Everything you should know about gluten allergies, a gluten free diet, brain health, and the diet that will fuel your brain for years of healthy living. Blog by David Perlmutter M.D, a renowned neurologist whose expertise includes gluten issues, brain health & nutrition, and preventing neurodegenerative disorders.
We live in a very light polluted world in comparison to that of our very recent ancestors. Estimates now indicate that close to 99% of both Americans and Europeans are exposed to “light pollution.” Not only are we excessively exposed to light in modern times, but the type of light accounting for this exposure is changing rapidly. As we move away from incandescent lights in favor of light emitting diode (LED) technology, we are seeing an ever-increasing exposure to a particular part of the light spectrum – blue light, that has been associated with some worrisome effects in terms of human health.
New research shows that blue light exposure significantly reduces the amount of melatonin secreted by the brain’s pineal gland. This has obvious detrimental effects on both the duration as well as quality of sleep. Reduced quality of sleep has been associated with a number of issues including obesity, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
In an interesting study, Spanish researchers evaluated 623 men with a diagnosis of prostate cancer and compared them to 879 male controls. Exposure to light from indoor sources at night was computed using a questionnaire, while outside exposure was calculated using data from the International Space Station. The latter data specifically allowed for the collection of information related to blue light exposure.
The study was carried out as it is known that light exposure may significantly alter hormone activity, and prostate cancer is a hormone related event. Further, previous research has demonstrated that night shift workers are known to have an increased of prostate cancer.
The researchers found that comparing those with the highest exposure to blue light to those with the lowest, the risk of prostate cancer was more than doubled. The risk was almost tripled in men who had high levels of light in their rooms when they slept in comparison to men who slept in “total darkness.”
So this is yet another argument in favor of considering the doctrine of the “paleo” movement. That is, there are health benefits associated with trying to emulate the environments of our ancestors. In this case, keeping in mind that when the sun went down, our ancestors were pretty much in the dark. And this history is recapitulated in our genetic code.
The important points here are that first, we should dramatically reduce our exposure to light as we approach and engage sleep. And the second, but nonetheless equally important point is that blue light, the kind emitted by out phones, computer screens and tablets, seems to be particularly disruptive of hormone activity and, according to this research, may well enhance the risk of prostate cancer.
For more information on sleeping soundly, please watch this video.
Energy medicine is now front-and-center as a major consideration in trying to unravel the mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease. It’s now clear that a disruption of cellular energetics is fundamentally involved in the disease.
Multiple research studies have demonstrated that a decline in brain metabolism, specifically the brain’s utilization of glucose, is seen long before there are any clinical manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease. In other words, the first observable event in Alzheimer’s is the finding of reduced brain glucose utilization on a special type of brain scan. This observation presages the clinical manifestations like declining memory, judgment, and executive function by as much as several decades.
Why the brain suffers from this decline in its ability to use glucose as a fuel remains undefined, but new research is making the case that the hormone insulin is playing an important role in this event.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas, and possibly also produced in the brain. It has multiple roles in human physiology. It regulates glucose and fat metabolism and also is involved in vascular regulation and cell growth. These functions obviously have implications as they relate to brain function. But as it relates to utilization of glucose, the role of insulin in brain health and function is pivotal. While the brain represents only about 2% of body, it is consuming an incredible 25%(!) of the body’s glucose, at rest. Clearly, the brain is energy hungry, and adequate insulin availability and function is required to satisfy brain energy needs.
Recently, researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina published a report in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience in which they highlighted how insulin resistance may well contribute to the declining metabolism seen in Alzheimer’s disease. They described how individuals with metabolic dysfunction, like pre-diabetes or obesity, actually demonstrate improved brain glucose utilization when they were infused with insulin. Interestingly, the same researchers showed that this improvement did not occur in healthy individuals.
Further, they showed that while an acute, short-term increase in insulin actually improves memory function in humans and animals, long term elevation of insulin leads to insulin resistance, a condition in which brain cells are less responsive to the actions of insulin and there’s even a reduction of the amount of insulin that is able to make its way into the brain.
As the authors stated:
Chronic peripheral hyperinsulinemia leads to the downregulation of insulin transporters at the BBB (blood-brain barrier), which in turn decreases the amount of insulin that may enter (the) brain. This CNS insulin deficiency may potentially lead to impairments in memory, neuroprotective effects, synaptic transmission, as well as likely contributing to the development of neurodegenerative disease. Importantly, negative impacts of insulin resistance occur years prior to the development of clinically defined diabetes. Early defects in insulin signaling may be associated with pathologic brain changes even decades before clinical symptoms of the disease.
And beyond just affecting the energetics of brain function, the authors described several other mechanisms whereby insulin resistance could be harmful to the brain. They noted that insulin resistance is associated with inflammation, vascular dysfunction, dyslipidemia, and even an enhanced production of amyloid protein, the protein that is found to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Ultimately, however, these researchers remained focused on how insulin resistance impaired brain energetics. They reveled that insulin resistance actually compromised the function of the mitochondria and, importantly, how recovery of brain cell function occurs when fat derived fuel in the form of ketones became available. Ketones are made from dietary fat or body fat when they are metabolized in the liver. Our bodies increase their ketone production when we fast, restrict carbohydrate, or consume precursors like MCT or coconut oil.
In summary, insulin is critical for brain health and function. Insulin resistance happens when blood sugar is persistently elevated, even below the levels that would characterize diabetes. The effect of insulin resistance on the brain is an early event, often preceding the clinical manifestations of Alzheimer’s by decades. That means that people in their 30s and 40s need to pay attention to their diets in a big way. Diets high in carbs and sugar will increase blood sugar, increase insulin, and ultimately lead to insulin resistance. And that, as we have now learned, poses a serious threat to brain health.
For years we’ve been seeing scientific literature describe the various health risks associated with having elevated levels of (potentially) toxic heavy metals. The reason this information is so important is because it opens the door to a discussion about both prevention and treatment for the associated diseases.
Certainly, one disease that draws interest from both perspectives is Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, while the actual cause, or more appropriately causes, of this dreaded disease remains hidden, there’s been discussion over the years that having higher levels of various heavy metals may be playing a role.
To explore this relationship, a team of Chinese and American researchers reviewed a vast amount of scientific research to determine if there exists any valid relationship between higher blood levels of various heavy metals and the risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Their comprehensive meta-analysis focused on aluminum, mercury, cadmium, and lead.
Their results are fascinating and clearly important. The researchers revealed a significant positive relationship between elevated serum levels of aluminum, cadmium and/or mercury with Alzheimer’s risk. Interestingly, higher lead was actually associated with decreased risk for the disease.
The authors then went deep into a discussion as to the various potential mechanisms whereby these toxic metals might be damaging to brain cells, and for those with a scientific background this section of the paper is certainly worth reading.
The authors concluded:
…the results of our meta-analyses indicate that the circulatory aluminum, mercury, and cadmium levels are significantly increased in AD patients as compared to controls. Given the great patient, family, and socio-economic burden of AD, in the future, steps should be taken to minimize human exposure to these environmental toxic metals to reduce the risk of developing AD. Further studies are needed to examine the role of toxic metals in the development of AD.
Their admonition in terms of exposure should be taken seriously. Where this and other supportive literature will lead us in terms of treatment is an evolving story that absolutely deserves our attention.
Recently, I was interviewed by the magazine Men’s Health to discuss the positive benefits of probiotics and their potential applications for improving mental health and conditions like depression. I wanted to dive a bit deeper into the thoughts I shared in the article, and go over some key takeaways. Read the article and let me know what you think!
I find it very fascinating that her research and publication are really quite unrelated, seemingly, to her profession as Professor of Management at New York University Stern School of Business.
That said, as yet another manifestation that Prof. Schilling is truly a renaissance person, her new book, Quirky, explores the characteristics of some of the most incredible innovators who have changed the destiny of the world.
What really distinguishes those who literally change the world, those creative geniuses who give us one breakthrough after another, from the rest of us? What differentiates Marie Curie or Elon Musk from the merely creative?
Melissa Schilling, one of the world’s leading experts on innovation, invites us into the lives of eight people — Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Elon Musk, Dean Kamen, Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs — to identify the traits and experiences that drove them to make spectacular breakthroughs, over and over again. While all innovators possess incredible intellect, intellect alone, she shows, does not create a breakthrough innovator. It was their personal, social, and emotional quirkiness that enabled true genius to break through — not just once, but again and again.
Nearly all of the innovators, for example, exhibited high levels of social detachment that enabled them to break with norms, an almost maniacal faith in their ability to overcome obstacles, and a passionate idealism that pushed them to work with intensity, even in the face of criticism or failure. While these individual traits would be unlikely to work in isolation — being unconventional without having high levels of confidence, effort, and goal orientation might, for example, result in rebellious behavior that does not lead to meaningful outcomes — together they can fuel both the ability and drive to pursue what others deem impossible.
Prof. Schilling shares the science behind the convergence of traits that increases the likelihood of success. And, as Schilling also reveals, there is much to learn about nurturing breakthrough innovation in our own lives, for example in the way we run organizations, manage people, and even how we raise our children.
I was delighted to reconnect with Prof. Schilling for this interview, and cannot wait to explore what’s next for her.
Alopecia areata is a form of baldness that affects approximately 2% of people in the United States. In this condition, hair is lost from various parts of the body, typically the scalp. The actual cause of this condition is unknown, but new research clearly supports the idea that this disease is an autoimmune condition, meaning it is a manifestation of a disruption of the regulation of the immune system. There is certainly thought to be a genetic component as well.
Treatment for this condition is often unsuccessful, but includes medications designed to treat immune imbalance. This may include the use of steroids.
One important observation that has come to the forefront of science in recent years is the very important role of the gut microbes in terms of regulating the immune system, and it is this knowledge base that has formed the basis for this recent report appearing in the American College of Gastroenterology Case Reports.
The report describes two individuals who suffered from significant hair loss related to alopecia who were treated for a gastrointestinal disorder, an infection called Clostridium difficile, or as it is more commonly known, C. diff. The individuals were treated with fecal microbial transplants (FMTs), meaning that they were given, into their colons, fecal material from healthy donors. This has proven to be an incredibly effective treatment for C. diff., and is now being performed in approximately 500 hospitals in the US.
To reiterate, the individuals in this report happened to be suffering from alopecia when they developed C.diff., for which they were treated with fecal microbial transplants.
What happened following their treatment was truly remarkable. Both patients began to experience fairly rapid regrowth of their hair.
Figure (A) shows one of the patients at age 16, when he was first diagnosed with alopecia. Obviously, he was already suffering from extensive hair loss. He subsequently lost all of the hair on his head.
In figure (B), he is seen several months following FMT.
Figure (C) shows him one and a half years after the fecal transplant.
This is certainly not the first recognition in medical literature that FMT may play an important role in treating autoimmune conditions. Case reports are now appearing using this procedure in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, for example.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that people with alopecia should seek out FMT as a proven treatment for this condition. I am, however, calling attention to this recent publication as it clearly drives home the point that our gut organisms play a huge role in regulating the balance of our immune systems.
That said, it certainly makes good sense, in my opinion, for all of us to do our very best in terms of caring for those important 100 trillion microbes living in our digestive systems.
Dr. Chatterjee is a medical doctor with nearly 20 years of hand-on, clinical experience seeing patients. He is double-board certified in both internal medicine and family medicine, and holds an honors degree in immunology.
He is star of the BBC One TV show “Doctor in the House”, which has aired in over 70 countries around the world. Dr. Chatterjee uses a functional and lifestyle medicine approach to reverse chronic disease. On the program, he actually moves in with families and helps them make important lifestyle changes targeted at improving health.
His first book was released in the UK earlier this year and became an instant Sunday Times best-seller. It has already become one of the most successful health books released in the past 5 years.
He has created the very first “Prescribing Lifestyle Medicine” course accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners in London, where he teaches doctors how to apply the principles in his book. His new podcast, Feel Better, Live More, is one of the most talked about health podcasts in the UK.
I think you will find Dr. Chatterjee to be fully engaged, compassionate, and erudite. If you want more information, you can visit his website, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
As we all know, allergic diseases, particularly in childhood, are becoming more and more common. It’s not just that we are becoming more aware of allergic diseases, think of the frequent announcements on airplanes about peanut allergies, or food allergy questions by the waiter at dinner. No, the reality of the situation is that, by and large, allergies are simply far more common than they used to be.
So, why is this happening? Let’s take a step back and recognize that the intestines, oddly enough, actually play an important role in determining our immune responsiveness. Specifically, we now understand that the gut lining itself actually plays an important role in regulating immune function. Permeability, or leakiness, of the gut lining is associated with alteration in immune function as well as changes to the set point of inflammation.
Maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining is one of the most important functions of our intestinal microbes. When the intestinal microbes are altered, as may occur when they are exposed to certain medications, we might expect to see changes in immune function, possibly even increasing risk for allergy.
In a new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers, in recognizing the fact that allergic diseases are increasingly prevalent in children, wanted to determine if acid-blocking drugs or antibiotics may influence the likelihood of allergy. Their justification for their study focused on the fact that early exposure to medications can alter gut organisms.
The study was retrospective, meaning that it looked back at health records of close to 800,000 children, and tried to find associations between allergies and exposure to either acid-blocking drugs or antibiotics during the first six months of life. Risk for allergy was determined during a period of up to 4.6 years.
The results of the study were indeed profound. The risk of developing food allergy was more than doubled in children receiving acid-blocking drugs during their first six months of life, while the risk for asthma was increased by 41% in these children.
In those children who received antibiotics during their first six months of life, risk for asthma was doubled, while there was a 75% increase in risk for allergic rhinitis, a 51% increase in risk for anaphylaxis, and a 42% increase in risk for allergic conjunctivitis.
The conclusion of the study stated:
This study found associations between the use of acid-suppressive medication and antibiotics during the first six months of infancy and subsequent development of allergic disease. Acid suppressive-medications and antibiotics should be used during infancy only in situations of clear clinical benefit.
The authors further explained how changes induced in gut microorganisms may well be responsible for these changes in immune health that result in allergy.
So once again, we are seeing well-respected literature focus on providing information that can allow us to make decisions that have lifelong implications. In this case, early life changes in gut organisms, brought on by medication exposure, might well increase the risk for lifelong disease.
I’m 68 years old and hail from Boulder, Colorado. Just ten years ago I found myself in the ER, unable to walk. At the time, doctors diagnosed me with MS. For years I went through steroid treatments and many nasty relapses.
Along the way, my neurologists never discussed with me diet or other environmental issues. But recently I was introduced to a nutritional therapist who shined a light on Grain Brain, as well as the work of Dr. Terry Wahls.
I was very interested in your treatment of the gut-brain connection and the relationship between the gut and conditions such as MS. Overnight, I had gone from a very active lifestyle to walking with two canes with a very short range. I had a daily energy reserve of approximately 8 hours.
Since January 2017, when my wife and I began following this protocol, my energy reserve has increased to 15 hrs a day, I have lost 20 pounds, my attitude has improved greatly, and this past July my team and I completed a 6-mile hike! Slowly, I’ve taken back control of my health.
Recently, at the annual PaleoFX conference, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel alongside Dr. Michael Ruscio. I was extremely taken by his interaction with the audience, the compassion (and information) in his message, and the depth of his knowledge.
I was delighted when he sent me his new book, Healthy Gut Healthy You, and I have found this book to be both extremely comprehensive and written in a user-friendly way. He has done an incredible job in writing this book and I’m hoping you will find it as interesting as have I once you’ve had a chance to read your copy.
In the interview today, Dr. Ruscio explains how gut health relates to just about everything else in the body, how changes in gut health can manifest as disease, and what we can do to fix the problem — the ultimate goal.
I hope you enjoy the program today. In closing, let me list Dr. Ruscio’s credentials:
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Lead researcher in current IBS study
Post-doctoral continuing education provider
Doctor of Chiropractic – Life Chiropractic College West
University of Massachusetts – B.S. Exercise Kinesiology
Post-doctoral Functional Medicine study with educational bodies such as; The National College of Naturopathic Medicine, The Institute of Functional Medicine, The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Kalish Research, and Defeat Autism Now.