The quality, quantity, and composition of the bacteria in your gut have enormous influence on your brain. Dr. David Perlmutter explores this phenomenon in great detail in his new book, Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain-for Life.
Dr. Perlmutter is a board-certified neurologist and a fellow of the American College of Nutrition (ACN). He also has a clinic in Naples, Florida, and he’s been very active in publishing his findings in peer-reviewed medical journals.
His previous book, Grain Brain, topped the New York Times bestseller list for 54 weeks. In my view, Dr. Perlmutter is probably the leading natural medicine neurologist in the US.
Certainly, most neurologists fail to consider how lifestyle impacts the neurological disorders they diagnose and treat every day, and prevention is an area of utmost importance as we still do not have effective treatments for many of the most common brain disorders.
“We’re now recognizing from research at our most well-respected institutions from around the globe that the gut bacteria are wielding this very powerful sword of Damocles,” he says.
They determine whether we’re going to have a healthy brain or not, whether our brain is going to function well or not, and whether our brain is going to become diseased or not. Who knew that we’d be referring back to the gut?”
Microbiome Research Shreds Notion of Reductionism
It turns out that this notion of reductionism—where your body is reduced to its individual parts—is completely nonsensical and grossly flawed. As explained by Dr. Perlmutter, every system in your body interrelates in a way that ultimately causes the manifestation of either health or disease.
In a previous interview, Dr. Perlmutter discussed specific dietary factors that influence your brain health, but one of the primary mechanisms of action that explains how a healthy diet “works” is that it upregulates, modifies, and improves the quality of your gut microbiome.
“These hundred trillion bacteria that live within your gut are so intimately involved in your brain at a number of levels. They manufacture neurochemicals, for example. Things like dopamine and serotonin.
They manufacture important vitamins that are important to keep your brain healthy. They also maintain the integrity of the lining of your gut,” he explains.
The latter is important because when your gut lining becomes compromised, you end up with permeability or leakiness of the gut. This increases inflammation, which is a cornerstone of virtually all brain disorders, from Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis (MS), to Parkinson’s and autism.
“We’ve got to really deal with it on a preventive basis,” Dr. Perlmutter says. “[We must] understand what in our Western culture, especially from a dietary perspective, is threatening the health of our commensals.
We call these bacteria ‘commensals’ because they share the table with us. We eat together with the bacteria. Basically, they eat what we eat. Our food choices have a dramatic effect on the health viability and even the diversity of those gut bacteria.”