Could dietary choices, probiotic intake and natural childbirth affect the microbiota in such a way as to actually reduce inflammation, and hence, reduce the existence and severity of many chronic diseases?

Jules Shepard

April 1, 2015

3 Min Read
Perlmutter explores the power of the microbiome in health and disease

The hot topic of nutritional influences on neurological disorders and health drew hundreds to Dr. David Perlmutter's talk at Expo West.

He lay the foundation for understanding the premises of his books, including the No. 1 New York Times bestseller Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers, by explaining what he believes is at the root of many serious and chronic health conditions: inflammation. Perlmutter contends that Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, multiple sclerosis, stroke, depression and ADHD are among the conditions that are caused or worsened by inflammation.

The key to reducing or eliminating inflammation, he explained, is the microbiome of flora in our guts that is changeable, and yet also changes much about who we are and how healthy we can ultimately be. This microbiome can be in symbiosis through a high fiber diet, natural childbirth, breast feeding, exposure to microbes in the environment and the consumption of probiotics. When in symbiosis, the microbiome actually helps to resolve inflammation and gut barrier integrity, bringing about balanced immunity.

Factors that cause dysbiosis, on the other hand, include antibiotic use and consumption of livestock in which antibiotics have been used; obesity; over-hygiene; stress; pathogenic bacteria and a typical Western diet. When in dysbiosis, the microbiome instead causes inflammation, cancer and autoimmunity.

With these assumptions, he outlined other factors and choices we make every day, both as a society and for ourselves individually, that contribute to disease, including celiac disease, gluten intolerance and autism. Beyond even the factors listed which cause dysbiosis in the microbiome, drastic increases in glyphosate (Roundup and other pesticides) application to corn and soy, in particular, correlates directly to the prevalence of conditions like autism. Cesarean-section childbirth is another such factor, as it deprives the infant of exposure to the mother’s bacteria through natural childbirth. Studies have shown a dramatic increase in the risk of developing autism, celiac disease, adult obesity, Type 1 diabetes and ADHD with Cesarean-section birth.

Other conditions like depression and anxiety (stress-causing anxiety has a direct effect on gut permeability) can be exacerbated by the makeup of the microbiota in the gut. Perlmutter’s research has found that probiotics can cause incredibly beneficial changes to the microbiome that actually reduce stress, anxiety, depression and even weight loss. Rats administered certain probiotics and compared to control specimens given the same diets showed decreased fat retention and obesity; this result was surprisingly even achieved in mice fed a typical Western “fast food diet.” One of Perlmutter’s own patients was able to walk without a cane once administered probiotics, despite life-long neurological disease.

He closed with the sobering statistic that 6.4 million children ages 4 to 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD — a 41 percent increase in the last decade alone — with a full two-thirds of them receiving stimulant medications instead of being prescribed dietary changes. Considering also that many patients with autism spectrum disorder have a history of significant antibiotic exposure, hospitalizations, GI symptoms, abnormal food cravings and unique intestinal bacterial populations, and that their brains show inflammation, increased oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, Perlmutter proposes that both these conditions could be reversed, reduced or prevented by altering the microbiota in the gut.

Could dietary choices, probiotic intake and natural childbirth affect the microbiota in such a way as to actually reduce inflammation, and hence, reduce the existence and severity of many chronic diseases? Perlmutter certainly thinks so.

About the Author(s)

Jules Shepard

Jules Shepard is a regular contributor to many magazines, including Living Without’s Gluten Free & More (where she is also Associate Editor) and Gluten-Free Living, as well as She is the author of three highly-regarded published books and numerous e-books on gluten-free living and cooking. She is a featured “Celebrity Chef” in Living Without’s Best Gluten Free Cookbook and is a featured Contributor to Dr. Alessio Fasano’s 2014 book, Gluten Freedom.

Jules also hosts a popular weekly radio show, personally pens one of the community’s most active gluten-free blogs, oversees the annual Gluten-Free Cookie Swap, and moderates her Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+ presences.

In addition, she runs a gluten-free flour company and logs tens of thousands of miles a year speaking to, teaching and encouraging gluten-free consumers around the country. As an industry consultant, she helps companies in their transition to offering safe gluten- and allergen-free foods, and she has also spoken at numerous industry and retailer events, including Natural Products Expo East education seminars and Healthy Baking Seminars.

As a passionate gluten-free advocate, Jules has had an active role recently. When the FDA appeared stuck in neutral regarding long-overdue gluten-free food labeling regulations, Jules brought the gluten-free community together by co-founding and building an 11-foot-tall, one-ton gluten-free cake in Washington D.C. to get the FDA’s attention. The FDA not only attended the event, but promised to front-burner the regulations, which it did. It announced final labeling regulations in 2013 which will take effect in August of 2014.

Jules can be found at and @THEgfJules.


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