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Do you experience ‘brain fog’? Do you ever feel sluggish or irritable for no apparent reason? Like many health issues, the cause of the problem might be what you’re eating.

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Dr. David Perlmutter’s new book, Grain Brain, draws a strong correlation that links insulin resistance, inflammation and hyperglycemia to our excessive consumption of grains. The book cites multiple studies of the effects caused by eating too much grain.  One Mayo clinic study showed that people who eat the largest amounts of grain-derived carbohydrates are 4 times more likely to suffer mild cognitive impairment as people eating the smallest amounts.

Since the 1950′s, our grains have been selectively bred and genetically modified, so that the grains we are consuming are not the grains in the bread that our grandparents ate.  Today’s wheat crops contains up to 40 times more gluten than the wheat produced 50 years ago.  Our ancient ancestors did not have access to high carbohydrate food, and when they did, it was seasonal and rare.  We have the same physiology as our ancestors, yet we consume large amounts of carbohydrates, not only with the amounts of sugars and gluten we eat, but the concentration of these substances in each mouthful. It is hard for our bodies to adapt to this onslaught of sugars and gluten, and has lead to the increase of such diseases as diabetes and obesity.

There is evidence that grains can cause dementia. These grains include wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut and bulgar.  These grains can be very allergenic, which can lead to brain inflammation and potential destruction of brain cells.

High blood sugars also decrease brain function. Sweetened drinks, sodas, and juices are all culprits. If you want a sweet taste without compromising your health, snack on berries. Eaten in moderation, berries don’t cause the high spike in blood sugar that causes brain cell death.

There is a simple lab test that can be drawn in any office or lab.  It is a hemoglobin A1C, which tells the average blood sugar over the past 3 months.  Dr. Perlmutter states that at a hemoglobin A1C of 5, you have too high of an average sugar and this could cause a loss of annually of 0.25% of brain volume.  At a level of 5.9 to 9.0, there is a loss annually of 0.5% per year.  A “normal” value for hemoglobin A1C is less than 6.0, which is clearly too high of a level.

In conclusion, if you are worried about your cognitive thinking, two things that can help prevent or decrease ‘brain fog’ are to decrease your carbohydrates and stop eating gluten. If you can form your main diet around vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, legumes, and berries, and keep the sweet and starchy treats for special occasions, your brain will thank you!