Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: The Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter

The Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers

About eight years ago my brother Christopher read a book called The Better Brain Book, by David Perlmutter, M.D. and immediately emailed our whole family and said, "You need to read this book." We did, and subsequently began to apply many of the ideas within it. Like many, we had already been touched by the suffering of family and friends stricken by the devastating effects of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia, and Parkinson's Disease. We were interested in keeping our brains as healthy as possible.

Fast forward 8 years and Dr. Perlmutter has continued his exhaustive research into what makes our brains healthy, and what makes them sick, and has released a new book called The Grain Brain which outlines his most significant findings. They may be hard for many to receive, but I assure you if you read the book you will be compelled by the research and evidence he gives, and encouraged that the changes necessary to keep your brain healthy are both doable and enjoyable.

And this comes from some one who really, really loves bread. So I don't say that lightly. I'm Italian and Irish, we basically specialize in carbs.

A Bit About The Author
Before I tell you a little about what you will find in the book and my personal experiences with eliminating grains from my diet, I'd like to give you a little background on Dr. Perlmutter, M.D. F.A.C.N. He is a Board-Certified Neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. His treatment center, The Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Florida, specializes in treating neurological disorders, but also many other illnesses. I love that he points out on his Web site that the word "doctor" comes from a Latin word meaning "teacher" and "one who gives people the knowledge they need to facilitate their own healing processes and achieve a state of well-being."

And if you follow my blog you know that I am all about empowerment. Read the book, do the research, make up your own mind. 

Possibly as important as any of those qualifications is that his own father has Alzheimer's. So this is also very personal for him.

The book is such a deep resource that I feel it will take many posts for me to share even a fraction of the important things I have taken from it. So this post will serve as a start...stay tuned for more.

The premise of the book, as you may have surmised from the title, is that carbohydrates are killing our brains (a depressing thought for any bread and cake lover.) However, he immediately hits us with another revelation: FAT IS GOOD! Not only good, but precious brain food. And goes on to suggest modifications to our diet that leave us with plenty of rich, satisfying foods to eat. Gluten, is definitely not one of them, but there are ways to eliminate gluten from our diets and reduce our overall carbohydrate intake without eliminating all the foods we love. It just takes a little re-education and Dr. Perlmutter gives us a good start with recipes and resources on his site.

Here is some of the evidence he presents:
"As many as 40 percent of us can’t properly process gluten, and the remaining 60 percent could be in harm’s way but don’t even know it. The question we need to be asking ourselves: What if we’re all sensitive to gluten from the perspective of the brain? Unfortunately, gluten is found not only in wheat products but in the most unsuspecting products—from ice cream to hand cream. Increasing numbers of studies are confirming the link between gluten sensitivity and neurological dysfunction. This is true even for people who have no problems digesting gluten and who test negative for gluten sensitivity." 
"Researchers have known for some time now that the cornerstone of all degenerative conditions, including brain disorders, is inflammation. But what they didn’t have documented until now are the instigators of that inflammation—the first missteps that prompt this deadly reaction. And what they are finding is that gluten, and a high carbohydrate diet for that matter, are among the most prominent stimulators of inflammatory pathways that reach the brain."
"The good news is that I’m going to show you how to control your genetic destiny
even if you were born with a natural tendency to develop a neurological challenge. This
will require that you free yourself from a few myths so many people continue to cling to.
The two biggest ones: 1) a low-fat, high-carb diet is good; 2) cholesterol is bad."

"Study after study shows that high cholesterol reduces your risk for brain disease and increases longevity. By the same token, high levels of dietary fat (the good kind, no trans fats here) have been proven to be key to health and peak brain function."
"We’ve known since the late 1970s that gluten breaks down in the stomach to become a mix of polypeptides that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Once they gain entry, they can then bind to the brain’s morphine receptor to produce a sensorial high. This is the same receptor to which opiate drugs bind and have their pleasurable, albeit addicting, effect. The original scientist who discovered this activity, Dr. Christine Zioudrou and her colleagues at the National Institutes of Health, named these brain-busting polypeptides exorphines, which is short for exogenous morphine-like compounds, distinguishing them from the body’s naturally produced pain killers called endorphins.
 "Given what I just explained, is it any wonder that food manufacturers try to pack as much gluten into their products as possible? And is it any surprise to find so many people addicted to gluten-filled foods today—fanning the flames of not just inflammation but the obesity epidemic? I think not."

If that doesn't make you mad as hell...make you never want to eat another processed food in you life, it should. Companies poisoning us in the name of greed is something will all need to bring our awareness to, and grow that awareness into action.

Dr. Perlmutter goes on to say:
"But apart from gluten, there’s much more to the story of carbohydrates in general and their impact on brain health. Gluten isn’t the only villain. To shift your body’s biochemistry to one that burns fat (including the hardest kind that “never goes away”), tames inflammation, and prevents illness and mental dysfunction, you need to factor in another big piece of the equation: carbs versus fats. In this chapter, I’ll take you on a tour of why an extremely low-carb and high-fat diet is what your body fundamentally craves and needs. I’ll also explain why consuming excess carbohydrates—even those that don’t contain gluten—can be just as harmful as eating a gluten-laden diet."
And perhaps, for me, one of the most important quotes in the book:
"Ironically, ever since we “scientized” nutrition, our health states have declined. Decisions about what to eat and drink have gone from habits of culture and heritage to calculated choices based on shortsighted nutritional theories, with little consideration for how human beings reached modernity in the first place. And we can’t forget about all the commercial interest out there. Do you think the makers of high-carbohydrate breakfast cereals (read: the entire aisle in your grocery store devoted to boxed cereals) truly have your health in mind?"
We need to take back our health from companies that manufacture "food-like substances" and eat REAL, WHOLE FOOD — the right kinds, in the right amounts.

This hopeful quote also caught my eye:
"Some of my most remarkable case studies involve people transforming their lives and health through the total elimination of gluten from their diets and a new appreciation for fats instead of carbs. I’ve watched this single dietary shift end depression, relieve chronic fatigue, reverse type-2 diabetes, extinguish obsessive-compulsive behavior, and cure many neurological challenges from brain fog to bipolar disorder."
I'd also like to mention that as I write this Dr. Perlmutter is schedule to air in an episode of the Dr. Oz Show tomorrow October 21, 2013. So you can see a bit of him in person in that venue.

My Personal Experience
I am a yoga teacher, a runner, hiker, healthy eater...I have a 10 acre FARM for goodness sake. To say that eating healthy, whole foods is important to me would be a slight understatement. I was also either a vegetarian, or mostly so (meaning I only ate flesh foods a couple times a month) for most of my adult life.

But in recent years, adrenal exhaustion from years in stressful corporate jobs before I became a full time yoga teacher, and what I thought was a really healthy diet had taken it's toll. I was feeling exhausted all the time, brain foggy, I was gaining weight and in weird places...I just felt really poorly.

In October of 2012 I attended the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference in Black Mountain, NC and it was there that I became aware of herbals that could help heal my body and mind, and learned of the work of Sally Fallon and the Weston Price Foundation. I started eating a lot less carbs, and much more wholesome grass-fed beef and other meats, pastured eggs, butter and coconut oil. I started to feel better. I started to heal.

At the conference I met herbalist and acupuncturist Jessica Godino of Four Flames Healing, who is also one of the founders of my favorite herb company Red Moon Herbs. I knew this was the woman who could take me on the next steps of my journey of healing, and in May of 2013 I was able to begin treatments with her. After some lab work and a long patient history, the first things she suggested (beside acupuncture and certain herbs that I will discuss in a future post) was a fish oil supplement, and a diet very similar to what Dr. Perlmutter advocates called the Whole 30 Program. I did the program faithfully, which is low carb and gluten free, and lost 12 pounds (without increasing my already very active lifestyle), reshaped my body, and my energy went through the roof. The dark depressive cloud and fogginess I had been under lifted. It has been incredible and I have never looked back. The eating style outlined in Dr. Perlmutter's book is essentially the way I eat 95% of the time (common, nobody is perfect) and it has changed my life. I feel satiated after meals, I have stamina and don't feel plagued by huge energy fluctuations, and my mind feels clear and strong. I have the energy to pursue my Soul Purpose and lead a fulfilling life.

So, I implore you to have a look at the The Grain Brain. Give it a try and see what YOU feel. That has to be the real measure. Give it a month and see what the results are. What will it really cost you to try something for 30 days of your life? What could you possibly gain?

I want to leave you with a quote from another one of my favorite teachers and healers—doctor, midwife and herbalist extraordinaire, Aviva Romm, M.D. She recently stated that one of the most subversive acts we can all do is to eat healthy. Yes, subversive. Rebellious. It is the deepest form of sovereignty over your own destiny to eat whole foods that support your body, mind and spirit – and it is an act of rebellion and defiance against big food manufacturing companies, "Big Ag" and "Big Pharm" which are all, by the way, virtually one in the same. Every time you make a meal, you can say I am mad as hell and I am not taking it any more. I will not let you poison my body, my family and my planet. That is empowerment, and that will create lasting change on this planet.

Sat Nam. Hari Om.

With love and light,
Teal Chimblo Fyrberg

Blissful Body Yoga is located deep in the beauty and magick of the Appalachian mountains, in Asheville, North Carolina.

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