Bacteria That’s Good For You

Brain Maker

A Desert Health review of Perlmutter’s Brain Maker

By Pam Salvadore

It’s a fact that the brain controls the body, but what controls the brain? In his new book, Brain Maker, David Perlmutter, M.D., describes an emerging field of science that contends that the gut controls the health of the body, including the health of the brain.

As you may recall from Dr. Perlmutter’s first book on the subject, Grain Brain, the impact of grains in the diet was shown to influence the gut’s microbiota and, subsequently, the body’s health. While Grain Brain focused exclusively on the impact of grains, Brain Maker goes one step further by directly connecting all outside influences to the state of the gut’s microbiota, and showing the profound impact an unhealthy microbiome has – especially on the brain.

The gut, comprised of both the large and small intestines, is responsible for the metabolism of food and subsequent distribution of nutrients to the organs and cells of the human body. The gut is also home to our unique microbiome: a microbiome that consists of millions of flora (aka bacteria), each one with a specific job or function. According to Dr. Perlmutter, these bacteria perform vital functions: they provide the first line of defense in helping filter out toxins from our system; they control our immune response, especially that of inflammation; they create and influence hormones, telling our endocrine system how to react to stress; and they create neurotransmitters, such as GABA and glutamate, that are vital to brain function. Dr. Perlmutter believes that “what’s taking place in your intestines today is determining your risk for any number of neurological conditions.”

Given this information, it is important to know what a healthy microbiome is. A healthy microbiome contains a balance of both good and bad bacteria. Neither exists exclusive of the other, however, maintaining balance is the key. For example, one of the most important bacteria present are Firmicutes, whose job it is to extract energy from food and regulate fat absorption. If Firmicutes dominate the microbiome, they hoard calories and the weight packs on. An overwhelming population of Firmicutes can also hijack your body’s immune responses by keeping other vital bacteria from doing their jobs. Hence, keeping Firmicutes in balance is key.

Bacteria in the microbiome is also responsible for maintaining the permeability of the intestinal lining. In a healthy microbiome, the lining of the intestine is made up of tightly fitting cells that allow nutrients to pass, but are too tightly packed to allow disease or infection to get through. With the nutrients absorbed and infection passedalong, this normal balance tells the body that no immune response or hormonal adjustment is needed. Your health remains intact. Should the bacteria become unbalanced, infection and irritating particles leak through intestinal walls and into the bloodstream, causing your body to mount an immune response most notably marked by inflammation. Inflammation is a proven contributor to, not only brain disease, but many other diseases of the human body as well.

Perlmutter explains that we attained our initial microbiome at birth, as we passed through the birth canal. After this initial setting, Perlmutter believes that outside influences such as whether or not we are breast fed, the influence of antibiotics, the ingestion of hormone regulating medications, and even the food we are eating contribute to whether our microbiota thrive or shift to an unhealthy balance. He sites numerous studies that connect an unhealthy microbiome to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, obesity, autism, and diabetes, and also introduces studies that show a positive correlation between the restoration of healthy balance to the microbiome and the reduction and elimination of disease . Brain Maker is full of success stories from both Perlmutter’s patients and colleagues’ patients around the world.

Given all of these findings which establish a scientific link between gut health and the state of disease in our bodies, Perlmutter uses the remainder of the book to discuss resetting an unhealthy microbiome, and the tools it takes to maintain its health and reverse any damage already done. He gives concrete steps, such as repopulating the microbiome with the correct balance of good and bad bacteria, and includes instruction on how to feed these new found friends keeping the correct percentages flourishing while ushering out any negative intruders. Perlmutter details what supplementation to consider, which tests to take, significant signsfor which to look, and the type of exercise that works to help microbiota flourish.

The book concludes with a complete list of recipes, resources, and links to the studies quoted. Brain Maker provides a good resource for anyone looking to restore health to their own body. There are no radical ideas here, just proven scientific links and logical nutritional solutions.

David Perlmutter, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. Brain Maker is available at national book retailers, online and in e-book. For more information visit

Tools for Training a Positive Brain

Brain Boosters

By Pam Salvadore

You’ve heard the term “knee jerk reaction.” Well, our brains do the same type of thing. Through the course of our lives, our brains create neurological pathways which connect thoughts to reactions. These reactions manifest as emotions and physical experiences.

Until recently, it was generally accepted by medical professionals that once the brain has formed these neurological pathways, they could not be changed or influenced later in life.

In her book Brain Boosters: Seven Ways to Help Your Brain Help Yourself, Simone Ravicz, PhD, employs the newly proven concept of brain plasticity, the theory that we can reprogram our neurological pathways at any point throughout our lives. By combining brain plasticity with proven psychological treatments, Dr. Ravicz provides tools to accomplish this reprogramming, along with the insight to change thoughts, and our emotional and physical responses to them. If you have experienced phobias, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, PTSD, trauma, weight related issues, chronic pain, or any symptoms of other serious illness, Dr. Ravicz’s tools can give you the power to take control of the situation and help relieve the burdens that accompany these conditions. In an interview with Desert Health, Dr. Ravicz commented that the uniqueness of the book is that people can choose from a variety of techniques and find the one that works best for them.

Dr. Ravicz’s Tool Box

Tapping. Rooted in the concept of energy medicine, tapping focuses on the dysfunctions in the chakra, or body’s energy system. An orchestrated sequence of tapping on different acupressure points on the body, while focusing of the sensation of calm, corrects this energy disruption and redirects positive energy to where it needs to go.

EMDR. By focusing on a particular target memory, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) aims to deal with the unconscious processing of unprocessed memories. It is believed that these unresolved issues contribute to our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings today. EMDR works in two ways: through the orienting response, which is the constant refocussing of attention back and forth (similar to REM eye movement), and by focusing attention on memories of the trauma while simultaneously focusing on stimulation that disturbs this “working memory” linkage. According to Dr. Ravicz, EMDR is the most effective treatment overall because it can be used to treat a wide variety of problems.

Neuro-Hypnosis is a tool for embracing emotions and eliminating negative thoughts. Neurological pathways, created by repeated negative thoughts, establish an automatic response to these thoughts in the form of negative emotion; the more frequent the negative thoughts, the more subconscious and automatic the negative reaction becomes. Neuro-Hypnosis can be employed to disrupt the negative neurological pathway and replace it with a positive one.

Mindful Meditation focuses on calming the mind and introducing mindful awareness of your thoughts. Its goal as a tool is to identify how your mind produces negative reactions to thoughts. Once recognized, you can acknowledge the source of that negativity, which leads to an acceptance and tolerance of the thought. Being mindful allows you the freedom to move forward in a positive manner. Dr. Ravicz explains that meditation is the hardest to master because we have to first learn how to be mindful in order to silence that negative chatter.

Proper nutrition and exercise can bolster mental capacity and improve brain function. Your brain is just like every other organ in your body; it has nutritional and metabolic needs. Just as other organs grow old prematurely through neglect or mistreatment, so does your brain. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein – and getting regular exercise – insures that your brain is getting what it needs to best serve you today and in the future.

Think Positively! By identifying and acknowledging both positive emotions and positive individual traits, you increase the incidence of happy events in your life. According to Ravicz, tools such as journaling and practicing gratitude help you identify negativity and turn it into happiness. Once you’ve made a habit of this conversion, the happy state is wired into your brain and you can naturally enjoy life from this new vantage point.

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an extension of mindful meditation. Once mindful of all of your thoughts, ACT requires that you take the extra step of distancing yourself from them. For instance, instead of saying “I’m depressed” you would say “I’m having the thought that I’m depressed.” In doing so, you take away the power of that thought so you can deal with it in a rational manner. Once rational, your reaction can either be changed or accepted so it no longer influences your happiness. The guiding principle of ACT is creating a comfortable mental environment so your values can shine through.

Overall, Brain Boosters is much more than a quick stepladder to emotional success. Dr. Ravicz provides solid, proven science, therapies, and exercises that allow you to take control of your emotions and turn them around to work in your favor. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to learn. Brain Boosters provides the tools needed to achieve a well-balanced, meaningful life free of both emotional and physical pain.

Simone Ravicz, PhD. of Palm Springs is a Life and Business Coach.

Brain Boosters: Seven Ways to Help Your Brain Help Yourself is available national book retailers online. For more information visit