Is A Bad Diet To Blame? with Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In this week’s series of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, we are honored to have friend of the show Dr. David Perlmutter return for a discussion centered around his new book “Brain Wash.” Dr. Perlmutter and the Amens explain the fascinating reason why the poor decision-making and ‘us vs. them’ mentality in our society could be attributed to the changing function in certain areas of the brain as a result of our highly inflammatory diet.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: We are going to start your new year, your new decade off with a bang. Tana and I are going to do a six week live class so starting January 21st every Tuesday we're going to be with you for an hour and at the end we're going to give away over $20,000 in prizes. We look forward to helping you kick off this new year by becoming brain health revolutionaries. Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information visit
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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome everyone to a very special week of The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. We have returning for the third or fourth time because we love him and he just will help you so much, we have neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter who's a number one New York Times bestselling author. He wrote Grain Brain and Brain Maker, I love both of those books. If you want to know about the gut brain connection Brain Maker's just brilliant. David's won lots of awards, he is a masterful teacher. His books had been published in 34 languages. He's been interviewed on Larry King Live, CNN, Fox news, Fox and Friends, Today Show, Oprah, Dr Oz, and I just think of him like a brother.
Tana Amen: Well, I think of him like a mentor. Long before I knew you I was following you Dr. Perlmutter and taking your courses. So it's such an honor and a treat for me because I started following you what, 11 years ago at IFM, 10 years ago maybe and I've been following you every since.
Dr David Perlmutter: I'm just going to say it's such an honor and a treat for me to be able to spend time with you guys as well. I think back to the time in Los Angeles that Dan, you and I had breakfast together and got some one on one time and it was really very, very special for me. And I really love what you guys do, the information that you're putting out and I really honor it so thank you as well.
Tana Amen: Thank you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So Brainwash ...
Tana Amen: It's a great title by the way, great title.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There are so many ways to go with Brainwash from what's happening in our society to getting proper sleep your brain needs to wash itself. Why is this book next for you?
Dr David Perlmutter: This is a level book as you know it was written with Austin Perlmutter, our son, internal medicine MD and it the manifestation of a conversation that he and I had in this very room as a matter of fact a couple of years ago when we were lamenting over the fact that patients didn't do as they were told to do. Meaning we were doing the best we can to learn as much information as we possibly could, spending our lives becoming as informed as we could, then doing the best we could to get that information out to as many people as listen including the one on one interaction with patients and yet most of the time that information didn't translate into action.
Dr David Perlmutter: So we wanted to figure out what is keeping patients from understanding what good choices are but not making those choices. And we began to explore the whole notion of how a person makes a decision and whether that decision is short-sighted and impulsive or that decision is based on consideration for example of the long term consequences good or bad of what we decide to do today. In healthcare that's things like, well in our world anyway, the lifestyle changes, diet, exercise, sleep, you name it and most medicine it's taking the medication that your doctor prescribed. Either way what we know is that most patients don't follow through. So we began exploring the neuro anatomical correlates of decision making and realized that good thoughtful decision making that looks at the future is really a prefrontal cortex type of activity, an activity that comes from the front part of the brain if you will as opposed to more impulsive activity that comes from more primitive parts of the brain, areas of the brain, for example that include the amygdala.
Dr David Perlmutter: We began to realize that so much of our modern lifestyle locks us into making decisions that don't involve the prefrontal cortex, that don't bring the adult into the room. And that it was wrong of us over the years to be thinking in an accusatory way about our patients and their lack of follow through and their lack of ability to make good changes. And that the deck is stacked against each and every one of us by the food that is so common today being proinflammatory, our lack of exercise what we call sedentary, our lack of exposure to nature, our non-restorative sleep, our disconnection from nature.
Dr David Perlmutter: All of these things disconnect us from the good decision part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, and we termed that disconnection syndrome because of all of the multiple manifestations that we see from disconnecting to the prefrontal cortex. Or as you Dan have called it hypofrontality as it relates to what you're able to see on your spec scans the fact that the prefrontal cortex, that gift that we have as humans, other animals of course have a prefontal cortex but a third of our cortex is the prefrontal cortex, it's a generous gift that we've been given. That when we disconnect from that we disconnect not only from making good choices, good decisions, but we disconnect from the part of the brain that allows empathy and allows compassion and tends to tamp down the us versus them mentality that is so pervasive today. So, we really embraced how the world today really fosters our disconnection from this prefrontal cortex.
Dr. Daniel Amen: This is why you should never let a child hit a soccer ball with their head and especially a little girl because what I've read is 90% of their IQ is housed in their prefrontal cortex where for males it's more widely distributed.
Dr David Perlmutter: And we just don't think about it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It is what I'm now going to term the oblivious bad habit dragon that people go through their lives without thinking, without using their prefrontal cortex.
Tana Amen: Can I throw something in there as a patient? Because a couple of times now, I've had 10 medical surgeries but two of those surgeries after surgery I just didn't feel like myself. So, I wonder if sometimes some of the things we have to go through as people to actually maintain our health can affect us so negatively. Just a couple of years ago I had a surgery and I just didn't come out feeling as motivated or I felt like I was walking through mud, harder to follow through with my own lifestyle. And so many people don't understand that when they, there are so many things that affect us, anesthesia, hormones, I mean all those things are adding to that are they not?
Dr David Perlmutter: They are and one of the biggest players here is something that you guys have talked about for quite some time and it's inflammation and people are embracing the notion that inflammation is a cornerstone of our chronic degenerative conditions heart disease, diabetes, cancer, you name it, and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's for that matter and depression for that matter. But the recognition that inflammation is helping us disconnect from the prefrontal cortex is really profound information.
Dr David Perlmutter: Why? Because then when we can contextualize all of our lifestyle choices through the lens of inflammation we realize that what's happening globally for example with respect to diet and the enhancement of inflammation that that is causing is changing the mindset of the world's population such that it's fostering more impulsivity, more fear, more us versus them and taking the global population away from thoughtful decisions, and empathy and compassion. Not just empathy for the other person but empathy for our future cells and even empathy for the planet itself. So it becomes a bit of an existential discussion that we're having right now which we've jumped to fairly quickly but we're just centering for example on the westernization of the global diet meaning the more inflammation being produced by the diet that's spreading around the planet. Yes it has implications for chronic degenerative conditions we know that but it has implications for how each of us sees our neighbor, sees other countries and sees the health and our role to play in the health of the planet.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well and the prefrontal cortex is also the mirror neuron system so your ability to empathize or know the mind of other people and if we damage that we really become self centered as individuals which then damages our marriages, damages our ability to parent effectively and so on.
Dr David Perlmutter: Can I comment on that real quickly? It brings up an interesting thought because it's fundamentally important that we take a deep breath and try to embrace the views of another person and that is to say to see things through somebody else's eyes from their perspective, understand and embrace what another person's life might be and how they might see the world. You can call that walking the mile in another man's moccasins or however but we don't do that very much anymore. We dig into our frame of reference end of story and that is more and more deeply entrenched by where people spend their time for example on social media that only caters to their way of thinking. We need to embrace other people's views, we need diversity of opinion. Diversity begets resilience and we absolutely need that if we're going to make it through some of the big challenges of our day.
Tana Amen: That's so interesting just with knowing our work and connecting it with what you're saying that the few people I know that are hyper frontal, that have really busy, they're the opposite of ADD. Rather than having sleepy frontal lobes they have super hyper frontal like you being one of them and my daughter being another one, very much empathize with other people. The first words out of her mouth will be, "But wait, what about the other side? What about?" And I'm like, "How does she do that at so young?" And I wonder if part of it is that that frontal lobe action?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, they're so important. Now when they work too hard it's been associated with OCD and I think of the prefrontal cortex as the brain's break and it stops you from saying the first stupid thing you think. Jerry Seinfeld once said the brain is a sneaky organ, we all have weird, crazy, stupid, sexual, violent thoughts that nobody should ever hear but.
Dr David Perlmutter: That's exactly right. That's one of the major functions of the prefrontal cortex is to really allow us to be emotionally appropriate in terms of our responses. Again, it is this over, we call this top down control where it exercises control over what would otherwise be impulsive outbursts, impulsive activity. And we see glaring examples these days in which individuals simply respond immediately without thinking and there is no adult in the room. So we've got to recognize that we need to think through what we do, what we say, how we act, and it gets back to we need to think through our decision making.
Dr David Perlmutter: So, interestingly then making bad decisions by eating for example the wrong foods, by not exercising, not getting restorative sleep fans the flames of inflammation that further disconnects us from that very area and it's a feed forward cycle. What we bring to bear in the new book Brainwash are the ways to break those cycles. How do we jump back in and regain control? Otherwise it's your teenagers at home when mom and dad go away for the weekend and the teenagers are there and I might add with 30 of their closest friends it's not going to work out really well.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Boy that happened at home you just retraumatized me for when my daughter Caitlyn ...
Dr David Perlmutter: You know exactly what I'm saying.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The house was under construction, I had to go away for business. She was supposed to stay with her sister and my mom went over and found 30 children and the house under construction. One other thought before we have to go to the next podcast is when the prefrontal cortex works too hard people end up with OCD. So if you just think of this break is it needs to be healthy but I guess if you think of anorexia it's their break is working too hard and they can't stop. So it's this balance, if the breaks always on you can't get down the road but if you don't have a break you're going to die.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so, keeping the prefrontal cortex healthy, not inflamed, is a critical part to being human. When we come back we are going to talk about how to take control and strengthen the prefrontal cortex by new strategies in Dr. David Perlmutter's brand new book Brainwash on sale January 14th. So by the time this podcast comes out it'll already be on sale and like his other recent books will be a bestseller. And we'll do everything we can to help it be that way. Stay with us.
Dr David Perlmutter: I appreciate that.
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