“Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.” –Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
“Researchers have known for some time now that the cornerstone of all degenerative conditions, including brain disorders, is inflammation. But what they didn’t have documented until now are the instigators of that inflammation — the first missteps that prompt this deadly reaction. And what they are finding is that gluten, and a high-carbohydrate diet for that matter, are among the most prominent stimulators of inflammatory pathways that reach the brain.” –Dr. David Perlmutter
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Gluten is Latin for glue. One of the most valuable things we’re taught in pre-school is to not eat glue. But sometimes the most important lessons get missed. The human intestines and brain are not meant for large or steady amounts of sugar, carbs, or gluten. These inputs cause inflammation and are beginning to be linked to just about every type of modern ailment imaginable such as: ADHD, depression, lethargy, dementia, and leaky gut.
If there are three inputs we can remove or reduce from our diet to completely revolutionize our health, they are sugar, gluten, and empty carbs. It’s easy to say, but in our society, getting clean from these inputs is incredibly challenging. We see the results of those inputs in the typical western diet. America is facing an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and young people crippled with conditions caused largely by processed foods and a flawed food pyramid pushed on us from birth.
These poisonous inputs are preventing many of us from tapping into our full potential, learning ability, and willpower. When we seek to create, but consume raw materials that are poisonous, we enter into an endless cycle of disappointment, and often, depression.
The food pyramid was, at best, a clever trick by the corn growers’ lobby, government, and certain doctors to get people eating more gluten. In 1992, the U.S. government recommended a low fat, high carbohydrate diet to all Americans. The American Heart association followed suit in 1994. The food pyramid posters and “low fat” products went out en masse everywhere. The results? In 1990, there were around 6.4 million diabetics in the United States. In 2009, the number of diabetics exploded to around 21 million. Now, one person dies from diabetes every six seconds. These staggering numbers don’t even cover all the other physical and neurological ailments which arrive before and after diabetes.
So how do we find inputs that support our mission? First, we can create a diet that mimics that of our ancestors. There is no right answer, as long as you avoid the truly dangerous inputs (sugar, processed foods, and non-complex carbs including gluten). Whether you choose to create your own diet, or follow a time-tested and data-proven diet, it’s up to you. Here are a few ideas to get started:
What to eat:
- Fish that hasn’t been farm-raised
- Grass fed meats
- Healthy fats – preferably Omega 3’s
- Vegetables: Try to eat the full color spectrum (orange, dark green, light green, red, etc.), and go organic if possible
- Non-Sugary Fruits: Avocados, olives, eggplant, lemons, limes
- When choosing an occasional starch, pick sweet potato, lentils, brown rice, or other legumes
What not to eat:
- White breads/white flour
- Empty Carbohydrates
- Excessive Gluten
- Processed foods
What to drink:
- Liquids which have been tested for thousands of years:
- Lemon water: Try a shot of apple cider vinegar with lemon juice, and a teaspoon of honey in 8–16 ounces of water. Try this at 3pm in the afternoon instead of coffee- you’ll be amazed at the results.
What not to drink:
- Fat-free milk
- Fruit juices
- Sports drinks
- Energy drinks
What is unnatural and new usually hurts us, and what has been tested by time and evolution is usually much healthier. For instance, consider liquids such as water and coffee. They have been around forever; we know what we’re getting with each one. Now consider something like orange juice, which is just one more way for us to take in a huge amount of sugar under the guise of healthy eating.
It makes sense to begin by mastering these inputs because they affect everything: our thoughts, our brain and heart health, or lack thereof.
Starting anything new requires a huge amount of willpower. Instead of a complete diet overhaul, which takes monumental effort, sometimes it makes sense to get a small win first. A simple start towards a complete diet overhaul could be consuming as little sugar as possible for 30–90 days. The effects of this small win will likely be enough to spur on the next undertaking. Many people set themselves up for endless frustration by trying to do too much at once. A small victory is better than getting overwhelmed and quitting completely. A 90 day victory of swapping out sugar for healthy fats is still a victory.
So if a diet low in sugar and high in healthy fat is so effective, why don’t more people get started? One reason is that eating sugar and excessive gluten will give us an immediate, opiate-like reward, which makes them difficult to kick. One of the most powerful things we can do to reduce the sugar and gluten in our diets is to study the outputs they produce.
The very first outputs that gluten produces is depression and headaches. Our brains grow inflamed and all our energy is spent fighting these poisons. Then we become sick. Then diabetes follows. If we keep going, we’ll be on our way to dementia. The life outputs that sugar and gluten have been linked to are:
- Chronic stress
- Chronic headaches
- Migraine headaches
- Focus and concentration problems
- Inflammatory conditions and diseases including arthritis
- Intestinal problems, including celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, and irritable bowel syndrome
We can never expect a calm mind, decreased anxiety, less anger, fewer ups and downs, or more pronounced joys unless we control the inputs which fuel our bodies and brains. Carbohydrates, gluten, and sugar also deplete our brains of neurotransmitters vital to the regulation of mood. Consider this statement by Dr. Perlmutter:
“When your blood sugar increases, there’s an immediate depletion of the neurotransmitters serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, GABA, and dopamine. At the same time, B-complex vitamins, which are needed to make those neurotransmitters (and a few hundred other things), get used up. Magnesium levels also diminish, and this handicaps both your nervous system and liver.”
For more science behind how gluten and sugar affect our overall health and potential, read Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter. The book profiles dozens of studies on the degenerative effects of carbohydrates, gluten, and sugar.
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On Health, Mastering Your Mind, Body, And Microbiome was originally published in The Mission on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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Author: Chad Grills