I just finished reading Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain=for Life by Dr David Perlmutter. This book is all about how the bacteria in your gut can influence your health. I found this book to be fascinating but If you're anything like my wife, you appreciate the information, but would never read the book. So in writing this, I hope to allow you to extract some actionable info without having to invest the time to read the book.
The bacteria inside our body (about 100 trillion cells!) out number our own cells and can have a profound effect on our health. This includes both physical AND mental health and there is some amazing research to back this up. For example when bacteria from the gut of overweight people was transplanted into mice they very quickly began to gain weight. Another study found that people taking probiotics (in yogurt) had reduced negative thoughts associated with sadness compared to those who did not get the probiotics. Another study showed that the byproducts of bad gut bacteria injected into healthy puppies almost immediately (and temporarily) produced many characteristic symptoms of autism.
According to the author he has successfully treated many conditions by rehabilitating the gut bacteria. Some of these include: ADHD, depression, obesity, metabolic disorders (type 2 diabetes), Multiple Sclerosis, various autoimmune and neurological diseases, Autism (not a cure but very beneficial for behavior). As good as it is to treat these conditions, one of the main ideas is that we can prevent many diseases from ever occurring. As they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Gut bacteria influence the levels of inflammation in our body. Higher levels of inflammation are linked to many things including brain disease (such as Alzheimer's), depression, heart disease, chronic pain and auto immune conditions (in which the body attacks itself). Having the right kind of bacteria lowers our levels of inflammation.
Here are a few golden nuggets to help you raise an army of good bacteria in your gut:
1. Take a probiotic daily - look for one with a high count (many billions) and a variety of strains but especially these powerful 5:
2. Drink filtered water: the chlorine in our water helps make it safe to drink but also kills beneficial bacteria in our body. Filtering the chlorine out helps the good guys inside us survive.
3. Eat fermented foods. This is one of the best ways to introduce beneficial bacteria into our gut. Examples: kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, and pickled foods (in brine not vinegar)
4. Diet: eat vegetables, legumes, natural fats, meat, eggs, low carb/low glycemic index foods. Good bacteria thrive on the fiber and other nutrients. Eating sugary, high carb, and processed foods give fuel to bad bacteria.
5. Avoid inappropriate antibiotic use (like for minor coughs and sniffles). Begin aggressive probiotic therapy after antibiotic use.
6. Consider eliminating or at least reducing wheat/gluten from your diet. The wheat of our time is nothing like what our ancestors ate and is likely the source of many modern diseases.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone trying to lead a healthy life, but is definitely a must read book if you are struggling with a neurologic or autoimmune disease without many treatment options or have a child with autism. For more information go to Dr. Perlmutter's website which is a great resource. I would also recommend his other book Grain Brain for the vast benefits that can come from eliminating gluten from your diet.
AJ Ludlow is a Doctor of Physical Therapy serving the Provo/Orem area and specializing in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and injuries.