Search Autoimmune Association
Share this article
Am Reducing Gluten And Lectins To Calm Autoimmune Symptoms

Reducing Gluten and Lectins to Calm Autoimmune Symptoms

Gluten and lectins are plant compounds found in wheat, barley, rye, (gluten) legumes and potatoes (lectins).  In some people, and perhaps many people, gluten and lectins cause intestinal damage and inflammation, which can eventually lead to celiac disease.  While gluten has long been implicated in celiac, the theory of lectin-induced damage is in its infancy.  Nonetheless, some speculate that damage to the small intestine by these substances may be the primary cause of other autoimmune conditions because intestinal damage can lead to increased permeability, which allows undigested and foreign material to enter the bloodstream and trigger widespread inflammatory reactions (the “Leaky Gut” theory) though this has never been proved in conventional medical literature.  Limiting your consumption of gluten and/or lectins, whether or not you have an autoimmune condition, is something you might be interested in if you haven’t found other paths to feeling well.

I haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease, so is it ok for me to consume gluten/lectin?

Celiac disease is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections, lactose intolerance, sensitive stomach, nervousness or sometimes even psychoses. If you experience chronic abdominal pain, constipation/diarrhea, flatulence, fatigue, weight-loss, nutrient deficiencies and widespread inflammation, then you will likely benefit from reducing or eliminating gluten/lectin from your diet, which will give your small intestine a chance to heal.

I don’t think I have celiac disease, but I want to reduce my consumption of gluten/lectin to see if my autoimmune inflammatory symptoms improve. What is the best way to do this?

Gluten and lectins are widespread in the typical American diet because they are in foods made from grains, such as bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, cereals, crackers, chips, pasta and a wide variety of sauces, salad dressings and condiments.  Furthermore, grains that don’t contain gluten or lectins, such as oats and rice, are sometimes contaminated because they are processed alongside other grains.  Switching over to a more “paleolithic” diet (that includes meats, vegetables and fruit, but no grains or legumes) will give you an opportunity to see if your autoimmune symptoms improve.  If you can’t go without bread or pasta, then consider gluten-free varieties made from rice flour. Allow yourself at least two weeks after the dietary changes before you try and assess if your inflammatory symptoms have improved.

Should I avoid eating in restaurants and cafes during my experiment?

Yes.  Most restaurants don’t consider the gluten/lectin content of their menu items.  Even restaurants that claim to have gluten-free dishes rarely take the precautions to 100% eliminate contamination (which involves the use of separate gloves, knives, pots and pans to cook the gluten-free food).

Are there any studies that show that a gluten reduction will improve autoimmune symptoms?

There is solid research to indicate that early and effective gluten elimination in celiac patients reduces the frequency of developing a second or third autoimmune disease. While nobody has proved that a gluten free diet can reduce the symptoms of an already-established other disease (diabetes, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, etc), it’s certainly not unreasonable to try a gluten and/or lectin free diet to see how your unique body responds.

Questions for your doctor

  • How long does it take for an injured and inflamed small intestine to heal in the absence of gluten/lectin?
  • Is weight-loss common on a gluten-free diet?
  • Were our hunter/gatherer paleolithic ancestors healthier than our neolithic ancestors who cultivated grains?




This blog post was originally published by and first published on Sep 15, 2012.

This post contains the opinions of the author. Autoimmune Association is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances. Autoimmune Association does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website. Your use of the website is subject to our Privacy Policy.

Share this article

Join our email list

Receive the latest blog articles, news, and more right to your inbox!

Related articles you might be interested in

Am Addisons Disease Celiac Mom Story

Addison’s Disease & Celiac Mom Story: “The Autoimmune Snowball”

I was 32 years old.  I had just survived a miserable pregnancy and rough delivery, but instead of gaining my strength back and...
Am Addisons Disease

Addison’s Disease: Overview of Antibodies & Genetic Links

Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency, is an endocrine condition involving destruction of parts of the adrenal gland (which sits atop...
Am Addisons Disease And Pregnancy

Addison’s Disease and Pregnancy

What are some implications for pregnancy with Addison’s disease? Among the many autoimmune diseases, Addison’s stands out as one with an often delayed...

Find more resources on autoimmunity

Learn more about autoimmunity, diagnosis tips, how to find a physician, and more.