Grain Brain

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FINALLY.  FINALLY.  FINALLY.

I HAVE FINALLY BEEN VINDICATED, AND INFORMATION THAT IS PLAIN OLD COMMON SENSE HAS GONE MAINSTREAM.  FINALLY.

Sorry for yelling.  I'm just excited.

Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter M.D., wrote a book that was just released this fall:  "GRAIN BRAIN:  The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar - Your Brain's Silent Killers".

If you have Type 2 diabetes, READ THIS BOOK.

If you have a blood-related family member with a neurodegenerative disease, especially Alzheimer's disease, READ THIS BOOK.

If you have depression, anxiety, ADHD, chronic headaches, insomnia, epilepsy, movement disorders, digestive symptoms, arthritis, Tourette's syndrome or schizophrenia, READ THIS BOOK.

If your cognitive function and memory are declining as you age, READ THIS BOOK.

If you are overweight, READ THIS BOOK.

If you have no problems at all, and just want to have a bit more insurance that your little grey cells will fire the way you would like them to as you age into your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, - then READ THIS BOOK.

I believe everyone should read this book, because it could possibly mean the difference between living a life of misery, or living a life without it.

First of all, let's get one thing straight.  This is not a cure all book for every disease under the sun, nor does this doctor even come close to suggesting this.  In fact, this is not a book that will help everyone, whether or not you have an illness, brain-related or otherwise.  After all, ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL.  Many people actually do quite well with moderate amounts of organic unprocessed whole grains.

However, this is a beyond hopeful book, that challenges the notion that brain disorders are our genetic destiny and that there is nothing we can do to prevent or ameliorate them.

Why should we even listen to this guy?

We should listen because we deserve to be optimally healthy.

We should listen because Dr. Perlmutter is a rarity of rarities:  he is a board certified neurologist plus a fellow of the American College of Nutrition.  Neurology (high-minded science-based medicine) and Integrative/Holistic medicine, typically do not mix;  worse than oil and water in fact. However, this MD has shredded that stereotype and ripped the box of conventional thinking wide open and has made a much bigger box.  If physicians truly want to help all of their patients (not just those that respond positively to pharma and surgery), they will, at the very least, educate themselves with the material Dr. Perlmutter has written in his book: the scientific data that supports his position, the anecdotes of the successes he writes about, and a general plan for patients to follow with the support of their physician.

Why wait until 20 - 30 years from now for randomized blinded clinic control trials (that may never happen) to affirm what this doctor is saying is true?  The damage for many will be irreparable by then.  There is enough science at the present time to push the red warning light and motivate us to change, NOW.

For example, how scary is the following information?  Babies born to gluten-sensitive women have an increased chance of developing schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.  He goes on and on and on about the potential dangers of sugar, gluten, grain and a high-carb/low-fat diet.

What are some of the highlights of this book?  The same things I've been saying and prescribing to patients for the past 20 years.  (Vindication feels mighty fine):

  •  many people are suffering with gluten sensitivity without having celiac disease, and should avoid these foods for the betterment of their health
  • lots of good healthy fats will make you healthier and slimmer;  high-glycemic  carbohydrates and sugar are what make you fat
  • a sugar-free, grain-free diet for Type II diabetics is the best way to go
  •  physical exercise and mental exercise help your brain cells grow
  • cholesterol is a great molecule, don't diss it:  it's the golden goose for vitamin D, bile acids, neurotransmission, sex steroids, etc.
  • inflammation and oxidation are the culprits for many diseases, don't blame cholesterol
  • if you're going to take a cholesterol-lowering drug, you should know all of the facts, especially if you have never had a cardiovascular problem before
  • gluten, sugar and other pro-inflammatory foods, along with environmental toxins, can create the perfect storm that could lead to serious diseases
  • eating high cholesterol foods does not impact your blood cholesterol levels
  • the brain functions well on adequate levels of cholesterol and your brain loves fat
  • a high sugar and high carbohydrate diet oxidizes LDL, and that's what's bad about cholesterol, not the all-important LDL that transports vital cholesterol into your brain
  • lowering cholesterol will not prevent a heart attack
  • short-term water fasting is good for your brain and waistline
  • DHA is a stellar supplement as is coconut oil
  • having regular proper sleep each night is crucial for your brain and body to repair themselves

In his book, Dr. Perlmutter explains all of the above and so much more, with scientific studies that support these common sense statements.

Like this MD, and many of my colleagues, I too have witnessed dramatic, positive changes in many people with different types of health challenges, with the removal of gluten and sugar from the diet and the addition of large amounts of healthy fats.  However, Dr. Perlmutter also recommends a large volume of eggs to be eaten, but is careful to point out that any food can be an intolerance that can cause inflammation.

Case in point:  Three members of my family would love to put eggs back into our diets because of the health virtues ascribed to eggs as mentioned in the book.  However, we all tested very high positive for IgG4 levels to egg yolk and egg white and each time we would put this wonderful food back into our diets, we would collectively experience a wide range of varying symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, smelly sulphur farts, abdominal bloating and abdominal cramping:  definitely signs of low grade inflammation.

From what I have observed, the food that most frequently displays elevated IgG levels in patients' food sensitivity tests, is egg;  even more frequent than gluten, gliadin, and milk components.  However, I would guess that only about 20% of those who have elevated IgG levels to eggs complain about symptoms associated with eating them.  A large percentage do not notice any adverse symptoms when eating eggs but still test positive.  I have my theories about this, but it would only be speculation and not based on anything solid.

This is quite unlike the case for gluten and dairy though.  Of those that test positive for gluten and dairy, I would guess that at least 95% notice mild to dramatic adverse affects to their health with the consumption of these products.  About 5% say they observe no changes.

Dr. Perlmutter recommends having the comprehensive gluten sensitivity test done called Cyrex Array 3, and for other food intolerances like dairy, eggs, soy and other gluten grains, the Cyrex Array 4 test.  Tests from Cyrex Labs are not yet available in Canada, however, IgG4 and IgE testing of foods can be done by Meridian Valley Labs in Washington or Rocky Mountain Analytical (RMA) in Alberta.  I use the former, however the latter also gives an option for testing the IgA levels of foods.  RMA also states that, "it is important to know that, with the exception of gliadin (found in wheat gluten), the elimination of IgA reactive foods has not been proven to provide relief for any specific health conditions".  I see that Array 3 and 4 use IgG and IgA antibodies.

Personally, I only test for IgE and IgG4 levels to gluten and gliadin, but not for IgA.  Perhaps I will now start doing IgA levels in those people who believe gluten/gliadin is problematic but tests have previously shown negative for IgE and IgG4 to this substance.

Over the last year, our family has essentially gone grain-free.  We believe it is the next health echelon up from being gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, alcohol-free, junk-free and egg-free;  which we have now been for almost 2 decades.

The reason we went grain-free was not because of Dr. Perlmutter's book.  (It had not yet been released).  Actually, my husband was having some digestive difficulty that was finally and accurately diagnosed as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).  This condition explained why he could not tolerate probiotics and why he had dramatic improvements in his health after an antimicrobial treatment coupled with a grain-free diet.  His sleep-related laryngospam completely disappeared along with other health issues.

In cooking a grain-free meal for my hubby, I wasn't going to cook a separate meal for him and a separate meal for myself. No way.  So I started going grain-free as well, not just gluten-free.  I also noticed further benefits with my own health.  Though I will say, twice per week we eat gluten-free grains in the form of home-made bread when we go up in the mountains on our 4 - 7 hour hiking treks.  There is no way that either of us could expend that kind of energy without a higher carb load intake during those days.  We don't consume grains for snowboarding or for 1 hour of basketball play, but for an extreme energy expenditure like endurance hiking, I don't see any other solution.  Nut and seed breads are far too heavy on both of our digestions, and I don't believe they would provide the instant glucose needed for our muscles to power up a mountain.  I could be wrong however.  Next summer I'll try powering up a mountain on only fat and protein and I'll tell you how it goes.  (I'll definitely have an emergency stash of dried fruit on hand just in case :) ).

IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion), after Group Mountain Hiking, nutrition is the second best medicine!

So I've told you two reasons why I'm excited about this material:  1) many naturopathic doctors have seen similar positive dramatic health changes with the removal of sugar and gluten/grains from the diet with a concurrent increase in healthy dietary fat, and  2)  our family's personal success with this type of diet speaks for itself.

The last reason why I am excited about this material, relates to the fact that my mother died from a horrible neurodegenerative disease called ALS.  When I first got this book (like I did with his Better Brain Book), I immediately went to the index to look up all of the information he provided about ALS.  Within the book, there wasn't anything that I didn't already know:

  • there are situations where ALS has been wrongly diagnosed and the problem is really gluten sensitivity (how lucky for those folks!)
  • the disease is devastating and there is no meaningful treatment
  • a ketogenic (high fat) diet might be helpful
  • misfolded proteins might be part of the problem
  • a deficiency in glutathione-S-tranferase (an enzyme made from one of the most powerful detoxification molecules in the body) exists in many disease states including ALS
  • people with ALS who also have high cholesterol do better
  • oxidative stress is involved, as may be the glycation of proteins, lipids, DNA and RNA, and when the diagnosis is made, sadly the damage is done

That's about it.

The reason I am excited though, is the remote and potential possibility that ALS may be preventable.  It may not be.  But what if it was?

What if this disease is a disease that occurs because of a perfect storm, as I have hypothesized in my mom's case previously:  in her case, a neuro-vascular injury, long-term pesticide inhalation, long-term MSG ingestion, long-term gluten dietary habits, long-term low-fat dietary habits, low levels of estrogen and progesterone (? low cholesterol), and who knows what else?

I'm going to be really bold here and say that I believe ALS will eventually be cured or at least substantially ameliorated in my lifetime, but it will take 3 things:  1)  a drug to stop proteins from misfolding, 2)  stem cells to regenerate lost function, and 3)  integrative nutrient therapies to maintain that which will be achieved with drug and stem cell therapies, by addressing ongoing oxidation, glycation, and inflammation.

In ten years, I'll come back and read this blog to see how silly my above comments were, or how bang on I was.

This next part is for my children and my future grandchildren:

Big H and Little B:  listen up.  While your grandmother most likely did not have the type of ALS that is passed down to successive generations, you have a family history of various neurological illnesses, as well as a family history of sugar/grain related problems:  ALS, depression, stroke, brain aneurysm, diabetes type II and obesity.

I recommend that you both follow the website, DrPerlmutter.com, and read his book "Grain Brain", because I love you both, and I want the best for your health.  Prevention is much, much easier than trying to repair the irreparable.

If you read only one health book in your entire lifetime, let this be the one.

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Edited to add (Dec. 11/13):

Even though I have accounts in both, I don't care much for social mass media like Twitter and Facebook.  However, Pete thought this was cool and Hilary thought it was nice.  Me too!

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