In a rare occurrence of whimsy at work, it was condoned for a short time that if we wanted to connect in a meaningful way to people, we would make comparisons to zombies. Needless to say, this didn’t catch on or last very long, but the idea sticks with me today as I think about brains.
Brains. We all have them. Not many of us consider ourselves smart enough to talk about them, but I think that by virtue of having one, we are entitled to our opinions.
TBI. TBI is a term I never heard before last summer. It stands for traumatic brain injury. And here all this time, I should have been much more interested in brains and how they work, but now that I know someone who has TBI, someone very close to me, the brain, and all of its magical workings, has become very important indeed.
I suppose in some sense, I am now a caregiver. I never imagined this role for myself and I’m not sure I naturally take to it, but here I am and I’ve got to make the best of it.
Sure, I could run. I could hop on a plane and scram, but my rather intact conscience would never let me escape. So there is nothing to do but face it “head on.”
What does TBI mean for my life? It means a gaping distance from my best friend. It means I understand the arguments we’ve had for years—now that I know he’s had more than 10 concussions. It means I have to be calmer, stronger, and more responsible than I’ve ever been before. It means anger and frustration for both of us. It means I have to battle my own resentments.
The fact is, people have been getting hit over the head for a long long time. And into each life some rain must fall. And every cloud has a silver lining. My silver lining is that maybe I can turn my own life around. Maybe with the knowledge I am gaining, I can take steps to improve my own chances of retaining cognitive functioning into old age. Maybe, just maybe, I can find the answers to heal my husband.
It’s been 7 months since his fall. And I know from my research that significant recovery should take a year or more. And the last neurologist gave him a horrible diagnosis, one that sent us both reeling, one that tests my faith in my own intellect. Do I dare to disbelieve?
On top of all of this, my husband has realized that he is mortal. He has realized in a very concrete way that he will die, actually die, some day. And now the midlife crisis begins.
There is an incongruence with the consideration of suicide and at the same time raging against the fact that one will eventually die. But brain injury is not logical.
In hindsight, I could have done better to log his progress. Where is he in his recovery? Language has come back. The stuttering has receded. Critical thinking is better. Decision making is still hard. I have to remember not to give him choices. This seems wrong, but the confusion and distress for him are too great. It’s better to offer him one thing that he’ll probably like. Driving is still out of the question, but going into public places, such as the grocery store, has gotten better. Household chores are still all mine. I would prefer to be the chief worrier in charge, but he worries a lot. I’m afraid for him, afraid that feeling depressed and worrying will become habitual, will become easier than feeling good and happy.
Staying on the diet is critically important and yet somehow hard to remember and enforce. More room for improvement. Ketosis is very important and needs to be maintained. Also a term I didn’t know before this started. The brain does better when it burns fat and not sugar. A ketogenic diet is one in which the body gets its fuel from fat rather than sugar.
And what about his heart?
From narcsisstic neurologists to battling nutrionists, this is the world of post TBI. A man’s life is on the line and yet we don’t know the answers.
You get hurt and everyone holds out their palms. The main thing they want from you is money—lots and lots of money. They prey upon your ignorance and your fear. They build their mansions from this money.
But this is the age of the Internet. Oh, blessed Internet, with information at the end of a thoughtful search.
Long live the socialism of knowledge.
The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain’s Silent Killers
By David Perlmutter, MD with Kristin Loberg
Little, Brown and Company
New York, Boston, London
If the assertions that Dr. Perlmutter makes in this book are true, then we have all been deceived—and at a very dangerous level. Grain Brain turns the world on its head when it comes to diet and nutrition.
And since we all have brains, this is a book for everyone. Even though neuroscience seems like a weighty subject to tackle, this book is so well written that I found all of the scientific discussions easy to consume and understand.
In a nutshell: Inflammation is at the bottom of just about all human illness. Anything that causes inflammation should be avoided as if your life depends on it, because it does.
Continuing along this line, fat is good for us and is especially good for our brains. Fat does not make us fat, quite the opposite. Saturated fat is good and good for the heart. The only bad fat is a trans-fat. We need these fats to absorb all kinds of brain-healthy and body-healthy vitamins. Cholesterol is also good, and necessary. Yes, eat the yolk of your egg!
You can probably see this coming…carbs are bad. Carbs make us hungry even when we shouldn’t be. They spike our blood sugar, make us insulin resistant, and screw up our biochemistry in all kinds of terrible ways. Not all calories are the same.
The best diet: high fat, low calorie. Say what?
You’ll have to read the book. I found it convincing.
Green veggies are good, very very good. Broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, celery, miscellaneous herbs, spinach, arugula, etc., etc.
And don’t forget to exercise; figure out how to sweat every day.
I remember when I was a kid. Whenever I was thirsty, no one gave me water. They gave me coke. I think from a young age, my body has been battling this deluge of carbs to where normal weight loss became impossible. I always had a sneaking suspicion that the math wasn’t on my side. I would count calories until I was obsessive-compulsive crazy and increase my exercise, but only Herculean efforts could take the weight off. Finally, my goal was to plateau. If I just didn’t gain any more, I could hang on. And the cravings never ceased.
After trying Dr. Perlmutter’s advice, I am not driven crazy by cravings. After normal meals, I am satisfied and go do something else. I don’t know if he’s right about everything, but from my own experience, he’s right, at least for me, about eliminating flour and sugar, completely.
I have an issue with the non vegetarian diet, mainly because of the cruelty of CAFOs. Dr. Perlmutter advises us to eat humanely treated, grass-fed animals. This diet can, however, be applied to a vegetarian diet with the addition of coconut oil and olive oil. If you aren’t a strict vegetarian, I think you’ll get better results because you’ll also add fish oil and eggs.
I’m not going to argue Dr. Perlmutter’s points for him, he does an excellent job in his book, and he provides a list of references at the end. As you might suspect, this book is about brain health, and as it turns out the worst thing you can do for your brain is get type II diabetes.
Gluten also comes up as a real villan here. Perlmutter refers to gluten as a silent germ that we are all sensitive to. Gluten does damage before we ever know it. And once we progress down that path to Alzheimer’s disease, there’s no certainty we’ll find our way back.
Getting rid of gluten can help us will all kinds of seemingly impossible afflictions from cancer to depression to MS.
Dr. Perlmutter is the only neurologist/nutritionist in the United States. This simple fact baffles and amazes me. Why?
Why don’t Western doctors understand that the body is a complex system and that everything is connected? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that what you eat matters.
Grain Brain is a truly fascinating read.
Well, there are tons of things I’d like to set right, but today, tonight, it’s the whole of Western medicine. If everyone who reads this could consider their last doctor’s experience and then if they felt as wronged as I do, simply write one letter stating what happened and how/why you feel ripped off, and make three copies of it.
The first copy should be sent to your doctor. The second copy should be sent to your congressman. The third copy should be sent to your local news outlet.
I won’t tell you what to say. All of our stories are different. Some common threads though are these:
- We pay too much for the service we get.
- Doctors are often unprepared and insensitive.
- They don’t spend enough time with us.
- They don’t hear us out.
- They judge us based on our profession.
- They don’t have good listening skills.
- They aren’t empathetic.
- They are pharmaceutical drug pushers.
- They apply band-aid treatments instead of getting to root cause.
- They insult our intelligence.
- They insult us in other ways.
- They forget that we are in charge of our health.
- They forget that we are hiring them, not the other way around.
- Often they aren’t knowledgeable of natural treatments.
- They are rude and interrupt us when we are trying to speak.
- When prescribing drugs, they don’t explain the potential side effects.
- They are not healers.
This is what’s wrong with health care in the United States. The problem isn’t that everyone needs insurance. The problem is that we have given up our power and have handed over our wallets. We have stopped thinking critically when it comes to our own health.
But things have shifted in the last 20 years. Today we have the Internet. Today we have knowledge at our fingertips like never before. WE could change this. WE are the ones who pay.
If you or anyone you know has had any of these experiences, write a letter, make three copies, affix stamps, and send.