Your Second Brain
Dr. David Perlmutter is renowned neurologist who specialized in functional medicine. His first book Grain Brain sets the stage for this book, Brain Maker, with the continued theme that a happy gut equals a happy brain. By taking care of your "second" brain, aka the gut, you can prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis, and ADD.
This book is flooded with great information. Below I summarized some of the important gems.
Inflammation - The Common Denominator
Inflammation is the primary trigger in numerous chronic diseases. It is closely linked to the health of our immune system and our gut. Your gut actually has it's own immune system - GALT (gut-associated lymphatic tissue), which is 70% of body's total immune system. This is your body's military to safeguard against any outside attack. When compromised, it can set off a cascades of enzymes and cytokines as our body tries to come to the rescue. TNF-alpha is one inflammatory cytokine that has important role in Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and heart disease when it's levels are elevated..
One of the most influential and fundamental ways to keep inflammation in check is maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Alzheimer's disease has also been called Type 3 diabetes due to this connection. Blood sugar regulation is priority #1 to preserve brain function and resist Alzheimer's. By regulating your sugar intake, you could kill two birds with one stone.
Higher levels of inflammation also dramatically increase the risk of developing depression. People with major depression have increased LPS (lipopolysaccharide) markers which can be diagnostic of leaky gut syndrome.
Dr. Perlmutter illustrated several real patient stories of children who suffer from ADHD be completely changed just by diet alone. These children often come in with digestive complaints. When tested, they have low levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA (important in sleep, anxiety, and attention). GABA is manufactured by the body by the amino acid glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that is key to optimal gut health. The conversion of GABA to glutamine requires cofactors zinc and B6 which comes from food. This is just one more example of important the food we choose to eat. When put on a gluten-free diet and given supplements like glutamine and GABA, Dr. Perlmutter has shown significant reduction in ADHD symptoms. Amazing!
Obesity is an inflammatory disease. However, your weight gain may not be your fault.
The microbiome plays a fundamental role in our body’s energy dynamic, which effects the calories in/calories out ratio. The Firmucutes/Bacteriodes ratio is an obesity biomarker. Obese people have a higher F/B ratio which leads to more overall inflammation. Firmicutes are fat-loving bacteria that digest complex carbs and more efficient at extracting energy (calories) from food which increases fat absorption. Along with changing your diet, exercise also affects the F/B ratio favorably and fosters a more diverse microbiome.
Touted as the answer for diabetics around the country, recent research has found that it is not as great a substitute for white sugar as previously understood. Agave is 100% fructose. Fructose is particularly damaging because it doesn’t stimulate insulin production like glucose. It immediately goes to the liver which decreases leptin (fat storage hormone) which deals with appetite suppression. Low leptin levels = You don’t feel full = You keep eating. Other artificial sweeteners change the microbiome in ways that favor dysbiosis and blood sugar imbalances.
Opt for natural sugar sources like honey, stevia, or maple syrup.
The Master Happiness Molecule
Low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are often linked to depression. Did you know though that 80-90% of serotonin is actually manufactured by nerve cells in your gut? This may be one reason why antidepressants are often less effective than dietary changes when it comes to increasing happiness.