Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life by David Perlmutter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I feel as if the first two parts of this book which describes an emerging understanding of the microbiome's role in our health deserves four maybe even five stars. Though some might find it repetitive at times, I appreciated the repetition as well as the multitude of references to various studies as I think they give important context to the discussion.
In a nutshell, the microbes that live in and on us appear to play a vital role both in health and sickness, and we are only beginning to understand the full implications.
Unfortunately, like with many new scientific discoveries that have the potential to improve our quality of life, the essential nature of microbes seems destined to create the next new health panacea, where vitamin D and omega 3 supplements are replaced by probiotic and prebiotic powders and potions and fermented food products get their own aisle at the local grocery store. After all, if microbes are indeed important and essential to health, than surely blindly taking them in pill form or consuming in excess is good for us, too.
The reality is while it seems as if microbes play a crucial role in our health, we don't really know the specifics. Additionally, previously identified healthy behaviors such as eating whole foods, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, and managing stress probably facilitate a healthy gut microbiome. And just like a vitamin C supplement can't replace the mix and synergy of nutrients in an orange, probiotics likely don't come close to the impact of health behaviors especially if they aren't complimented with exercise and a healthy diet.
I did appreciate the authors discussion of antibiotics, antibiotic overuse/abuse, cesarean section, and breastfeeding as they relate to a developing microbiome as I think many valid points were brought up. Definitely food for thought.
I did not appreciate the author's unsupported demonization of gluten. Ironically, I have a child with Celiac. I have witnessed firsthand what gluten can do to a body. That said, I think the author's universal blacklisting of gluten wasn't well supported in the text. This is not to say that gluten gets a free pass. And in the author's defense, his famous book Grain Brain, which I haven't read, likely goes into greater detail. However, in this book, where he generally provided scientific support for claims in the form of scientific studies, his claims about gluten are slipped in with no more than his say so as evidence, almost as if he thought readers wouldn't notice.
Overall a decent read for anyone interested in the role of the microbiome as it relates to our health.