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 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
In the study described in this video, researchers showed how levels of blood sugar directly relate to risk for dementia. The investigation followed over 2,000 elderly individuals for an average of 6.8 years and found that even small elevations of blood sugar translated into a significant increased risk for dementia, even among persons without diabetes.
The implications of this report are profound. While the correlation of dementia risk, and specifically Alzheimer’s disease, with diabetes has been established, this new finding throws a much wider net in terms of defining an at risk population for an incurable brain disorder. But despite the potential public health impact of these findings, this correlation received almost no media attention.
I’m a physician who has had Type 1 Diabetes for 24 years. Always looking for answers and new science, I recently purchased Grain Brain. Since reading the book, and implementing its recommendations, my diabetes has totally come under control and I have cut my basal insulin dose twice. I have recommended this amazing book to well over 100 of my patients and will continue to do so. The greatest thing I can say is that I haven’t felt this great in decades.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a round table discussion focused on the topic of statin medications used to lower cholesterol. As many of you are now aware, a new set of “guidelines” developed by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology was recently issued instructing healthcare practitioners as to when to prescribe this group of drugs.
Incredibly, under these guidelines almost half of the American population between the ages of 40 to 75 and virtually all men over age 60 would qualify for the use of this potentially dangerous class of medications.
Doubling in incidence over the past 30 years, and increasing an astonishing four-fold amongst adolescents, childhood obesity is now an epidemic in America. Make no mistake about it, this isn’t just a cosmetic issue. These children have a profoundly increased risk for a variety of associated medical problems including asthma, diabetes, and even high blood pressure, not to mention the fact that they will likely end up as obese adults with a higher risk for dieases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, cancer, osteoarthritis and heart disease.
Clearly, the diets of our children have changed – radically. It makes perfect sense, from a biological perspective, to blame the dramatic rise in carbohydrate and sugar consumption for these issues. That’s why we’re all over the idea of promoting a higher “good” fat and low-carb diet for adults and children alike, but there’s another factor to consider. Continue reading
This week, the British Journal of Cancer published an incredibly important report that found a strong relationship between a simple blood test and the risk for various forms of cancer. The study found that the common blood test used by diabetics to measure their average blood sugar, A1c, was strongly predictive in terms of cancer development.
For those of you who are not diabetic, you may not be familiar with this simple test that has profound health implications well beyond diabetes. Basically, the A1c test measures the amount of glycation that the protein hemoglobin has undergone. Glycation simply means that sugar has become bonded to a protein, in this case hemoglobin, and this is a relatively slow process. Hence, it’s a way to get a sense as to how high the blood sugar has been, in this case over a 3-4 month period of time, and this is why it’s so helpful for diabetics.
For those of you who have been following my blog posts, the theme that is redundant focuses on the importance of choosing foods with a low glycemic index as a way to enhance brain health and function.
But beyond brain health, I want all of you to recognize that there is a direct and powerful relationship between blood sugar, the glycemic index of foods consumed, and risk for various other health-related issues. Eating foods lower on the glycemic index scale is associated with weight loss as well as improvement in a wide range of cardiovascular risk parameters.
In addition, the science is now clearly correlating reduced risk of various forms of cancer including breast, colon and prostate related to food consumption lower on the glycemic index scale. Continue reading