The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain
By Steven R. Gundry, MD
There are many theories about what is at the root of poor health in modern civilization, especially in the last century. What is it this time in The Plant Paradox? Fat? Meat? Raw milk? Too much sun? Genetics? Global warming? Kim Kardashian? No, this time it is lectins (not lecithin, leptin or leprechauns). Lectins are, for the most part, large proteins. Gluten is a well-known example. Grains and other foods containing lectin have been around for thousands of years, so our bodies should be able to handle them, right? Gundry says “yes,” up to a point. However, modern food processing has amped up the lectins to the point that we are overloaded.
There are many things we are doing wrong. We now feed cattle grain and sometimes soy. We also feed grain and soy to chickens and other animals, so the meat and other products from those animals now have much more lectin. Bt corn is genetically modified to add the snowdrop lectin (Galanthus nivalis). Whole wheat bread is popularly believed to be the healthy choice, but the bran contains wheat germ agglutinin, which is even worse than gluten. Traditional breads made with yeast are much better because the yeast eats the lectins. Sourdough is one of the least dangerous breads. Cooking also reduces lectins. Fermentation helps.
Chapter 4 lists the seven deadly disruptors of a healthy gut. It is a pretty good list that includes antibiotics and other drugs, artificial sweeteners, endocrine disruptors and GMOs.
Although there is a lot of good information and attention to how our ancestors ate and what we are doing wrong, I think Nourishing Diets covers it better. The book has some references, but Gundry also presents a lot of information without citing any references, drawing on his observations in his medical practice. I’m inclined to take people at their word unless there is a good reason not to, so I’ll go along with that.
It is not hard to believe that Gundry’s diet protocol has helped many people, and after getting well into the book, my thumb was provisionally up. Then I looked at the list of acceptable foods, and my thumb began to droop. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things on the list (even cod liver oil), and you can conform to Weston A. Price principles if you pick and choose the right things. But there are also things on the list that I would stay away from, including sweeteners like xylitol and erythritol, dark chocolate, energy bars and hemp tofu. Gundry includes good pastured meat and dairy but seems to have a somewhat negative view of saturated fat (but he does like coconut oil) and animal protein. He thinks less is better.
The discussion of vitamin D made my thumb droop a little more. It is certainly good that he considers vitamin D important. No doubt it is. Cod liver oil is on the list of acceptable supplements, but I saw no mention of it in the section where he goes into detail on vitamin D. Gundry mentions fish oil but does not say that most fish oil supplements are rancid and that you can easily overdose on omega-3. In his practice, if I understand correctly, he recommends vitamin D3 from a capsule or pill. When starting his program, he recommends five thousand IU of vitamin D per day. Double that if you have an autoimmune disease. He has never seen a case of vitamin D toxicity and doubts that it exists. Again, I won’t dispute his personal observations, but I have heard that others are pretty sure they have seen vitamin D toxicity. I would personally feel much safer getting a somewhat lower quantity of vitamin D in a good quality cod liver oil properly balanced with vitamins A and K2.
This book gets a lot of details right that others get wrong. For the educated and discerning reader, this book could be very helpful, so I don’t want to trash it, but my thumb has to follow the Weston A. Price principles. In the final balance, the thumb is DOWN.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2018.🖨️ Print post
I’m so glad to see this book review. Unfortunately, Gundry’s suggestions are all over the Internet and his videos/emails are sent out by many good docs.
Barbara Schibly MD says
I first looked at this book when one of my patients came in with it, telling me how much weight she had lost and how good she felt after following the diet. When I first read it I thought there were many valid points in the book, but, when I read things like “People who insist that we need to eat animal protein will soon learn what any gorilla knows: there is a huge amount of muscle-building protein in leaves. Not convinced? Just look at a horse. He didn’t get those sleek muscles from munching on burgers.” it seemed so ignorant (try feeding that diet to a wolf and see how much muscle he makes!) and was such a turn off that I set the book aside and didn’t think much more about it.
That is until yet another patient came in saying not only had she managed to lose a lot of weight following the diet (which she had previously been unable to do) but that her rheumatoid arthritis was in complete remission and she was off all her medications.
That definitely caught my attention because I have had limited success with autoimmune patients and gut healing protocols. I’m quite sure Gundry is on the right track with lectins because other physicians have had success with autoimmune conditions by removing nightshade vegetables and gluten, and I have also found this helpful – but only to an extent.
So I am now trying Gundry’s more encompassing lectin-removing diet (minus the advice about limiting animal protein and saturated fats) with my autoimmune patients. Will it work? Ask me in a year.
As for this book review, I’m wondering why the Weston Price Foundation is even bothering to do book reviews. When you set yourself up as the unquestionable and supreme authority on something and judge everything else by whether or not it coincides with your opinions, well…just publish your own books. Why even bother reading anyone else’s?
I am also wondering why someone who clearly has no clinical experience is reviewing this kind of a book. Have you tried healing autoimmune diseases with diet, Tim? What about IBS or IBD? No? Well, I have and I can tell you, it’s not so easy. So, despite its (somewhat glaring)
flaws, I appreciate this book because it gives me another approach – and overall, I think that approach is quite reasonable. Again, ask me in a year, but I think this is worth a try.
Any updates on how this is working for you, if you’re still doing the program?
OK, I’m asking you in4 years–now what do you think of Dr Gundry;s book? Any success with your autoimmune patients? Thanks
June Varner says
I am a retired farmer, learning and practicing making dirt into healthy, productive soil has been my life’s work for many years. I have had to cope with many health issues over these years, food has saved my life when meds were destroying it. I was introduced to the Adelle Davis nutrition books when I was thirty, they are still part of my library. Later I found Acres, USA and Nourishing Traditions to add to my knowledge of healthy food growing and preparation.
If Gundry persuades people to avoid all foods that are GMO [hence roundup]and makes them aware that most farmland soil is depleted of nutrients, he has accomplished a great feat. If people read his book and only changed their diet to avoid GMO’s and pesticide raised foods their health would improve. I agree with his stance on A-2 milk and the health value of fresh whole milk. I agree that meats should be grass-fed, grass finished. I agree we should not use [or need] most personal care and household products.
Gundry seems to say that all seeds seem to be toxic but then some seeds are okay? Psyllium which can damage your intestines by absorbing the important mucus and fluid is recommended, better to eat a couple stalks of celery. Immature green beans and pea pods, a long way from being seeds, are on the forbidden list which doesn’t make sense. I am stunned that Gundry recommends shellfish, bottom feeders and probably the most polluted meat there is. ALL fish, even wild caught, bioaccumulate toxics like mercury and pcb’s, thus should be rarely eaten. I am skeptical about his turning it into a supplement marketing tool. People who depend on this book for their nutrition information should use caution. I will not be making this book part of my library.
Tim de Wys says
I started the gundry lectin free diet approximately 3 months ago.
It has totaly changed my life.
My blood sugars before were constant around 13 to 17.
Now they are at 6 to 8 and I no longer are taking metformin of insulin.
My energy levels are staggering my life has gone from a couch patato to running up on our port hills to full time gym training.
I have lost 12 lbs of weight.
Before I even started to exercise my breathing was amazing I no longer was puffing when exerting my self.
My sore joints have totaly disappeared.
In the morning I seem to bounce out of bed like I haven’t done in years.
Medicine has never ever done this for me.
So when I hear people scoffing this diet I have no respect for them.
So pleased to hear the doctor Barbara take notice of her patients improved health.
That’s so hard to find doctors do not want to seem there are other possibilities from there tired old medical out looks.
There is so many changes that have happened to me that I find it very hard to explain.
But at the end of the day the only proof you need is right there in the 3 monthly blood check.
You doctors that are sceptics try the diet for 3 months then make your comments.
After all is it not your duty to heal people in the best of your ability?
Tim de Wys says
That was meant to be 12 kgs of weight not pounds.
This article wasn’t “scoffing” at Dr. Gundry’s findings, the author of this article was simply pointing out the pros and cons of the diet presented in the book.
Did you read the entire article?
“This book gets a lot of details right that others get wrong. For the educated and discerning reader, this book could be very helpful, so I don’t want to trash it..”
Anyways, I also appreciated Dr. Barbara’s comment, but Weston A Price does a fantastic job at researching nutrition as well. No one organization or Dr. should be considered the one and only authority. Read everything, try everything and reach your own conclusions. One diet does not fit all.
If lectins are a concern, check out Dr. Axe, he has a wealth of knowledge on the lectin subject (his book, Eat Dirt is also a best seller).
Barbara Schibly MD says
Hey Tim. Thanks for the mention (I am accepting new patients. . .LOL!) And thanks for sharing your experience with the diet. Of all the things we do to improve our health, watching what we put in our mouths is unquestionably the most important.
Alison Kay says
Thanks for your post above Barbara. I agree.
Alison Kay says
I agree with Barbara. I think this book review is misguided at best. WAPF has done great work to publicise the issue with phytic acid – lectins are another plant protection that can be detrimental to humans.
Ancestral wisdom in cooking deals with phytic acid and it’s the same for lectins – traditional food practises like sourdough, peeling and seeding tomatoes (done routinely in sauce making here in Italy) reduce lectins and were done long before anyone knew the science. Gundry is catching up using the knowledge technology can give us.
This information has provided an amazing key to healing my son after 6 slow experimental years – two of which were on GAPS. Dismissing the book because its plan allows things that WAPF does not presupposes that WAPF has a monopoly on knowledge. I prefer to read, learn, try out and make my own mind up. I think the book reviews in the journal are written with such bias as to be closing the door on potential wisdom.
Vicki Brooks says
I have just learned about Dr. Gundry and am learning about the lectin issue. I came here to read WAPFs take on it and I think the review (Thank you, Tim) plus the discussion that followed gave me a good feel for how much faith to put in Dr. Gundrys teachings. I simply don’t have the time to research the huge volume of books that cross my path on my own and the guidance I get here is invaluable.
Well said Vicky, thanks for that comment. I did exactly the same thing and feel the same way.