Tag Archives: Dr. David Perlmutter

The Dark Side of Sugar and Your Brain

sweet side

By: Tina Davidson

Halloween is almost here. For most kids, October 31 means costumes and CANDY!

This year my sons will be dressed as a father and son duo–Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader, and Luke Skywalker. I’m sure they’ll be wielding their lightsabers to commandeer treats while using the Force to try to persuade me to allow them to eat sugar and stay up past their bedtime.

Should I worry too much about them having trouble falling asleep after eating a bag full of candy in the evening? Apparently, a new study has found that sugar may help out with sleep:

Contrary to parental belief, sugar may actually cause drowsiness, not hyperactivity. Key brain cells awash in glucose put mice to sleep, scientists report in the July 8 Journal of Neuroscience. (1)

I’m going to allow my children to eat a reasonable amount of candy (not in excess) since this article just came out and their falling asleep quickly is not 100% guaranteed. The key words of the study are “may actually cause drowsiness” so my kids will have to present me with a few more studies (done on humans) before I change this policy.

And my kids can forget about eating any candy with artificial colors or chemical sweeteners. There are studies that link artificial food dyes to hyperactivity (sometimes sugar is not solely to blame for kid craziness–check out the blog “Die, Food Dye!” for testimonials from parents with dye sensitive kids). So, I plan on letting my kids collect candy, but I’ll swap this candy out later for “mother-approved” candy they can eat (stuff they pick out ahead of time from Trader Joe’s). This tradition seems to make everyone happy.

Have a safe and fun Halloween!  May the Force be with you!

Hanging with Yoda at LEGOLAND for the day. Photo courtesy of Thea Gavin.

Hanging out with Yoda at LEGOLAND.

Further Reading

Do You Let Sugar Master Your Attention Span?

Check out the article, “Energy drinks significantly increase hyperactivity in schoolchildren, study finds” posted on February 9, 2015, at Science Daily:

Middle-school children who consume heavily sweetened energy drinks are 66% more likely to be at risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms, a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health has found.

Do or Do not. There is no Try When it Comes to Substituting Real Sugar for NAS

You may want to think twice before you choose a non-caloric artificial sweetener (NAS) and find out how it may affect your intestinal microbiota. Check out the article, “It’s Never Nice to Fool Mother Nature,” posted on Dr. Perlmutter’s blog.

Chris Kresser’s blog also has a post, “The Unbiased Truth About Artificial Sweeteners” from May 30, 2014, that is worth checking out. You can also find a free ebook on sweeteners on his website.

Do you Underestimate the Power of Sugar?

Some people complain of nightmares after eating a lot of sugar and some gain weight after eating a diet high in sugar. There are others who experience no ill effects after consuming lots of sugar. Maybe they just don’t notice any effects because it puts them to sleep? Check out the article, “What Sugar Does to Your Brain” by Dr. Scott Olson.

Scientific studies on the effects of sugar on the brain are sparse at best and most medical professionals and organizations will say that sugar has nothing to do with mood or hyperactivity. If you are surprised by that stance, you are not alone.

“Your powers are weak” when it comes to fending off sugar cravings.

Should You Eat Chocolate Before a Lightsaber Battle or Tense Discussion?

According to the Wall Street Journal article posted on December 3, 2014, “How the Brain Uses Glucose to Fuel Self-Control,” by Robert M. Sapolsky, eating some chocolate to get your glucose levels up before entering into a tense discussion with a spouse may prove beneficial (taking glucose before a lightsaber battle was not mentioned in the article).

Going for the Padame Amidala look this Halloween?

Protect your brain from heavy metals found in some costume makeup and check out the article, “Beware of Halloween Makeup Hazards,” by Devon Kelley posted on October 20, 2015.

Help me Obi-Wan KALE-nobi–eating Fruits and Vegetables is my Only Hope!

I try to limit my consumption of foods with added sugars. I’ll stick to eating foods that are close to their most natural state and resist the power of the Dark Side of sugar this Halloween.

How about you? What’s your stance on sugar and how it affects your brain? Remember to seek your doctor’s advice and do your research when it comes to your health issues and  consuming sugar.

R2 D2

I found the droid, R2 D2, that I was looking for at LEGOLAND.

I'm not sure how many Lego bricks went into making the Death Star replica at LEGOLAND but it was pretty impressive.

I’m not sure how many Lego bricks went into making the Death Star replica at LEGOLAND but it was pretty impressive.


Photo of author, Tina Davidson, with Yoda courtesy of Thea Gavin.

(1)  Sanders, Laura. “Sugar may put you to sleep: glucose triggers nerve cells to spur drowsiness in mice.” Science News 8 Aug. 2015: 15. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

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Books for Your Brain Health

Happy Fall! Despite its beautiful red colors, poison oak seems to always be in season along CA's Central Coast.

Happy Fall! Despite its beautiful red colors, poison oak always seems to be in season along CA’s Central Coast.

Although the hot temperatures along California’s Central Coast make it seem more like summer, according to the calendar, it is the first day of Fall. Hooray!

Here’s a look back on my summer reading list:

  • The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healing Your Sinuses by Ralph B. Metson, M.D. with Steven Mardon (2005)–just skimmed this one in hopes of finding some nugget of wisdom to help me with my hearing loss from my ruptured ear drum.
  • Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior- The Groundbreaking Story of The Gut-Brain Connection edited by Teri Arranga, Claire I. Viadro, MPH, PhD, and Lauren Underwood, PhD (2013)–reads more like a scientific paper- you’ll learn all about helminths (aka parasitic worms) and fecal microbiota transplantation! The stuff that big pharma doesn’t want you to read.
  • The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine by Terry Wahls, M.D., with Eve Adamson (2014)–super fascinating–I don’t have MS but I am more conscious of eating for my mitochondria now.
  • Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life by David Perlmutter, M.D., with Kristin Loberg (2015)–great stuff–especially for those looking to heal your gut. Dr. Perlmutter’s book allows a few more foods in your diet that the Wahls Protocol suggests you take out.
  • Power Food for the Brain: an Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., with recipes by Christine Waltermyer and Jason Wyrick (2013)–interesting–had a slightly different take than other books on the topic– recommends no meat in diet and no mention of probiotics.
  • The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: the Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind by Barbara Strauch (2010)–some fascinating stuff I hadn’t read before–surprised she didn’t include any research about the importance of sleep and probiotics though–maybe she assumed that was a given? Or just too much material to fit in one book?

I’m currently reading, “The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole my Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped me get it Back” by Clark Elliott, Ph.D. (2015). I’m eager to keep reading this one because I’ve cheated and found out how it ends. Here’s a portion of the book’s synopsis quoted from Dr. Elliott’s website:

After eight years, the cognitive demands of his job, and of being a parent finally became more than he could manage. In one final effort to hold on to his life, Clark crossed paths with two brilliant Chicago-area research-clinicians—one an optometrist using neurodevelopmental techniques, the other a cognitive restructuring specialist—working on the leading edge of brain plasticity. Together, they targeted the visual centers of Clark’s brain, teaching him to use new neural pathways where others had been damaged. The impact was dramatic. Within weeks, the ghost of who he had been returned.

Concussions are so terrible. I love that Dr. Elliott’s story has a happy ending. 🙂

How about you? Do you like happy endings? Have a good book on brain health to share? I’d love to hear about it so I can add it to my Fall reading list.

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Grain and the Brain- Controversy

Is grain detrimental to brain health? Does the consumption of carbs cause Alzheimer’s Disease?

It seems that according to Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, “Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar– Your Brain’s Silent Killers,” the answers are “Yes!” and “Yes!” (I have not read the book yet!)

Interesting stuff? Yes! A controversial topic? For sure!

When I read an email from Sean Croxton of Undergroundwellness.com that he was going to interview Dr. Perlmutter about his new book on blogtalk radio, I tuned in for the replay.   http://www.blogtalkradio.com/undergroundwellness/2013/10/23/grain-brain-with-dr-david-perlmutter?inf_contact_key=20614f894b09316fa64357f76f6752adbc13f3c5aa7899b6c47a6973bf234c46

I listened in for 80+ minutes! It was quite a long interview. Sean took a few audience questions and I took a ton of notes (thanks, Jim Kwik for the note-taking tips!).

Dr. Perlmutter, neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, recently appeared Monday, October 21, on the Dr. Oz Show, and his book made the New York Times Best-Seller List.

So.. with all the hype, what’s the truth here?

Before my pastor, Jack, starts a sermon he usually says something along the lines,”Don’t believe me just because I say it is true. Test the Scriptures. Let them have the final say.”

Well, what is our “biblical” standard in terms of nutrition?  How do we test the claims in Dr. Permutter’s book and what about the other diets out there like Vegan, Vegetarian, Mediterranean, Paleo, etc.? Do you do your research or are you blindly moving from one diet camp to the next?

I have friends on gluten-free diets, who do not have Celiac disease, and they report remarkable changes in their overall health after stopping wheat.  It seems Dr. Perlmutter’s patients benefit from his recommendations and I applaud Dr. Perlmutter’s work as a neurologist and nutritionist.  However, I need to further investigate some of his advice.

I also applaud the work of Julie Matthews, the author of “Nourishing Hope.”   Here’s what her website says about a gluten-free diet and nutrition in regards to autism:

“Significant scientific research and overwhelming experiential data indicate a link between autism symptoms and diet. As reported by Autism Research Institute (ARI) in a survey of thousands of parents; The Gluten- (wheat) and Casein- (dairy) free (GFCF) diet has a 69% improvement rating, and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) has a 71% improvement rating.  That is, most parents who diligently apply diet and nutrition intervention report positive affect on behavior, cognition, general health, or well being.  In research funded by Autism Speaks, 85% of parents reported improvement with autism diets. This is affirmed when networking with other parents on our Facebook group: Nourishing Hope for Autism Diet Community, or in many other online support forums for those following autism diets.” http://nourishinghope.com/diet-for-autism/  

We can’t ignore the fact that people are experiencing improved cognition when they get rid of wheat in their diet.

There is research out there linking your gut health to your brain.  Chris Kresser, Beyond Paleo, has some intriguing things to say about the gut-brain axis in a podcast on his site (you can read the full text as well). http://chriskresser.com/rhr-the-gut-as-the-second-brain-group-b-strep-during-pregnancy-and-unwanted-synthroid-side-effects 

Chris’ site also contains good information on cultures that flourish on properly prepared grains.

And, lastly, let’s not forget the about the effects of dyes, chemicals, and preservatives in our food.  These also affect behavior and brain health in sensitive individuals. Check out my favorite pioneer in environmental medicine and allergies, Dr. Doris Rapp. http://www.drrapp.com/  

I would love to have lunch with Dr. Rapp and talk about this topic. I’m not sure if she would eat wheat, but I’m sure she would have some good input on grain and your brain!

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