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Rice, Potato, and Tomato May Be As Inflammatory As Wheat

Rice, Potato, and Tomato May Be As Inflammatory As Wheat

In this article a key question is brought to the forefront, namely, is eating wheat and gluten free enough to obtain optimal health?  The mass market has done quite a good job of accommodating the gluten & wheat free movement by providing an increasingly wide number of good tasting and seeming nutritious "whole grain" products.  But are whole grains like rice, or other common wheat substitute flours like potato, really as good for us as we think?

The question can be answered in a number of ways, and it is important to keep things in perspective. As idealists, we might ask ourselves: "What is the perfect diet?" But as realists there is always a sliding scale of lesser evils that we exchange for the experience of enjoying our foods and obtaining the comfort they readily provide. Take a grain of sea salt as you read this exposé, as it is intended to illuminate how in some cases eliminating wheat and gluten will not be enough to overcome nagging inflammatory problems like osteoarthritis, or maybe more serious treatment refractory and idiopathic health conditions.

Lectins: Invisible Thorns

In a previous article this author discussed the "invisible thorn" found within all wheat products, including sprouted wheat bread and wheat grass, known as wheat lectin (technical name: Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA)).  This intrinsically inflammatory and endocrine disruptive substance was thoroughly reviewed  (via MEDLINE) and identified to have a broad range of potentially health disruptive effects:

1) WGA may be Pro-inflammatory

2) WGA may be Immunotoxic

3) WGA may be Neurotoxic

4) WGA may be Cytotoxic

5) WGA may interfere with Gene Expression

6) WGA may disrupt Endocrine Function

7) WGA may be Cardiotoxic

8) WGA may adversely effect Gastrointestinal Function

9) WGA exhibits similarities with certain Viruses

[View a more elaborate analysis of WGA's modes of toxicity, including citations]

Lectin Toxicity May Evade Antibody-Based Blood Tests

While it is clear that wheat lectin has potential to do harm, it must be emphasized that the type of harm it does is harder to diagnose than in classically defined wheat/gluten allergies and celiac disease.  In other words, confirmation of intolerance will not be found in antibody, allergy or intestinal biopsy testing because the damage it does is direct, and not necessarily immune-mediated, or only secondarily so.


This diagnostic "invisibility" is why lectin consumption is rarely linked to the ailments that afflict those who consume them.  While lectins are not the sole or primary cause of a wide range of disorders, they are a major factor in sustaining or reinforcing injuries or diseases once they are initiated and/or established in the body.  

In the case of wheat lectin (WGA) this is due to the fact that it binds to, interacts and disrupts a basic component found within all neural, connective and epithelial tissue, namely, n-acetyl-glucosamine.  Once WGA makes it through a compromised mucosa and/or digestive lining, for instance, it can exert systemic effects which easily become overlooked as being caused by consuming wheat.

Wheat Lectin Thorn

So Why Do Plants Like Wheat Produce Lectins?

Nature engineers, within all species, a set of defenses against predation, though not all are as obvious as the thorns on a rose or the horns on a rhinoceros. Plants do not have the cell-mediated immunity of higher life forms, like ants, nor do they have the antibody driven, secondary immune systems of vertebrates with jaws.

They must rely on a much simpler, innate immunity. It is for this reason that seeds of the grass family, e.g. rice, wheat, spelt, rye, have exceptionally high levels of defensive glycoproteins known as lectins. In a previous article we explored this in greater depth:

Wheat lectin is Nature's ingenious solution for protecting the wheat plant from the entire gamut of its natural enemies. Fungi have cell walls composed of a polymer of N-Acetylglucosamine. The cellular walls of bacteria are made from a layered structure called the peptidoglycan, a biopolymer of N-Acetyl-glucosamine. N-Acetylglucosamine is the basic unit of the biopolymer chitin, which forms the outer coverings of insects and crustaceans (shrimp, crab, etc.). All animals, including worms, fish, birds and humans, use N-Acetyglucosamine as a foundational substance for building the various tissues in their bodies, including the bones. The production of cartilage, tendons, and joints depend on the structural integrity of N-Acetylglucosamine. The mucous known as the glycocalyx, or literally, "sugar coat" is secreted in humans by the epithelial cells which line all the mucous membranes, from nasal cavities to the top to the bottom of the alimentary tube, as well as the protective and slippery lining of our blood vessels. The glycocalyx is composed largely of N-Acetylglucosamine and N-Acetylneuraminic acid (also known as sialic acid), with carbohydrate end of N-Acetylneuraminic acid of this protective glycoprotein forming the terminal sugar that is exposed to the contents of both the gut and the arterial lumen (opening). WGA's unique binding specificity to these exact two glycoproteins is not accidental. Nature has designed WGA perfectly to attach to, disrupt, and gain entry through these mucosal surfaces. ~ Opening Pandora's Bread Box

The Omnipresence of Chitin-Binding Lectin in the Western Diet

While eliminating wheat from the diet is an excellent and necessary step for improving health, it may not be alone sufficient, especially in those with serious health challenges. There are other lectins in the Western diet that have properties similar to wheat lectin (WGA), namely, "chitin-binding lectins."  Remember, "chitins" are long polymers of n-acetyl-glucosamine, the primary binding target of wheat lectin. Wheat lectin and "chitin-binding lectin" therefore share functional similarities. These chitin-binding lectin containing foods are:

1) Potato [view abstract]

2) Tomato [view abstract]

3) Barley [view abstract]

4) Rye [view abstract]

5) Rice [view abstract]

Yes, you are seeing correctly: potato and rice, which are two of the most commonly used ingredients in "gluten and wheat free" products, are on the list of foods which contain a lectin structurally and functionally similar to wheat lectin. 

While the "nightshade" (potato and tomato) connection with inflammation has been known about for quite some time anecdotally, rice has rarely been considered problematic and has become something of a poster child for the wheat/gluten free industry which often substitutes it for gluten-containing ingredients.

The discovery that chitin-binding lectin is broadly distributed throughout cereal grasses sheds light on how the grain-free diet produces health results superior to that of eliminating wheat and gluten containing grains alone.  

How These Lectins Explain Our Dependence on NSAIDs and Glucosamine

Because many tissues within humans are comprised of n-acetyl-glucosame (a chitin-like substance) the consumption of seemingly innocuous foods such as listed above could result in a wide range of adverse effects (see WGA Research).   The fact that so many Americans consume at least two or three of the above foods (plus wheat) daily may explain, for one, why degenerative joint disease (i.e. osteoarthritis) is the rule and not the exception in Western societies.  This should explain the connection further:

One way to gauge just how pervasive the adverse effects of these foods are among Western populations is the popularity of the dietary supplement glucosamine. In the USA, a quarter billion dollars’ worth of glucosamine is sold annually.The main source of glucosamine on the market is from the N-Acetylglucosamine rich chitin exoskelotons of crustaceans, like shrimp and crab. Glucosamine is used for reducing pain and inflammation. We do not have a dietary deficiency of the pulverized shells of dead sea critters, just as our use of NSAIDs is not caused by a deficiency of these synthetic chemicals in our diet. When we consume glucosamine supplements, the chitin-binding lectins in our foods, instead of binding to our tissues, bind to the pulverized chitin in the glucosamine supplements, sparing us from their full impact. Many millions of Americans who have greatly reduced their pain and suffering by ingesting glucosamine and NSAIDs may be better served by removing chitin-binding lectin containing foods (the underlying cause of their malaise) from their diets. This would result in even greater relief from pain and inflammation along with far less dependency on palliative supplements and medicines alike. ~ Opening Pandora's Bread Box

The connection between these chitin-binding lectins and NSAID/Glucosamine dependency has now been explained, but this is only the tip of the "lectin" iceberg. I believe that an in-depth investigation into wheat lectin/chitin-binding lectin will reveal that these "invisible thorns" are a rather dominant contributing factor to morbidity and mortality in Westernized societies, and largely go unnoticed because they do not require immune mediation (and therefore may not be diagnosable through antibody testing) in order to inflict damage.

For Further Reading

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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Other Grains

Also, do you have info about lectin in the following grains? Buckwheat, Millet, Amaranth, Teff, Sorghum, and Wild rice.

No chitin-binding lectin in millet, corn, or glutenfree oats

I know that there is no chitin-binding lectin in millet, corn, or gluten-free oats. Gluten-free oats are uncontaminated oats that typically have been grown for at least 3 years in a field with no crop rotation to wheat and also harvested with dedicated equipment that has not been used on wheat.

I react to sorghum and therefore suspect that it has the lectin. The other grains I just don't  know about. All of the buckwheat that I can find locally is contaminated with wheat.

If anyone has additional knowledge on these other grains, I would like to see it posted here.



What about quinoa?

Cultural Context

What about the consumption world wide? For instance are there Asian cultures, that don't have the same problems Americans have with these foods?

I have a Filipino friend that has the problem

I have a Filipino friend that has this problem and reacts with psoriasis/eczema, joint inflammation, and varicose vein issues. He is able to control and eliminate these issues by strictly avoiding foods with chitin-binding lectins.


enriched foods and synthetic pesticides are NOT the problem!

Wheat, rice, and potatoes have certainly been consumed for thousands of years.  The fact that so many Americans consume at least two or three of chitin-binding lectin foods daily may explain, for one, why degenerative joint disease (i.e. osteoarthritis) is the rule and not the exception in Western societies. Enrichment of foods and the application of synthetic pesticides was not around to explain the long history of osteoarthritis. I agree with Sayer Ji that the family of chitin-binding lectins may be the toxin that causes osteoarthritis and many other diseases of mankind.

The toxin IS the family of chitin-binding lectins.

I think that Sayer Ji's article is truly ground-breaking. Maybe a Nobel Prize is in Mr. Ji's future.


enriched foods and synthetic pesticides are NOT the problem!

Wheat, rice, and potatoes have certainly been consumed for thousands of years.  The fact that so many Americans consume at least two or three of chitin-binding lectin foods daily may explain, for one, why degenerative joint disease (i.e. osteoarthritis) is the rule and not the exception in Western societies. Enrichment of foods and the application of synthetic pesticides was not around to explain the long history of osteoarthritis. I agree with Sayer Ji that the family of chitin-binding lectins may be the toxin that causes osteoarthritis and many other diseases of mankind.

The toxin IS the family of chitin-binding lectins.

I think that Sayer Ji's article is truly ground-breaking. Maybe a Nobel Prize is in Mr. Ji's future.


"enriched" foods and pesticides... that's the problem!

Wheat , rice , potatoes have been consumed for hundreds if not thousands of years by humans without incident. It's only in the last 50 odd years that problems have started to spring up when food started getting enriched by all kinds of toxins such as bromine and iodine and aluminium along with a host of pesticides and preservatives.

It took me a good 10 minutes to go through this article and there is not one mention of these toxins that are contributing to all these illnesses.

I'm sorry to say this article truely was very disappointing to read! I would devote my next research grant on whats added to thses grains!

Chitin-binding lectin

WoW!!  So far over my head (the link) : - )     But, in layman/laywoman terms, one might conclude that when rice is  "fermented" as with dosa, some sensitivity may be eliminated or greatly reduced?  I ask as unlike properly fermented and unpasteurized saurkraut and other live ferments, dosa is then cooked.  So eating dosa would not be of benefit for the LAB, as cooking would destroy it, I think.  But dosa would certainly be superior to a flour tortilla, particularly to those with sensitivities.   As you can see I'm a fan of dosa!!  

Chitin-binding lectin and lactic acid bacteria

 Chitin-binding lectin would be used up when it attatches to the n-acetyl-glucosamine in the bacteria. So I think that fermentation of rice starch could be used to neutralize chitin-binding lectin. See here where fermentation has been shown to work to produce lactic acid from rice starch:





Fermentation of rice

I can't grasp on to the idea that cooking and fermenting would have the same effect on rice? (or any other food for that fact)    During the fermentation process (of dosa, in this case), the lactic acid bacteria that forms would consume or reduce the starch, and make the end product more digestible.   However, I'm not certain how that reduction or elimination might play (if it does) into the elimination of chitin-binding lectins?   Thank you.

fermentation of rice

I dought that fermentation would remove the lectin because cooking in water doesn't do it.

However, adding powdered N-acetyl-glucosamine to the cooking water would likely work by providing a target for the chitin-binding lectin.

Since the exoskeltons of insects have n-acetyl-glucosamine, you could cook rice with grasshoppers or other insects for a balanced meal. Yum!

fermentation of rice

so can these chitin binding lectins - perhaps or perhaps not in whit rice be eliminated through fermentation as in dosa?  Soaked rice, lentils, salt and fenugreek that is the lacto fermented?

gluten free/chitin-binding lectin free Oats

Oats are typically grown near or alternated with wheat as well as usually harvested with the same equipment that has been used on wheat. Pure oats are naturally gluten free but store bought Quaker Oats for example usually fail an ELISA gluten test and so are typically contaminated with at least 20ppm gluten from wheat, barley, or rye.

I get sick from just a half cup of Quaker Oats but have no problem with Bob's Red Mill gluten free rolled oats that I order via internet from either Amazon or Swanson Vitamins for ~$5/2-lb bag. According to the Bob's Red Mill website, their gluten free oats are grown on fields that are dedicated to oats with NO wheat grown there for at least 3 years and harvested and processed on dedicated equipment  as well as batch tested for gluten via an ELISA test.

I regard Oats as a special grain in that it is naturally gluten-free, and has soluble and insoluble fiber that does double duty for you by being a food for you as well as being a pre-biotic that feeds your good gut probiotic bacteria.  


Chitin-Binding Lectin foods

Starch containing foods that do NOT contain chitin-binding lectins include gluten free oats, millet, corn, and sweet potatoes/yams.

Since Goji berries are in the nightshade family, I am cautious with them but have used a little wolfberry/goji berry extract as a food supplement without any trouble. I do have trouble with tomatoes but not with a lycopene supplement (Lyco-mato) that I use every day.

Gluten is the big problem for me and just an eighth of a teaspoon of wheat would make me sick for four days whereas it would take several whole teaspoons of any chitin-binding lectin food for me to notice any problem at all.


Lectins and Food Allergy

Interestingly, glucosamine did nothing at all for me, and I used it for a year just to give it a fair try. I have read that if glucosamine doesn’t work for you, then lectins are not your particular problem. If glucosamine does work, then lectins are likely an issue for you.

Lectins aside, another food allergy theory is that celiac and candidiasis cause leaky gut, and leaky gut can give rise to all manner of food allergies. It may not so much be the type of food [gluten, lectins] as the fact that food is crossing into the body in an un-broken-down state which the immune system then recognizes as an invader and attacks. This is not to say that food allergies are only due to some type of leaky gut, but many food allergies actually are and can be healed through diet. I used a very strict candidiasis diet for 2 years along with supplements to heal my intestines. It took another year and a half for all food issues to resolve, and I now can eat anything though I no longer have cravings and no longer want some of the things I once ate. [It’s whole organic foods for us now.] I have also eliminated all of my food allergies that I’ve had for most of my life simply by healing my gut. The allergy elimination was something I did not expect, but for which I am grateful!

Glucosamine and lectins


Before eliminating chitin-binding lectin foods from my diet i was using glucosamine every day with great success in eliminating problems with joints that I previously thought was arthritis. Now I don't need any glucosamine since I've stopped eating any chitin-binding lectin foods. Other big benefits that I've gotten by eliminating those damn chitin-binding lectins include dry farts , no more loose stools, and no more excema or fire skin-intch. ;). However, I'm still refining my list of foods that contain chitin-binding lectins. Since legumes like peanuts and beans naturally come with a wide variety of lectins, I pretty much eliminate all of them.


White rice, cucumbers, winter squash, and nettle

I react with the same fire skin itch along with spontaneous capillary blood leakage under the skin to both white rice and brown rice and also to tomato, potato (not sweet potatoes), cucumber, winter squash (pumpkin and calabaza squash), and nettle (found in many supplements for prostate support). I researched cucumber, winter squash, and nettle to find that they also have chitin-binding lectins. I also suspect smaller reactions to cantaloupe (in the same family as cucumber), summer squash (in the same family as winter squash), and soy. As a celiac I'm already avoiding the gluten containing grains wheat, barley, and rye.

I don't have any problem with gluten free oats or corn and suspect that many people who follow a strict Paleo Diet would even feel better if they also avoided cucumbers, winter squash, and nettle. Strict Paleo people already avoid all grains and all nightshade plants. I think that strict Paleo followers would be pleasantly surprised if they tried adding gluten free oats and millet and maybe even corn back into their rotation.

Has anyone else discovered other plant foods that have chitin-binding lectins?

White Rice & Rice Bran contain WGA-like Lectin

This seems to indicate that even white rice flour has the WGA-like lectin

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1987 Feb 13;142(3):717-23.
Immunoblotting detection of lectins in gluten and white rice flour.
Kolberg J, Wedege E, Sollid L.

The gluten lectin was isolated by affinity chromatography, separated by sodium dodecyl sulphate-gel electrophoresis together with purified wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) and electrotransferred to nitrocellulose filters. The binding pattern of anti-WGA to the blotted filters confirmed the presence of WGA in gluten. A lectin from rice bran and white rice flour, respectively, was isolated by affinity chromatography. Both lectins reacted with anti-WA in immunoblotting. As patients with coeliac disease are known to tolerate rice flour, the finding of a WGA-like lectin questioned the suggestion that WGA in gluten is involved in the pathogenesis of coeliac disease. A second lectin was also isolated from rice flour which reacted only with antibodies against soybean lectin on immunoblots. This may indicate a contamination of soybean proteins in rice flour.



CEO of Komputer King LLC and IT Admin for

Rice, Potato, & Tomato May Be As Inflammatory As Wheat

Thank you for your work.

With regard to the above article, I would like to call to your attention the readily-available  evidence demonstrating that rice lectins are almost completely eliminated by removal of the bran and subsequent water-based cooking.

This is a very important point, and one which helps to explain the (generally) superior health of white rice vs. wheat-eating cultures.





Rice cooking


Are you talking about cooking rice in water and then draining the excess water? Or is it just the water that is absorbed into rice while cooking that changes the properties?

White Rice vs. Brown Rice


I think that what Peter is saying is that white rice is brown rice with the bran and germ removed. Peter thinks that the lectins are only in the bran and germ so that there aren't any lectins in white rice. However, Peter in mistaken. See Sayer Ji's research reference comment on this. Also, I react the same way to white rice as to all other foods that contain chitin-binding lectins.

Rice and Potato cause me the same problems as Grains

I eliminated gluten from cereals from my diet over 10 years ago and then about 5 years ago started suffering the same problems again. I went on another elimation diet and found potatoes and rice were the problem. Since I stopped eating both of them I have only had 3 migraine headaches that is in 2 years when I was getting 2 or 3 a week before. So in my case  rice and potato caused me the same problems that gluten did and I therefore must disagree with you Peter. I have Barretts Oesophagus and found that the pills I need to stop it developing into full blown cancer caused me to have problems, they stop stomach acids from forming somewhat so I suppose I am unable to digest some foods properly. That could be the main reason I have such problems but I have now found that what I think are called bell peppers in the US, tomatoes, all berries and apricots have been the cause of my excema. 2 years ago it covered most of my body from head to foot, now I have it on 1 leg and my scalp. I think that food can be the cause of many problems that the medical field just does not or will not recognise, and of course as we are all different the different things can cause problems for different people. I still crave freshly baked bread and all of the things mentioned but when I do I remind myself how the migraines affected me and the excema and I am able to resist - just.

Mary E Johnson

elimination of chitin-binding lectin foods


I bet if you stopped eating other foods that have chitin-binding lectins that you would see the rest of your excema go away. My exclusion list includes wheat, barley, rye, white rice, brown rice, tomato, potato (not sweet potato!), cucumber, winter squash, soy, and nettle (both root and leaf). By eliminating these chitin-binding lectin containing foods, you would see improvement in 30 days. You are lucky like me to have a visual indicator, excema, to actually show you that you are removing the troublesome foods from your diet.

Chitin-binding lectin list


Other foods that I also exclude because I suspect that they contain the lectin include other nightshade plants (eggplant, and peppers including bell peppers and paprika seasoning that is derived from peppers). 

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