Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life

Posted by nliakos on December 5, 2015

by David Perlmutter, M.D. with Kristin Loberg (Little, Brown & Co. 2015; ISBN 978-0-316-38010-2)

Dr. David Perlmutter is a Florida neurologist, and he believes that much of what is wrong with us can be solved by bringing our microbiome–the “bugs” or bacteria that inhabit our digestive tract–into balance and keeping it healthy. Our unnatural diet and toxic environment, he thinks, are responsible for our sick and unbalanced microbiomes.

In Part I, “Getting to Know Your Hundred Trillion Friends,” he explains about the microbes that live within us, digest our food for us, and determine how we feel, and how much we weigh. In addition, he explains “the new science of inflammation”–how inflammation within our bodies resulting from out-of-balance microbiota can make us sick–and the apparent relationship of a sick microbiome with autism.

Part II, “Trouble in Bugville,” focuses on how our gut microbiota get sick and unbalanced when exposed to too much fructose (like HFCS), gluten, antibiotics, environmental chemicals, and genetically modified foods such as corn and soy.

Part III, “Brain Maker Rehab,” Dr. Perlmutter explains how we can cure our sick microbiome through changing what we eat, taking certain supplements, and avoiding certain environmental hazards. For example, he recommends eating more fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, pickled vegetables and meats, and kombucha tea, and filtering drinking water. He recommends taking docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), turmeric, coconut oil, alpha-lipoic acid, and Vitamin D as well as the following five probiotics: Lactobacillus platarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium longum. He includes a seven-day cleansing and eating program as an example, and offers recipes for recommended foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled sardines, fermented hard-boiled eggs, and kombucha tea. This was where he kind of lost me. I have been a vegetarian for over forty years, and I certainly do not intend to start eating meat or fish, fermented or not. And many of the recipes require sterilization of glass jars and lids. Never having canned anything, I have no experience with or equipment for sterilizing foods. It may be easy, but I worry that if I don’t do it properly, I could make myself sick.

I would prefer slowly decreasing certain foods and exposures while increasing others, but Dr. Perlmutter seems to want a complete makeover of lifestyle and diet. Perhaps he recommends this out of concern for his readers’ well-being; for me, it just makes it less likely that I will make changes at all. If one inflexibly implemented all of these changes, one could kiss eating out and entertaining friends goodbye.

Perlmutter’s claims seem logical and well-documented, although I am suspicious about any one thing that is held responsible for diabetes, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, Alzheimers, the common cold, and many more diseases and conditions. Furthermore, a quick Google search yielded this article from New York Magazine, which is scathingly critical of Perlmutter’s ideas. Caveat lector! (But read also the 70+ dissenting comments below the article.)

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