Sunday, October 27, 2013

Get rid of your GRAIN BRAIN

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Grain Brain. As always, the opinions expressed are all my own!

David Perlmutter, MD, is a name you will be hearing a lot more about.  He is a board-certified neurologist with an impressive resume:
  • President of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Florida
  • Co-founder and president of the Perlmutter Brain Foundations
  • A Fellow of the American College of Nutrition
  • Recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American College of Nutrition; Recipient of the Linus Pauling Award; Recipient of the Leonard G. Rowntree Research Award
  • Associate Professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine
  • Frequent lecturer at symposia sponsored by medical institutions like Harvard University, the University of Arizona, Scripps Institute, New York University, and Columbia University
  • Published author in The Journal of Neurosurgery, The Southern Medical Journal, Journal of Applied Nutrition, and Archives of Neurology
  • Author of The Better Brain Book, Raise a Smarter Child by Kindergarten, and Power Up Your Brain
  • Interview guest on 20/20, Larry King Live, CNN, Fox News, The Today Show, Dr. Oz, The CBS Early Show, and Oprah. 
Long enough? And that's not all -- you can learn more about Dr. Perlmutter on his website, but I think it's safe to say that he is a well-respected neurologist and researcher.

His latest book, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar -- Your Brain's Silent Killers (Little, Brown and Company, 2013), is making big waves in health media and medicine.

You can see from the title that this is not just another book about how sugar is bad for you.  It warns of the dangers of wheat and other grains -yes, even those "heart healthy whole grains" you've all heard about.  While this isn't new in the paleosphere, it is a new take on the effect of carbohydrates on the brain itself.

The book's introduction begins with a quote that really encapsulates the way I've come to view disease and medicine:
Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure disease after it has appeared is like digging a well when one feels thirsty, or forging weapons after the war has already begun.    - Nei Jing, 2nd Century BC

Signs of Gluten Sensitivity go WAY beyond the gut!
Immediately, I was interested.  Dr. Perlmutter then goes on to teach about gluten, grains, and genetics.  He implores you to read the science, even if you think that gluten--the "silent germ"--has no effect on you, personally.  "Food is a powerful epigenetic modulator," he explains.  "It can change our DNA for better or worse. [...] food actually regulates the expression of many of our genes.  And we have only just begun to understand the damaging consequences of wheat consumption from this perspective" (Perlmutter, p. 8).

First, the book introduces you to the risk factors, has you take a quiz to determine YOUR risk level, and explains why current testing for celiac disease and gluten intolerance are insufficient for testing your actual sensitivity to and damage from gluten.  Dr. Perlmutter explains the symptoms that go beyond the gut, linking gluten sensitivity to vertigo, headache, paralysis, and epilepsy.  He lists the many He cites observational studies, controlled research, and MRI data to make these connections.

Gluten sensitivity and Headaches
Then, for the next few chapters, Dr. Perlmutter recounts the multitude of research studies illustrating the connection between our modern diets and increased risk of Alzheimer's and other brain disorders, including but not limited to ADHD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, decreased libido, and chronic headaches.  Although many of us have been taught that our fate is in our genes, this is not the case!  The food we eat affects the level of inflammation in our bodies, and that inflammation sets the stage for many of these brain conditions.  Dr. Perlmutter's description of our body's and brain's processes place the power of our fate back into our own hands.


The rest of Grain Brain is filled with the lifestyle changes--diet, exercise, and sleep--that you can make TODAY to keep your brain healthy, vibrant, sharp, and less likely to develop brain conditions such as Alzheimer's, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and more.

Interested?  Click below to continue reading!

Dr. Perlmutter cites research study after study to explain what happens when the brain encounters many of the common ingredients in a standard diet, and how your body and brain would be better served by your consumption of fat and cholesterol (yes, we need cholesterol!).  By feeding your brain what it knows and needs, you can incite your brain to grow new brain cells, at ANY age!  He also offers case study after case study of individuals he's worked with to make symptoms of cognitive disorder vanish.

To help readers get started, Dr. Perlmutter offers his revolutionary "Grain Brain Challenge", which is four weeks of gluten-free, mostly grain-free eating, and the addition of supplements recommended by Dr. Perlmutter, all to keep your brain healthy.

The Grain Brain Challenge

Dr. Perlmutter presents a program that he promises can help any of the following: ADHD, anxiety and chronic stress, chronic headaches and migraines, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, focus and concentration problems, inflammatory conditions and diseases, including arthritis, insomnia, intestinal problems (including celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and irritable bowel), memory problems and mild cognitive impairment (frequently a precursor to Alzheimer's disease), mood disorders, overweight and obesity, Tourette's syndrome, and much more (p. 11).

#GBChallenge: The four-week challenge takes part in four stages, adjusting one lifestyle change at a time.

Week 1: Food--Focus on mastering your new eating habits
  • Transition away from relying on carbohydrates for fuel. Eliminate gluten grains and decrease carbohydrate intake to just 30 to 40 grams of carbohdrates per day. 
  • Welcome FAT back into your diet!  The brain consists of 70% fat, and good fats (like DHA omega-3 found in fatty fish) help reduce inflammation.  Plus, many vitamins are fat-soluble and require fat to be properly absorbed!
  • Nutritional supplements: Dr. Perlmutter recommends 200 to 300 milligrams of DHA daily (most Americans consume less than 25% of this goal), as well as a daily dose of resveratrol and fish oil.  These are to help improve brain function!

Week 2: Exercise--Begin incorporating a fitness routine
  • Move daily! Regular exercise, sport play, or even walking has been shown to protect brains from shrinkage.  
  • "Break a sweat once/day and force your lungs and heart to work harder" (p. 232).  Either start moving by walking, or increase the intensity of your current fitness regimen.

Week 3: Sleep--Establish a consistent sleep schedule
  • Aim for restful, routine sleep seven nights per week.  Sticking to a regular schedule is key! (This I've already learned, and even set a bedtime alarm to help me stick to it!)
  • Use this week to practice consistency and identify what interrupts your sleep routine.  Are there certain foods that prevent you from getting a restful sleep?  Does changing the timing of your meals affect your sleep patterns?  Dr. Perlmutter lists the steps to take to create and maintain a regular sleeping routine. 

Week 4: Maintain--Practice and put it all together!
  • The last week is to allow you to maintain all three new healthy habits in a rhythm that you can then maintain as you transition out of the "Grain Brain Challenge" into a healthy daily lifestyle.
  • Plan and prepare your week, taking into account your priorities.  Learn to practice flexibility.  Keep in mind your motivations!  
  • This is also the week that Dr. Perlmutter recommends you experiment with dining out.  If you've been cooking at home up until now (ideally), start seeing what it's like to order a meal at a restaurant, with whatever adjustments to the menu you need. 


This is the plan I am following for the Grain Brain Challenge!  You can follow me and others who are completing the challenge by searching the hashtag:

#GBChallenge and #GrainBrain on Twitter and Instagram.  

I began the #GBChallenge last week and, so far, so good, though not effortless.  At first, I thought it'd be easy-peasy; I already do paleo most of the time, so what's it to me?  Turns out that, although there are many overlaps between the two, I've noticed some significant differences between the Grain Brain Challenge and a paleo lifestyle:

  • The Grain Brain Challenge dares you to go very low carbohydrate (limit to below 40 or 50 grams/day), whereas Paleo can be low-carb but by no means must be!
  • Dr. Perlmutter recommends that you use the nutritional supplements described above (DHA, resveratrol, and fish oil), and these also may be used on a paleo diet, but are not required. 
  • Dairy, some non-gluten grains, and legumes are permitted on the Grain Brain Challenge!  Any paleo-eaters out there know that hummus is not technically part of a "paleo diet", and dairy tolerance varies by person.  

The biggest difference for me has been the lower carbohydrate recommendation. A paleo-type diet may inherently result in a diet that is lower in carbohydrate from the Standard American Diet of bagels, pizza, and sandwiches, but a paleo-eater could still easily consume 100-200 grams of carbs from natural sources (vegetables, fruit, nuts, etc). Grain Brain advocates a VERY low-carb diet for the duration of the initial four-week challenge, allowing you to increase your carb consumption to up to 60 grams/day after the initial month.

The book includes several quick and easy recipes to help you start out on your challenge and new lifestyle.  I've made a few and they're truly quick and easy, AND tasty!

Here's a little glimpse at what I've been eating so far:

No drastic brain changes to report quite yet, but I have already noticed improved sleep quality.  The week before the challenge and the first few nights, I was having a lot of trouble sleeping.  however, one week in, my sleep has improved; I am falling asleep more quickly, though still waking up fairly tired (perhaps residual tiredness from the previous week).  We'll see how Week 2 goes!

Dare you to read Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD and try the Grain Brain Challenge for yourself!   Click HERE to order your copy of Grain Brain today, and stay tuned to Dare You To on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more updates on my progress.

Are you or someone you know at risk for brain disorders?  Would you be willing to change these lifestyle factors to protect your brain?

Have you tried a low-carb diet? How'd it go for you? Any tips?

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Grain Brain. This post contains affiliate links, but this does not affect the content (see Disclaimer page for details). As always, the reflections and opinions expressed above are all my own.


  1. Just reading it for me---not for FF :-) I mean---and Im riveted.
    I am the perfect person for fewer grains with regards to feeling better and cognitive clarity.

    1. You've found fewer grains improves cognitive clarity? THat's the part I'm most interested in, because I've become quite dazed and unfocused lately. Hoping this challenge helps bring me back!

  2. Sounds so interesting! Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. Great review! I tend to use a lot of carbs, but I'm very picky which ones they are.

    1. Same! That's why I thought it'd be easy (I don't eat many refined carbs anymore, all from natural sources), but the recommended intake is very low, so it's proved fairly tough! Makes me pay attention.

  4. This is great, I was eating carb heavy when I was pregnant and since the miscarriage I haven't dropped them as much as I should have. I also love the brussel sprouts :)

  5. Interesting read! I think every body is different but i know I feel better when I eat less grains

  6. that seaweed and turkey wrap looks good... it all looks good :P im hungry now lol


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