Tuesday 21 November 2017

A theory with real guts

Food for thought: Dr David Perlmutter claims brain diseases are directly related to what happens in the gut.
Food for thought: Dr David Perlmutter claims brain diseases are directly related to what happens in the gut.
Brain Maker

Clodagh Finn

If nothing else, American neurologist Dr David Perlmutter has a great line in catchy titles. His last book, Grain Brain, rocketed up the bestsellers' list with its message that gluten and sugar destroy the brain

Dr Perlmutter was not without critics, but his research highlighted the relationship between lifestyle and dementia and it propelled discussion on how to prevent Alzheimer's disease.

His new book, Brain Maker, takes that argument further and claims that we can improve our brain's health by taking care of the gut.

For some time now, we've been encouraged to nurture the so-called friendly bacteria that live in the coils of our intestines, not least by the pro-biotic industry, which is worth a tidy €25bn per year, worldwide.

Dr Perlmutter introduces readers to the latest research into the 'microbiome' - the bacteria in your gut - and goes on to claim that cutting-edge science is discovering that brain diseases are directly related to what happens in the gut.

"Scientific research is bringing more and more credence to the notion that up to 90pc of all known human illness can be traced back to an unhealthy gut," writes Dr Perlmutter.

He goes on to talk about the rise in children diagnosed with autism and ADHD and the number of adults who are developing dementia at a younger age than before - and links these illnesses to unhealthy gut microbes.

He outlines his thesis in lively prose and presents what seems like compelling scientific evidence in jargon-free, easy-to-read chapters.

At times, you are whisked away by his argument and believe, as he puts it, that a "medical revolution" is taking place.

He puts Jason forward as evidence. The 12-year-old boy suffered from severe autism but was transformed after "a vigorous pro-biotic protocol" along with a therapy that is not widely available, even in the States. Dr Perlmutter also talks about a man with multiple sclerosis who no longer needs his wheelchair after therapy.

Then he goes on to give an implausible list of ailments that can be helped by the 'new science': ADHD, asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue, diabetes, obesity and many more.

Brain Maker also spells out what you can do in your own kitchen to improve your stomach flora - and by extension your brain.

There's a seven-day meal plan, recipes and the encouraging phrase: "If the thought of eating fermented foods and things like dandelion greens and kimchi sounds strange or somehow daunting, rest assured eating them will be an invigorating experience."

To be fair, the diet is doable and possibly even really good for you.

There are lots of vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, nuts and eggs. The new additions are fermented foods and supplements.

Brain Maker is thought-provoking, engaging and dangerously seductive - it offers hope to sick people who may have been afraid to dream of a cure. Tread carefully through its pages.


Brain Maker

Dr David Perlmutter

Hodder & Stoughton, pbk, 282 pages, €17.99

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