The ultimate aim of David Perlmutter’s book is to urge us to eat more healthily, and take better care of our bodies, by explaining the powerful correlation between intestinal flora and the brain. Along the road that connects the two systems, however, we will end up discovering many other useful and interesting facts. Before we get to the heart of the matter, it is a good idea to dwell for a moment on three important definitions.
We are accustomed to thinking of bacteria, viruses, and fungi as something bad, but not all of them are enemy pathogens that threaten our body. If anything, the opposite is true. Only about 1% of bacteria cause disease, and some viruses and fungi are essential for our survival, such as the bacterial flora in our stomach, which contributes to the digestive processes. Within our bodies, there are tens of billions of these beneficial agents.
The term microbiota refers precisely to these 'good' agents. More specifically, microbiota is the population of microorganisms that colonise a particular place, whether it be the gut, vagina, or even the entire human body.
The microbiome refers not only to these agents themselves, but also to the entire genetic heritage they express, and the interactions this heritage produces. In our entire body, these microorganisms develop a total of two to twelve million genes, as opposed to only 20,000 in humans. It is almost as if we were their hosts, rather than the other way around. Finally, the sum of genes is called the genome.
The genome of the microbiota is integral to that of humans, and works with it to support the organic functions that allow us to live, such as digestive processes, immune defences, the synthesis of fundamental compounds, and so on. So, it may now be easier for us to understand the importance of the microbiome.
While the human genome is almost identical in all people, except for those genes that give us specific characteristics, such as eye or hair colour, the microbiome is unique to each individual, developing from birth, and evolving according to our life-style choices. It can vary, and become healthier, stronger, or ‘sicker’.
The most important microbiome in our body is undoubtedly found in the intestine, and this is also the largest. It may sound unbelievable, but it has been discovered that the health of the brain is closely linked to the health of our gut. Asthma, diabetes, attention deficit disorder, insomnia, Crohn's disease, atherosclerosis, eczema, acne, Alzheimer’s, autism, depression, Tourette’s syndrome, and obesity are just a few of the diseases or problems that could potentially be alleviated, if not cured, through the correct balancing of our microbiota. What’s more, gut bacteria provide the body with valuable vitamins, ward off infections, and help defeat viruses and foreign bacteria.
The good news is that we have a say in all of this, and can help keep our body and mind healthy by controlling our microbiome through what we eat. With simple nutritional suggestions, and a practical programme to improve our gut ecology, Brain Maker allows us to reach unprecedented potential brain health.