbohydrates (sugars), and particularly to complex sugars called polysaccharides, in the predator’s body after it consumes the plant. Like smart bombs, lectins target and attach themselves to sugar molecules, primarily on the surface of the cells of other organisms—particularly fungi, insects, and other animals. They also bind to sialic acid, a sugar molecule found in the gut, in the brain, between nerve endings, in joints, and in all bodily fluids, including the blood vessel lining of all creatures. Lectins are sometimes referred to as “sticky proteins” because of this binding process, which means they can interrupt messaging between cells or otherwise cause toxic or inflammatory reactions”
Steven R. Gundry M.D., The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain, pg. 16, loc. 343
We have already eliminated most of the foods her friends eat under my key avoidances, but how could we take away spaghetti too?
Pressure Cooking destroys lectins but regular cooking does not. We have made spaghetti sauce in an Instant Pot before, which the kids enjoyed.
De-seeding and skinning the tomatoes (or other lectin-containing food) is a viable option. Many Italian recipes call for the skinning and de-seeding of tomatoes.
Reading Gundry’s book, I learned a few supplements interfere with lectins and their ability to cause harm. N-Acetyl D-Glucosamine (NAG) is the predominant one, but there are others.
This strategy allowed my daughter to continue enjoying spaghetti!
Taking NAG, she can consume lectin-containing foods. Forgetting NAG leads to headaches – reliably.
Twice this month again was confirmation. Had spaghetti on a trip, forgot the NAG, headache ensued.
She also learned a new lectin avoidance, peanuts. She earned an ice cream reward for conquering her nemesis hole at the golf course with a bogey. Moosetrack with peanut butter and peanuts was the flavor.
Thirty minutes later, a headache.
Peanut exposure at our house is minimal for three reasons:
- High lectin
- They can ramp up our immune system
“Did you know that 94 percent of humans carry a preformed antibody to the peanut lectin?”
Gundry M.D., Steven R.. The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain (p. 209). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
- High Roundup, used right before packaging to aid in desiccating (drying)1
So, lesson learned, if she is going to be exposed to peanuts again, NAG will be involved.
We have this product available for purchase:
Lectins don’t impact everyone the same, but with this daughter, they are a no-go.
Do I recommend lectin avoidance for everyone? No. However, for those with any inflammation issues (headaches can be an indicator), it is definitely worth exploring some of the strategies above for evaluation.
I don’t have inflammatory issues but will often take some NAG when she does just to be on the safe side. Inflammation isn’t always perceptible, and I don’t want to raise my inflammatory markers. Further, I do practice partial lectin restriction.
Applying personalized nutritional strategies isn’t something you have to do alone (or with just Dr. Google). You can start here and evaluate a membership for some clinical support along the way!
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