Friday, March 14, 2014

A Gluten-Free Brain?

I'm in Indianapolis, attending the Public Library Association  (PLA) Conference. Or, rather, tomorrow I will attend and spend some time in the Sisters in Crime booth and participate in a panel of SinC board members and librarians discussing mystery/detective fiction and how readers discover it. I'll tell you more about that next time, after it has happened.

Right now, I'm sitting at the desk in my hotel room, and I've somehow ended up tuned in to a PBS fundraiser. A doctor, a neurologist named David Perlmutter, whose book package is available to donors, is explaining to an audience why eating right for the brain is crucial to the health of the entire body. He is opposed to gluten and in favor of healthy fats. Since I had grilled salmon and a "superfoods salad" for dinner – the hotel room service – I am feeling virtuous. But I am still concerned about my brain that is sometimes forced to function on meals such as the mac and cheese with bacon, popcorn, and three cherry lollipops that I had for dinner a couple of evenings ago. I fear that the salad loaded with veggies that I have for lunch most days has to work really hard to make up for dinners like that.

Although I don't know if the doctor is right that our brains function better if we eliminate gluten, I do think – in keeping with our theme this week – that I should be treating my brain better. How would I go on writing if my brain stopped functioning? I know from experience that on those days when I don't get enough sleep or when I've gone for days without exercise, my brain is sluggish. Too much sugar, and I'm like a irritable toddler, ready to have a temper tantrum. If my brain is my tool, then I should be trying harder to keep it sharp.

There is actually an index ranking states for "good brain health". Maryland is number one among the best brain health states. Mississippi is number one among the worst brain health states.

For those of us who have been less than efficient when it comes to nourishing our brain, BBC offered a list of 10 foods that will help:

More of us might be happy to "binge on blueberries" than "bet on broccoli". And, of course, that's the problem. Chocolate, yes, happy to do that for my brain. Water? Yes, I know my brain doesn't function well when I'm dehydrated, but do I really have to drink water – well, maybe with lemon or lime to spice it up.

Since our brains are technically in control, they should be able to direct us to what we should be doing to nourish them. A brain buzzer should have gone off when I reached for that third lollipop. Instead, I ate it and got a sugar rush and felt lousy, and I didn't get any more work done the rest of the evening. If I could remember what happened and apply it next time…if I could convince myself that the process of getting a book done would be easier if I were feeding my brain properly.

This is my brain on broccoli. Healthy brain. Much more productive writer?

I think – since we're about to begin our weeklong spring break – that I'll give it a try. I'll let you know how eating to make my brain happy works out.


Shannon@BooksDevoured said...

I am interested to check out this book. My family went on the Paleo diet last year. Paleo is no grains (and therefore no gluten), no beans, no rice, no dairy. I lost about 40 pounds in about 6 months or so. I never did give up cheese though. I had to draw the line somewhere! I have to say that I have never felt better in my life. More energy and less "brain fog." Even better than that, I used to have constant pain in my knees and that was eliminated on Paleo. I have since read that it is because Wheat is very inflammatory. So, I have to think that there is something to gluten being pretty nasty stuff. If you do decide to eliminate it from your diet I would urge you to check out Against All Grain (website and book). You will likely go through a withdrawal and it SUCKS.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Hi Shannon,

Thank for the tip. I'm going to ease into eating for my brain so that I can avoid withdrawal symptoms -- which would only send me back to sugar for comfort.