Bug Alert: You’ve Got Company is the introduction title of the book Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life by David Perlmutter, MD
This book came highly recommended to me recently by a friend and I’ve dove into it. While I haven’t finished it as of yet, I wanted to share part of the introduction because I found a lot of the statistics to be worth sharing as most of us need some eye openers once in a while to make us sit up and pay attention or to take action.
Death begins in the colon. – Elie Mechnikov (1845-1916)
Take a moment to think about how much has changed in our world over the past century, thanks to medical research. No longer do we worry about dying from smallpox, dysentery, diphtheria, cholera, or scarlet fever. We’ve made huge strides in lowering the death rates of many life-threatening maladies, including HIV/AIDS, some forms of cancer, and heart disease. But when you consider brain-related diseases and disorders, the picture is vastly different.
Advances in preventing, treating and curing debilitating neurological ailments across the life cycle – from autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to migraines, depression, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – are virtually nonexistent. And, sadly we are quickly losing ground as the incidences of these conditions are increasing in our society.
Let’s consider a few numbers. In the ten wealthiest Western nations, death from brain disease in general, which largely reflects death from dementia, has risen dramatically over the past twenty years. And the United States leads the way. In fact, a 2013 British report showed that since 1979, death due to brain disease increased a breathtaking 66 percent in men and 92 percent in women in America.
In the words of the study’s lead author, Professor Colin Prichard, “These stastics are about real people and families, and we need to (recognize) that there is an ‘epidemic’ that clearly is influenced by environmental and societal changes.”
The researchers also noted how this surge, which is affecting people at younger and younger ages, is in sharp contrast to the major reductions in risk of death from all other causes.
In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report revealing that we spend about $50,000 annually caring for each dementia patient in this country. This amounts to approximately $200 billion a year, twice what we spend on caring for heart disease patients and almost triple what we spend on treatment for cancer patients.
Mood and anxiety disorders are also on the upswing and can be equally as crippling to quality of life as other neuorological conditions. About one in four adults in the U.S. – more than 26 percent of the population – suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. Anxiety disorders afflict more than 40 million Americans, and nearly 10 percent of the U.S. adult population has a mood discorder for which powerful drugs are prescribed. Depression, which afflicts one in ten of us (including a quarter of women in their forties and fifties), is now the leading cause of disability worldwide, and diagnoses are growing at a startling rate.
Medications like Prozac and Zoloft are among the most prescribed drugs in the nation. Mind you, these drugs treat symptoms of depression, not the causes, which are flagrantly ignored.
On average, people with severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, die twenty-five years earlier than the general population. (This is partially due to the fact that these individuals are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol and drugs, and be overweight with obesity-related illnesses in addition to their mental challenges).
Headaches, including migraines, are among the most common disorders of the nervous system; nearly half of the adult population wrestles with at least one headache per month. And they are more than an inconvenience; they are associated with disability, personal suffering, damaged quality of life, and financial cost. We tend to think of headaches as being inexpensive nuisances, especially since many drugs that treat them are relatively cheap and easy to access (e.g., aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen), but according to the National Pain Foundation, they cause more than 160 million lost work days each year in the U.S. and result in about $30 billion a year in medical expenses.
Multiple sclerosis, a disabling autoimmune disease that disrupts the nervous system’s ability to communicate, now affects an estimated two and a half million people worldwide, with close to half a million in America, and is becoming increasingly more prevalent. The average lifetime cost of treating someone with MS exceeds $1.2 million. Mainstream medicine tells us that there is no cure in sight.
And then there is autism, which has surged seven to eight-fold just in the past 15 years, making this truly a modern-day epidemic.
To be sure, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on these and other enfeebling brain-related ailments, yet we are seeing precious little progress.
Now for the good news: New, leading-edge science coming from the most well-respected institutions around the world is discovering that to an extraordinary degree, brain health and on the flip side, brain diseases, are dictated by what goes on in the gut. That’s right; what’s taking place in your intestines today is determining your risk for any number of neurological conditions.
Dr. Perlmutter goes on to make the connection between brain and gut, which ironically not-so-mainstream has known all along.
What I find interesting is that now science is finally backing what many of us have known and that’s really good news for so many afflicted with today’s inflictions.
It all basically comes down to “You are what you eat.” Anyone can change the state of their microbiome (gut flora) – and fate of their health – through dietary choices.
The sooner you realize that the choices lie in your hands, the sooner you can take back your health.
We’ll continue this discussion in further posts. There is just so much to share.
Need help mapping out a plan, book an appointment with me and let’s talk about this might look like for you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below. Do you agree that you have control or do you believe you are destined to be ill and let the Doctors take over?
To your health,
Holistic Wellness Mentor