Tag Archives: brain

Gluten-Sensitivity Validation and More Discouraging News about Obesity

I’ve wanted to make time to share two articles with you from the last week or so. One on the brain and obesity and one about gluten sensitivity.

The first, and I’m going to summarize brutally, indicates that middle-aged obese people have smaller brains.

Now let me fill in a few details. The journal Neurobiology of Aging posted the article  “Obesity associated with increased brain-age from mid-life,” reporting that when middle-aged, obese study participants were compared to middle-aged, normal weight study participants, the obese patients had more brain atrophy. (Atrophy means shrinking or wasting.) When matched according to white matter volume, obese patients’ brains appeared the size of patients ten years older.

Make sense? Basically, obesity for some reason predicted that a middle-aged person would have a smaller brain, about the size of someone ten years older. (Brains naturally atrophy as we age.) An obese patient’s 50-year-old brain would look 60 years old.

(What is obesity? If you don’t know your BMI, I suggest you calculate it so that you are not lying to yourself about the state of your weight. Obese people tend to just call themselves overweight. And morbidly obese people tend to just classify themselves as obese. Here is a BMI calculator.)

Please focus on changing your eating for forever—not on temporary weight loss. The article (and other articles reporting on it) really focuses on the weight. I DO believe that weight is important—BUT more in light of the reflection that food choices are not being matched for the individual person. You can lose weight eating only green beans from a can and shrink your belly. But I don’t think that’s the best deal to protect your brain!

Eat real. Don’t eat anything processed. If the weight is still stubborn, eat real, unprocessed AND make it PLAIN. Protect the brain. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Your kids are worth it. Obesity kills your life slowly. Painfully.

Next article up is about gluten-sensitivity.

Do you feel bashful saying you’re gluten-sensitive? I mean, it’s not like you’re terribly allergic and going to die. Or celiac and really killing your organs by eating wheat. You just, well, you just don’t feel good after eating that bread. And your mom gets a little frustrated with you at family gatherings, having nothing to thicken the gravy with! Can’t she use a little bit?!? That wouldn’t hurt you, would it?

The journal Gut ran a research article titled “Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease.”

That’s a long title. I’ll explain the article really briefly:

Definite lab abnormalities were found in those who reported gluten sensitivity, and the changes were NOT the same as those found in celiac disease. Gluten sensitive patients had lab markers suggestive of systemic immune activation and a compromised intestinal epithelial barrier integrity. (Specifically, they had increased levels of soluble CD14, increased lipopolysaccharide-binding protein, increased antibodies to microbial flagellin, and elevated fatty acid-binding protein 2.)

Specific symptoms they looked at for inclusion in their study were bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, memory problems, thinking problems, or numbness and tingling of your arms and/or legs. They felt these were the most common symptoms associated with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

After six months of a gluten-free diet, the non-celiac gluten sensitive patients felt better and their labs returned to normal.

The discussion of the article is very interesting, worth a read if you are up to the terminology being thrown around.

I’m one of those people who hates to be a nuisance, but when I eat gluten, I get side effects. So I went gluten-free four years ago (and ate real, whole foods and watched out for other food sensitivities). Being a medical doctor by training, it was really hard for me when the medical field really shamed the idea of gluten sensitivity. Suddenly I was personally pitted against everything and everybody I believed to be true and right professionally. The last four years have been QUITE the eye opener professionally.

So it’s good to see validation.

I really, really encourage you to eat whole, real food. No strange added ingredients. Grains as fresh and whole as you can if you do them. Oils and fats as unprocessed and as close to the source as you can get them. Skip white sugar unless you’ve decided it’s a really special day.

The Homeschooling Doctor logoYou are worth feeling good.

Terri

 

Give Your Kid a Brain Edge

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Want to give your kid a brain up? I know we think about waistlines and cavities when we think about junk food, but we really need to be giving thought to THE BRAIN!

A brain is a precious thing to waste, but indeed as parents, we are doing just that with our dangerous eating and feeding habits. The food a child eats nourishes his or her gut bacteria (or doesn’t). Then, by-products and interactions of the child’s own gut bacteria feeds forward to interact with the function and development of his or her brain.

Stomach. Brain. Connected.

Fiber Helps the Brain

Research supports that high fiber foods– and I ALWAYS suggest that any nutrient (including fiber) be eaten in NATURAL, WHOLE food forms (cook ’em, saute ’em, roast ’em, bake ’em, eat ’em raw—-don’t care–just eat them)– contribute to children’s “cognitive control.”

Cognitive control? Sounds spooky. What the heck is cognitive control? Some sort of mind straight-jacket?

Ha! NO!!! It’s simply a scientific way to say: the ability to adapt to a situation and make good decisions, to execute better behavior in it, and the ability to perform a task well.

Can anyone say, “Make a bed!” or “Put away the silverware!” or “Do your math homework!” or even “Hold still!”? All those, and so much more, require a person’s cognitive control. His or her ability to complete a task properly, to reason it out, to put a brake on talking and moving when talking and moving aren’t appropriate in the moment.

According to a study in The Journal of Nutrition, “Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children“, dietary fiber may play a role in cognitive control among children. The children in this study, ages 7-9, who ate more total dietary fiber, insoluble fiber, and pectin performed better on the selected performance task in the study. (The performance task wasn’t making a bed but I think it should have been…)

A big, bad, sad 90% of American children do not get even close to the recommended fiber intake set (ranging for about 20 grams to 38 grams, depending on the age and sex)! AND the sources that most people turn to for fiber (breakfast cereal laden with sugar) is a sickening poor fiber food source for the gut bacteria.

[I also disagree with the use of bread for fiber, unless the bread is honest and pure. I’m sitting here looking at the bread label in my parents’ home and this is what I see: enriched unbleached flour (refined flour), high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, monoglycerides, sweet dairy whey, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, calcium propionate, natural and artificial flavor, calcium sulfate, citric acid, ascorbic acid, soy lecithin, and so on.

This is NOT bread. I do not know what exactly this is. But it is NOT bread. I have made plenty of bread in my life, and I did so with about five or less ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. If I got fancy, I added eggs, milk, and butter or olive oil. You must seek out the ingredient list and not rely on the large print on the front that ways, “Whole grain bread!”]

Where to get “Fiber”

What do I suggest instead? Real, whole food rich in plant matter (Always keeping in mind what is tolerated by an individual. I know many people don’t tolerate nuts or legumes or certain vegetables. But there IS something a person can tolerate. Find it.). Good examples:

  • Greens and lettuces
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Apples, oranges, blueberries, cherries, grapes (all fruits higher in pectin)
  • Carrots and parsnips
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and hard squashes
  • Nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Avocados
  • Peas, beans, lentils
  • Real, honest, pure whole grains: pure oatmeal, pure quinoa, pure wheat
  • Dried fruits: raisins, figs, apricots

Not a Matter of Your Parenting

When we feed kids diets low in lots of vegetables, fruits, and fresh produce, it’s not just a matter of “good mom”, “bad-mom.” It has nothing to do with you, mom! We’re talking about your kids. I am not here to define your parenthood by your nutritional choices.

But please know when kids don’t eat plant matter as close to the way it is found in nature, they miss out on all these complex fibers that scientists are realizing now affect us by affecting our gut bacteria. And the gut bacteria affect the development of the brain.

When your kid fusses and you want to throw in the towel and let him eat macaroni and cheese every day, realize the role you are playing in the complete development of your child’s brain, at a time when really, what goes in their mouth is mostly up to you and the groceries you bring home.

Persist, mother. Persist, father. A secure child is a child who knows that their parents will never give up on them. Your persistence and devotion is your greatest asset! Don’t stop just because of some pouting.

Be creative. Be firm. Be funny. Be loving. Be stubborn. Give rewards. Withhold rewards.

Do what it takes with love and compassion to get them there.

Your child’s gut microbiome is overwhelmingly tied to the health and function of his or her brain. Don’t give up on vegetables and fruits.

The brain of your child is at stake.

Good luck! Questions always welcomed.

Terri

 

Citation:

Kahn, Raine, et al. Journal of Nutrition. Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children.  January 1, 2015 vol. 145 no. 1 143-149: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/145/1/143

Image from Wikipedia: Giuseppe Arcimboldo [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons