How to keep your brain healthy. It's a subject that desperately needs attention and is the mission of the drperlmutter.com blog. Categories are listed to the right and lead to empowering information on topics such as maintaining brain health and improving memory through a gluten free diet. We update this information as soon as it becomes available so check back often!
Bowel wall permeability, more commonly described these days as “leaky gut,” is now front and center in the news, and is well known as a cause of a large number of common disease entities. The intestinal barrier that separates the luminal contents from the systemic circulation is, incredibly, only one cell thick! This extends from the esophagus to the anus. That means that we are dependent on a one cell layer, as well as the connections between these single cells, to carefully screen what is taken in and what is excluded.
The integrity of the gut lining can be compromised by any number of influences including antibiotics, stress, various medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as steroids, harmful bacteria, glycated proteins, and even exposure to gluten. When the permeability of the gut lining is increased, it sets the stage for a dramatic increase in inflammation and compromises our immune system’s ability to determine self versus non-self. The latter is a hallmark of autoimmune diseases including lupus, diabetes type I, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and so many more of the common maladies of our modern world. Continue reading
One of the most important concepts described in Grain Brain focuses on the fundamental role of elevated blood sugar as it relates to brain degeneration. We explored in-depth, scientific literature that demonstrates a significant increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia if a person carries a diagnosis of type II diabetes. This relationship was amplified recently by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrated significantly increased risk for cognitive decline with mild elevations of blood sugar, well below levels that would indicate diabetes.
In a recent report, published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, Japanese researchers again solidified our knowledge base about the relationship between diabetes and cognitive decline. The report, “Type II Diabetes as a Risk Factor for Cognitive Impairment: Current Insights“, focuses on not only statistics relating diabetes to cognitive decline, but also the mechanisms by which that happens.
The researchers describe a variety of factors relating type II diabetes to brain dysfunction including impaired neurogenesis which is the process by which we are able to grow new brain cells, specifically in the brains memory center, hippocampus. This is compromised in diabetes.
We are just beginning to gain an understanding as to the mechanisms underlying the role of gluten in inducing autoimmune diseases like type I diabetes. Much of our understanding stems from the landmark publication by Harvard’s Dr. Alessio Fasano in which he provided and in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the role of the intestinal barrier in terms of regulating inflammation as well as autoimmunity. Fundamental to his thesis is the effect of gliadin, a component of gluten, on the integrity of the gut wall.
What Dr. Fasano demonstrated was how gliadin induces the mobilization of another protein, zonulin, and how zonulin then goes on to increase the permeability of the bowel. It is this increase in permeability that is playing a pivotal role in challenging the immune system, and leading to inflammation as well as autoimmunity.
Subsequent to Dr. Fasano’s publication, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota published exciting research that demonstrated a dramatic reduction in development of type I diabetes in laboratory mice if they were raised on a gluten-free diet. While it is reasonable to assume that the preservation of gut integrity by not challenging it with gluten may have been responsible, the authors explored another intriguing possibility. What they found was that when these animals were placed on a gluten-free diet there was actually a significant change in the various species of gut bacteria in the animals tested. Continue reading
As is so often the case, Americans want to reach for pharmaceutical fixes for our various maladies, and so it is with ADHD. Right now, it is estimated that there are more than 6.5 million American children who have been given this diagnosis. Making this even worse is the fact that about two-thirds of these children are receiving powerful, mind-altering medication, the long-term consequences of which have never been studied.
I think it’s very important that we recognize that there’s a strong gut issue that relates to these children, and, for the most part, is being ignored. Apart from the fact that being born by cesarean section dramatically increases the risk for ADHD, as does frequent antibiotic exposure (both of which affect gut bacteria), a high percentage of children with ADHD have straightforward bowel abnormalities in comparison to age matched controls.
When you go on the Grain Brain program, one of the things that is important is that you reduce your consumption of carbohydrates while increasing your consumption of dietary fat. Occasionally a woman might ask “Won’t that increase my risk for breast cancer?” As a matter of fact, when we look at the science we see that it will actually decrease your risk for breast cancer!
Studies have demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between changes in size of the brains memory center, the hippocampus, and declining memory function. So it’s obviously in our great interest to do everything we possibly can to preserve the size of hippocampus, which is to say, prevent hippocampal atrophy.
It has become clear that there is a powerful direct relationship between not only fasting blood sugar, but even average blood sugar, in terms of predicting the rate at which the hippocampus will shrink and therefore memory will decline. In a new report, recently published in the journal Neurology, researchers in Germany evaluated a group of 141 individuals, average age 63 years, with memory testing as well as a specific type of MRI scan of the brain to measure the size of the hippocampus in each participant. At the same time they looked at blood sugar levels as well as average blood sugar, by assessing a blood test called hemoglobin A1 c.
As I have discussed on many occasions in this forum, the process of inflammation is a cornerstone of virtually any degenerative condition in the human experience. This includes diseases like cancer, diabetes, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, arthritis, and so many more. So it’s really important that we take a step back and try to gain an understanding as to what influences inflammation in the first place.
I am certain that many of you now embrace the notion that a “leaky gut” predisposes us to this process of inflammation. Basically, in the healthy condition, the gut lining is selectively permeable, as well as selectively impermeable, to various bacterial components, proteins, and other gut related particles. When the integrity of gut lining is challenged, these entities gain access through the gut wall and stimulate immune reactions that activate the production of inflammatory chemicals.
So it’s really very important to gain an understanding as to the factors that can lead to loss of integrity of the gut lining and, as such, a “leaky bowel”. Continue reading