A few weeks ago, I logged on to the Microbiome Medicine Summit and listened to a bunch of talks on the subject of gut bacteria! I came away with a list of things to read and research....one of which was a book that took my interest... It is called "Brain Maker" by Dr Perlmutter.
When I read a book I usually ask myself a few questions...such as, what are the main stand out points for me and what are the walk away practical things that I can use from it? Today I would like to tell you a little about the book and a few of the points I came away with.
For starters it was refreshing to see that the book was packed with research in a field of study that is offering a "revolutionary new approaches to relieve suffering", one which empowers us to take charge of our own gut health AND its knock on effect to physical and emotional health.
Dr Perlmutter points out that there is an increase (due to social and environmental changes) in such conditions as Attention deficit, Hyperactivity, ADHD, Autism, Depression, Mood and anxiety disorders, MS, Parkinsons and Alzheimer to name a few. All the latest research indicates that these "modern plagues" are dictated by what goes on in our gut... usually due to a sick and dysfunctional microbe population. This microbiome appears to be in charge of our health and is fundamental to life. He reiterates what Martin Blazers explains (in his book... Missing Microbes)...that most people carry around more bad bacteria than is ideal and lack the diversity of the microbes that are beneficial.
He explains that expression of our genes is influenced to some degree by theses organisms within. They participate in immune function, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmitter production, vitamin production (to name a few) and they affect our mood, metabolism and orchestrate every aspect of our physiology. Hippocrates did say, after all, that disease begins in the gut.... so why not life and vitality too?
So to name just a few interesting points....
1. What we put in our mouth is the biggest challenge to our microbiome and hence health.....
Diet has a dominant role in shaping gut microbiota and can change key populations for the good or the bad! Dr Perlmutter's explains the dietary changes needed to kill bad bacteria and reestablish a flourishing microbiome. Western diets are too low in plant fibers and therefore low in fuel for good gut bacteria hence his regime includes fiber rich prebiotic food together with probiotics (he shows you how to choose a good one), fermented food, dietary modification with gluten free/low carb foods and healthy fat. He even teaches us that whether we are fat or thin depends on the balance of certain (fermicutes and bacterioidetes) microbes... and their ratio is critical for determining health or illness risks. Last but not least, he instills a hope that we can turn around virtually any degenerative and inflammatory condition using dietary modification...
* One practical thing I'm going to be doing is eating more fermented foods from now on! this is the latest batch I started off yesterday.
2. Brain health begins in the gut...
He explores the relationship of the gut and the brain and the role stress has on increasing gut permeability and inflammation. Conditions such as Depression and Alzheimers (the new type 3 diabetes) are now seen as inflammatory diseases and blood sugar levels have been a linked to this inflammation. Good bacteria are capable of turning off these chronic immune system responses and a diet that keeps blood sugar balanced keeps bacteria balanced too.
Good gut bacteria are capable of producing important brain chemicals (BDNF) which build new neurons and protects and encourages new synapses and certain strains of bacteria help with secretion of substances (GABA) that can reduce anxiety and depression.
One study I liked explained how mice with no microbiome overreacted to stress. They found they had an increased HPA response (Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal Axis)...BUT the state could be reversed with Bifidobacteria Infantis.
The practical walk away for me was to cut out sugar... and stop feeding the bad bacteria which fuels inflammation! Some Bifidobacteria Infantis Might also be a good one for stressful times???
3. "ADHD should not be viewed as a distinct disorder but rather as a symptom of various other issues".
Dr Perlmutter advocates that "ADHD is a manifestation of inflammation gone awry due to triggers like gluten and the downstream effects of a sick microbiome". Children with ADHD were found to have much lower levels of GABA (the calming neurotransmitter) however, it was reported in The journal of applied microbiology that specific types of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium produce GABA in abundance and these have shown promise in reducing anxiety symptoms!
Individuals on the Autistic spectrum show certain patterns in the composition of their gut bacteria (that are absent in children without autism) and studies are being done to show the relationship between these bacteria and their "by products" and the risk of autism. In particular they tend to have higher levels of clostridial species which produce propionic acid. When this is connected with leaky gut (another pattern in autism) it can be toxic to the brain.
He does state however, that science needs to investigate whether gut bacteria disruption are as a result of, or a causative agent in autism and related disorders.
The walk away point from this one was that even though not totally proven to be a causative agent, what harm would it do to dose up on a broad spectrum Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus supplement (or food) until further information comes to light? Below are the cultures that I give Heni on a day to day basis.
4 Knowledge is power
There is a lot of knowledge and experience conveyed in this book. Dr Perlmutter not only explains the ins and outs of all the complex inter related physiology and references numerous studies, but he also teaches what common triggers can make a good microbiome bad and vice versa.
He gives general principles and life style choices that can help you put this knowledge in to action and feel empowered to improve your health.
The walk away point for me was that I can create significant changes in the array of my gut bacterial by the choices I make in as little as only six days.
There is a wealth of information in this book and I would encourage you to read it! I was particularly interested in the roles of the varying strains of bacteria and the different effects that they can have on the body and mind. I have been dosing up my family with these cultures for quite sometime and have used different bacteria for different ailments. Just in the last few weeks Heni had a bad bout of diarrhea that was cleared up in 24 hours with saccharomyces boulardii (not mentioned in the book) and some good old tissue salts. I was intrigued to learn though that lactobacillus plantarum is good for healing the gut lining and reducing inflammation and bifidobacterium lactis is apparently good for keep you regular and warding off constipation. One strain that I am hoping to look in to more for Heni's oral health are lactobacillus salivarius WB21 and Streptoccocus salivarius K12.
Ultimately the lifestyle choices we make on a day to day basis can pay huge dividends or wreak utter havoc. It always leaves me in awe when I read about the body and what goes on beneath our consciousness as we go about our every day lives. It is somewhat reassuring that the war between good and bad in the world (that we see on a grand scale) also continues to rage on a smaller scale within the confines of our own digestive system!
You can find out more about Dr Perlmutter here
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