Why I Gave Up on Sprouted Grains

Why I Gave Up on Sprouted Grains post image

Aside from all the problems with wheat and grains – such as the detrimental effects of gluten and gliadin, hydridization of wheat, deamination of gluten, allergies to wheat proteins, effects on sugar metabolism and effects on the brain – there is one dangerous component of wheat that simply cannot be deactivated.

That is – wheat germ agglutinin or wheat lectin.

What are Lectins?

Plants have evolved their own particular defensive mechanisms against predators. They contain many chemical compounds that can be toxic, such as the alkaloids in various nightshades. Plants also contain exceptionally high levels of glycoproteins called lectins, which help keep predators away and ensure the continuation of the species.

Lectins are found in all grains, seeds, legumes, dairy and the nightshade vegetables tomato and potato (part of the reason nightshades are highly inflammatory and eliminated on autoimmune diets).

Soaking, sprouting and fermentation are the traditional ways in which people have learned to prepare grains, seeds and legumes. This reduces the amount of these anti-nutrients in the food, somewhat.  However, lectins are much harder to break down.

Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA)

The lectin called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) or wheat lectin is particularly difficult to break down.

Sadly, WGA is found in very high amounts in sprouted grains and whole grains. – the very grains that are promoted as healthy. Those healthy whole grains are actually worse for people – especially those with leaky gut and digestive disorders.


When I first discovered the traditional ways of food preparation I tried sprouted grains many times. I never understood why they made me feel worse. I would get serious heartburn and bloating. Even gluten in other forms never gave me those particular symptoms – only sprouted wheat.

It wasn’t until I learned about WGA that I understood. Now, I would never eat it again.

It’s hard to convince people who want to practice the traditional way of preparing foods that some methods are just not enough for people with digestive disorders.

Does Sprouting Really Help?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is perhaps not enough for people with autoimmunity and digestive problems.

Phytic acid is another anti-nutrient that is supposedly deactivated with soaking/sprouting. However, this study published in the Journal of Food Science found that is was not effective.

Additionally, as the wheat grain germinates, the WGA is retained in the sprout and is spread throughout the plant, i.e., stems and roots. In other types of grains, sprouting may be more beneficial, but there appears to always be residual lectins. (source)

The Problem with Wheat Lectin

Even at small concentrations, WGA can stimulate pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemicals). This can lead to a cascade of inflammation in the gut.

Additionally, WGA can bind to and activate white blood cells adding to the immunological trigger. WGA have been found to be cross reactive with other common food proteins and can thus contribute to autoimmunity. For example, this study showed cross reactivity to the similarly structured peanut agglutinin and soybean agglutinin.

It has been found that WGA can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and attach to the protective coating on nerves called the myelin sheath. WGA may also inhibit nerve growth factor, a substance which is important for the longevity of neurons.

It has also been found that WGA can be toxic to cells and induce cell death.

Are Grains Nutritious?

Not really.

Even when they are properly prepared, as demonstrated above, that may not make all the nutrients bioavailable. On top of that, a person who has digestive issues is more susceptible to the ill effects.

There are no nutrients in grains that cannot be found in other foods.

People who go off grains usually find their symptoms are alleviated. As hard as it is to avoid grains in our culture, the effort is worth the reward.

Are you grain free? How has it helped you? Leave a comment and let me know!

Shared at: Hearth & Soul Hop

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Leave a Comment

  • Charlotte December 4, 2014, 8:13 am

    What about sprouted gluten free oats? same problem? Might non-sprouted actually be better then for some people? If you were to consume gf oats occasionally would you think the extra cost of sprouted is not worth it? I’m just finding the info a tad confusing in terms of how to interpret it for my own personal situation.

    • Jill December 4, 2014, 10:52 am

      Hi Charlotte,
      Oats still have lectins and would still need to be soaked. However, the topic here is wheat lectin, found in wheat. Oats would be better to eat occasionally.

  • Maggie Anders December 4, 2014, 1:23 pm

    Great info, I am sharing this on my facebook page 😀 thank you.

  • Lourdes December 4, 2014, 4:21 pm

    Hi Jill,
    I am completely grain free. I was diagnosed with SLE when I was 18yo. I adopted the Paleo diet in 2007. All my joint pains disappeared and my disease has been in complete remission. However, if I ever go to a restaurant and my food is contaminated with gluten within a short period of time I get joint pains.
    I do eat sprouted nuts occasionally but stear clear of sprouted grains which are not part of the Paleo diet.

    • Jill December 4, 2014, 8:05 pm

      Hi Lourdes,
      So glad to hear that you can control things with diet!

  • Mary December 4, 2014, 9:38 pm

    The article cited from the Journal of Food Science makes it pretty clear that soaking and sprouting doesn’t reduce phytic acid in oats. It varies by the specific grain. Wheat phytic acid isn’t reduced by soaking for 16 hours but is reduced by a third with 72 hours of germination. Even the psuedocereals amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa have high levels of phytic acid which are not much affected by soaking and germinating.

    I’d like to see the research that the practice of soaking grains before preparing is based on. Between the phytic acid binding the minerals in the grains and the lectins which don’t leach out or degrade with germination, it makes a pretty strong case for just ditching the grains and sticking with starchy vegetables.

    • Jill December 5, 2014, 12:14 pm

      My sentiments entirely.

  • Jeanmarie December 10, 2014, 12:08 am

    Great article! I’ve been more or less gluten-free for a couple of years now, with some very bad relapses. I don’t have celiac disease, but when I eliminate gluten grains, I feel better. I do eat some rice, but mostly white rice now. You’ve inspired me to clean things up a bit more!

  • swathi December 14, 2014, 10:07 pm

    Nice article thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  • Erin Smith December 18, 2014, 6:09 pm

    We tried going grain free for about 3 weeks just to try it out. First of all it was HARD!!!! I’m totally addicted to grains apparently because all I thought about all day was eating that amazing piece of sourdough bread that was in my freezer. Second I lost about 5 pounds which is always a plus. Third and last I didn’t really feel any different but I don’t have any serious digestive issues/diseases/allergies either.

    So when it comes to grains I still eat them because I like them and I take the time to properly prepare them even though supposedly sprouting/soaking doesn’t work. There are studies that say it does work so I don’t know for sure …