I came to the study of the gut biome (and this book ‘Brain Maker’ as part of it) because I was looking for the things I can do to help prevent brain deterioration. A dysfunctional gut-biome is found in a very high proportion of people suffering from Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.
Let’s start with something simple. B12. A vitamin that is found to be deficient in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimers. Though we can try to make sure we eat foods with B12, though we could take supplements, the fact is that our gut bacteria, when operating properly, MAKES the B12 our bodies require. It is well documented that a low level of B12 is a huge risk factor for dementia
In Brain Maker Dr Perlmutter leads us through the effects of gluten again in the sections relating to Dementia; even those who are not shown to be sensitive to gluten (no bloating or diarrhoea) can be affected, as the constituents of the gluten have two effects on the intestine. One is to be ‘sticky’ and prevent the uptake of some nutrients, and, two, the gliadin in the gluten causes leaky gut, causes the body’s immune system to be on high alert (producing anti-gliadin antibodies) AND allows the passage of LPS (lipopolysaccirides) into the bloodstream which, as explained previously, can pass through the blood brain barrier, (leaving the door open for other large molecules to follow) and cause changes in the way the brain sends signals to the body and inflammation there too.
The Anti-bodies to gliadin not only cause the release of cytokines (which are inflammatory in the brain) but they also cross-react with certain brain proteins. From many studies it is shown that this then leads to complications such as neuropathy, ataxia, seizures and neuro-behavioural changes.
Is it any wonder then that Dr Perlmutter connects the rise in dementia (over and above that expected just through living longer) to a disrupted gut-biome?
A word on fats. Omega 3 fats are essential for good brain function.
The over-use of Omega 6 oils (sunflower / corn -oil) is also brought up in this section. The demonising of saturated fats* to such an extent that Omega 6 oils now take up too much of our dietary fats is a concern as in the western diet now the ratio of Omega 6 intake to Omega 3 (Olive oil : cold-pressed rape-seed oil) intake is around 10 : 1 (or higher). The ratio of Omega 6 to the mono-unsaturated Omega 3 (shown to be required for brain health) is critical. It ought to be 1:1 or at the very most 3:1 – any more and the Omega 6 oils prevent the take-up of the Omega 3s (to the detriment of the brain!)
*Saturated fats are demonised as being Cholesterol raising. More and more evidence is being produced to show that this is not the case. Simplistically – an observation was made and the ‘result’ was viewed as the ’cause’ (arteries blocked by cholesterol plaques = therefore cholesterol causes blocked arteries) – from then on cholesterol and saturated fats have been demonised and a vast theory and business (phamacutical and dietary) has been built up around it. Why ‘saturated fats’ – well, because, though they do not contain cholesterol, they are found in the same source – animal products. When it comes down to it, our liver makes the majority of cholesterol our bodies need, if we do not eat enough of it, and it is quite hard to eat as much as is required, – it makes it.
Note however, that our brains need cholesterol (yes – even the ‘bad’ one) – to function properly, as do most of the other cells in our bodies. In one of the largest studies ever, where a very large cohort was followed over fifteen to eighteen years, those with naturally lower cholesterol in their systems as they aged were shown to perform less well in all cognitive tests.
The real question following the observations should have been ‘why has the cholesterol formed a blockage here?’ The answer comes back to the gut-biome (and gluten) as it seems that the arterial blockage is the result of frequent damage / inflammation repairs – and the damage is caused by the intrusion of proteins that should never have made their way in the bloodstream, (LPS – gliadin etc) and couldn’t have done, or wouldn’t have done, if the gut-biome was healthy and gluten wasn’t so prevalent in the diet to crowbar a way through the tight junctions. And if you are thinking that I have strayed from my concerns for the brain into heart-attack waters – I have not. The cause of vascular dementia is the blocking of blood vessels in the brain – resulting in brain-cell death and strokes of various sizes and effects – so if the damage to the lining of the blood vessels can be prevented, the blockages due to repairs should not happen either.
The final part of this book deals with How to keep your good bacteria happy and thriving and in balance for optimal health – and I will work on a summary of this soon.
What do you think – have saturated fats been demonised unnecessarily?
Have you ever tried a low / no gluten diet to see how you feel on it?
You know I love to hear from you – do share
Best – Ann