Dr. Mercola writes:
Alzheimer’s disease is at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans–including one in eight people aged 65 and over–living with the disease. In the next 20 years, it is projected that Alzheimer’s will affect one in four Americans, rivaling the current prevalence of obesity and diabetes.
There is still no known accepted cure for this devastating disease, and no effective treatments. Alzheimer’s drugs are often of little to no benefit at all, which underscores the importance of prevention throughout your lifetime.
Fortunately, Alzheimer's prevention is actually easier than you might think. There's exceptionally compelling research showing that your brain has great plasticity, which you control through your diet and lifestyle choices.
Here, Dr. David Perlmutter–probably the leading natural medicine neurologist in the US, from my perspective–shares his insights into this pervasive problem. I don't know anyone who exceeds his level of expertise in traditional neurology and still shares the same philosophical orientation that I have.
He has a clinic in Naples, Florida, and he's been very active in publishing his findings in peer-reviewed medical journals. He's also a fellow of the American College of Nutrition, as am I.
"I have a very strong background in traditional neurology," Dr. Perlmutter says. "As a neurologist for many years, I became more and more frustrated with our lack of ability to actually treat diseases. We were really only treating symptoms.
When I finally began to understand what the proximate cause of the various illnesses we were dealing with was, I realized that mainstream neurology, though I don't want to sound too critical, really pays no attention to the causation part of the story."
The Role of Grains in Disease Propagation
He realized an answer would never become apparent by simply writing prescriptions and hoping for the best. Instead, he began investigating the role of nutrition on brain health. Alzheimer's, according to the RAND Corporation, is currently costing us some $200 billion a year, yet it is largely preventable. And virtually no one talks about that!
"This is a disease that is highly revenue-producing for mega factories of various so-called Alzheimer's drugs," Dr. Perlmutter says. "The point is there is no meaningful treatment in 2013. It is a disease predicated on lifestyle choices primarily, because of the high amount of carbohydrates/sugar that we now, as Western-culture individuals, are consuming.
It's a preventable disease. It surprises me at my core that no one's talking about the fact that so many of these devastating neurological problems are, in fact, modifiable based upon lifestyle choices."
Dr. Perlmutter specifically looked at the impact of gluten and casein, or wheat and dairy primarily, on autoimmune diseases. His New York Times Bestseller, Grain Brain, reveals his findings, the cornerstones of which are the powerfully toxic role of glucose (sugar) and carbohydrates in one’s diet.
He also stresses that gluten sensitivity is involved in most chronic disease, including those affecting the brain, because of how gluten affects your immune system. Unfortunately, many people, physicians included, still believe that if you don't have celiac disease, gluten is fair game and you can eat as much of it as you like.
Full-blown Celiac disease, which is gluten sensitivity affecting your small intestine, affects an estimated 1.8 percent of people in Western cultures. But gluten sensitivity may actually affect as much as 30 to 40 percent of all people, and according to Dr. Alessio Fasano at Massachusetts General Hospital, virtually all of us are affected to some degree.
This is because we all create something called zonulin in the intestine in response to gluten. This protein, found in wheat, barley and rye, makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream that would otherwise have been excluded. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity. This kind of gut permeability is also promoted by things like antibiotics and chlorinated water.
The Gut-Brain Connection is Critical to Understand
Once gluten sensitizes your gut, it then becomes more permeable and all manner of previously excluded proteins–including casein and other dairy proteins–have direct access to your bloodstream, thereby challenging your immune system.
"They've been talking about it for years and years (which is now just gaining traction in mainstream medicine) that our health really depends on maintaining a barrier of the intestine from the bloodstream," Dr. Perlmutter says.
"We now understand that the so-called blood-brain barrier, or that barrier that keeps things out of the brain where they don't belong, is also affected by gluten, according to new research. It's a very exciting time when we recognize that our biggest exposure to the environment is actually the lining of our intestines — not our lungs, not our skin. We are in fact very much dependent on the microbiota, the bacteria living in the gut, to maintain our health."
According to Dr. Perlmutter, much of our current disease burden stems from the fact that we are contaminating our immune systems with proteins to which the human immune system has never, in the history of humankind, been previously exposed to. …
It’s interesting, but I’ve seen people who go off of all grains become very sick from what is basically starvation. I tried it myself and if you don’t have enough calories, you can get some horrible effects, including terrible anxiety, insomnia and depression. So, if you cut back on grains, please be sure you are still getting enough carbs per day!