Grain Brain… Surprise! Why Everything You Thought You Knew About Good Nutrition Will Be Questioned!
About 6 years ago I discovered a whole new world which I had never heard about previously. I really was completely surprised!…
I found out about some pioneering geniuses who investigate and pour their lives into matters of researching and studying health from a perspective of what’s the underlying cause rather than how to treat the symptoms, functional medicine, and epigenetics.
Dr Perlmutter and ‘Grain Brain’
And one of these geniuses (my description of him, not his!) is Dr David Perlmutter, a neurologist.
If you ever needed hope in a confusing world of conflicting diet and health advice, I recommend reading his work and watching his videos.
Grain Brain, which Dr Perlmutter wrote with Kristin Loberg, tackles some incredible knowledge, research, and experience, and challenges cultural Western norms with potentially life-changing, nation-changing effects.
Does that sound like hype? Crazy talk?
I will demonstrate how it really isn’t! That there are different ways to tackle the health challenges consuming the western world and the finances draining, no… gushing away because of it, not to mention the human cost!
See this short video by Dr Perlmutter where he discusses why he wrote Grain Brain.
I love to read the dedications in a book written by the author. The dedication in Grain Brain written by Perlmutter reads like this
‘To my father, who at age ninety-six begins each day by getting dressed to see his patients – despite having retired more than a quarter century ago.’
He witnesses and experiences the human cost of poor brain health. He is motivated, driven to understand and help others.
Never Skip An Introduction
In his introduction (never skip a book’s introduction!) he writes words which may confound and amaze many.
He states how brain health and the degenerative maladies are NOT ‘all in the genes’, not inevitable; that there is SO much more to the equation and there is HOPE…
He also goes on to say, spending the bulk of the book to prove it that (while genes play a part) brain health is so vitally and research-proven connected to the food we eat!
So Let’s Explore Some of the Key Concepts From ‘Grain Brain’
Our brain is really the most amazing organ, so much we still don’t know about it, so complex. But when it doesn’t work optimally… WOW, do we know it!
Studies actually now show the mechanism by which poor diet and Alzheimers are linked, and while that is terrible to discover, it is also incredibly empowering and enables us to take control, to make choices that can literally change our lives.
Fuel (food) is ingested and leads to a cascade of events in the body, which either promote optional functioning or dysfunctional functioning. This is fact!
A short explanation on inflammation (also see this short video)… most people are aware of the redness and soreness that happens when we have an injury or irritation, for example we hit our finger, or get stung by a bee. This reaction from the body is part of the healing process whereby the body deals with the offence and repairs it.
However when the offence/irritation continues and chronic inflammation is setup this becomes a problem, and tissues become damaged. Any tissues can be damaged through inflammation including the intestinal lining, the arteries, and brain tissue.
If the fuel (food) is promoting inflammation, then the body is not functioning optimally and damage is most likely ensuing. This is the mechanism for so many maladies and degenerative disorders.
Perlmutter explains the more recent research has now documented that some of the most important instigators of the inflammation pathways to the brain are gluten and a diet high in carbohydrate. And he also goes on to point out that whilst this is happening and proven, the subjects often have no idea, no obvious symptoms!
This may sound like ‘doom and gloom’ but it is far from it… he not only demonstrates the problem but he provides empowering information on how to optimise your body’s functioning in a practical, doable and powerful way.
Out With the Old
When embarking on a new thing, you often have to let go of the old… Let’s consider bringing into your house a new sofa. Before you bring the new one home you may well need to make room for it by removing the old one!
Making changes in our lifestyle and thinking can be a lot like that.
Here’s what we need to clear out for this discussion… we have been given the message for so long that fat and cholesterol is bad, and that high carb/low fat is healthy. We need to debunk the myths, and get the facts.
Studies repeatedly show that healthy fats ( the healthy ones!!! NOT trans fats) are key to health and brain function. Perlmutter discusses the role (the beneficial role) of cholesterol.
Who ever tells you that?
He clearly demonstrates from the literature and research that is the oxidization of the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol that causes the problems. And what causes the oxidisation?… the bonding with glucose molecules in the body… from high carb/sugar intake!
Healthy fat is essential for every cell to function optimally! it actually makes up 50% of the cell membrane.
(How did we ever think that starving the body of healthy fat is a good idea?)
A whole chapter is devoted to gluten and the damage it can wreak on a body, and that is indeed a whole discussion of its own for another day, another post; but suffice to say here that research repeatedly shows that in many individuals, whether symptomatic or not, gluten is a significant cause of inflammation.
The discussion on obesity and blood sugar runs throughout the book so entwined are they.
So eye-opening to really see from a new, clear perspective that eating healthy fat is NOT what makes us fat!
Instead Perlmutter clearly lays out that when a diet is high in carbohydrate and/or sugar, the excess sugar converts to body fat, and that is stored as body fat.
Here’s how… the carb is converted to sugar in the body. There is finite requirement and storage for the sugars, and when in excess, it is converted to fat, and then stored. When a diet remains high in carbs the fat storage increases.
And just to add to the problem, the insulin being pumped out to deal with the carb/sugar intake all the time, actually reduces the fat burning mechanisms that the body has in place… double impact!
The increase in waist line is not the only issue, excessive body fat promotes inflammation. And we already learnt that that chronic inflammation promotes tissue damage and degenerative disorders.
Where’s That Good News? Oh Phew!
So Perlmutter discusses at length the role of high carb diets and the problems arising, the obesity, blood sugar issues, diabetes and insulin resistance. He tackles the low-fat myths and the realities, statins and the role of chronic inflammation in the epidemic health crises we currently face in the Western cultures.
We discover the power and benefits of intermittent fasting, ketones and ketogenic diets.
And movement, EXERCISE, sleep!
A New Better Way Of Life
And then Perlmutter takes us by the hand and walks us through his program, his suggestions for healthy choices that will help our brains function at their potential for our lifetime.
He breaks it down into a four week program of goals to be implemented, (with the recommendation first to have a checkup with our doctor).
I love that he includes a section with suggestions for preparing, rather than just launching the reader into an ‘all-or-nothing’ scenario – he is setting us up for success!
- Week 1 focuses on food
- week 2 on exercise
- week 3 on sleep
- week 4 on putting it all together – how to make it work in the context of our busy, individual lives and circumstances.
He includes a suggested week’s menu plan to give ideas; and recipes for the various meals, including breakfast which is often one people find challenging to change, and of course, desserts.
What is it all about?
What this is not about first…
- this is not about going without delicious food
- nor is it about feeling deprived, and missing out
It is about…
- nourishing the body to work as designed, rather than as our culture has taught us, with far reaching consequences for us, our families and society
- potentially far greater quality of life, and hopefully quantity of quality living, a completely life changing path
- opening up to new possibilities and making empowered, informed decisions.
I thoroughly recommend to you the book ‘Grain Brain’ by Dr David Perlmutter!
It is a complete work, providing the science, and the information to inform and motivate; but also the practical, the ‘how-to’.
It really could question everything you think you know about nutrition, and provide so many researched-backed answers to the confusion that many people hold in an era of conflicting advice and information.
The information provided in this blog post is designed to provide helpful information regarding lifestyle, health and wellness; for educational purposes only. The information is not meant to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition please consult your medical professional.
Always consult your healthcare professional for your individual needs, and it is also recommended to do so before starting any new dietary or exercise program.