A Book Review: Wheat Belly – Lose Weight, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, MD

In Part One, Dr. Davis gives us the shocking news (if we didn’t already know it), that Whole Wheat is unhealthy. In fact, the wheat we have today is nothing like the wheat of old – as recently as with our grandparents. He gives a thorough history of the grain of wheat. Gluten is the key ingredient, according to Davis, that makes wheat stick together and what makes problems for many. Other grains have gluten as well, but since Americans do not eat as large quantities of these other grains as we do wheat, Davis simplifies by saying, “wheat.”

Then, in Part Two, Davis presents all of the ways in which wheat destroys health. What we have today has been genetically changed into something that is actually addictive. Dr. Christine Zioudrou and her colleagues of the National Institutes of Health studied the effect of gluten on the brain. It penetrates the blood-brain barrier. Based on the effects to the brain, they called the polypeptides “exorphins” – short for exogenous morphine-like compounds. Also, wheat functions as an appetite stimulant. Wheat produces belly fat that looks like a pregnant belly. Further, wheat triggers the production of a cycle driven by insulin of satiety and hunger with emotional ups and downs. This visceral fat is very dangerous to our health. One outcome is diabetes.

Some suffer from celiac disease – the intestines react violently when wheat, even a tiny bit is consumed. While animal products including cheese upset the pH in the body by producing too much acid, wheat also disrupts the balance. Excess acid in the body produces joint pain and demineralizes the bones.             Other problems that wheat causes include cataracts, wrinkles, osteoporosis and dowager’s hump (bent posture) skin problems (acne, rash), and heart disease. Regarding the brain, wheat messes with cerebellar health. “Cerebellar ataxia is progressive, getting worse with each passing year until the sufferer is unable to comb his hair, brush his teeth, or go to the bathroom alone. Even the most basic self-care activities will be performed by someone else.” (p.167) Peripheral neuropathy has also been linked to gluten. MRIs have also shown brain damage in the cerebral cortex the center of memory and higher thinking. Dementia and temporal lobe seizures have been connected with wheat as well.

Finally, in Part Three, Davis guides his readers in how to “create a healthy, delicious, wheat-free life”. He lists foods that contain wheat and give recipes in the appendix. What is left in a wheat-free life? Vegetables, raw nuts, good oils (butter, olive oil, coconut and others), meat and eggs, some dairy and some fruit. By doing so, you will enjoy a healthy and slender life. Davis makes an excellent case.

In Part One, Dr. Davis gives us the shocking news (if we didn’t already know it), that Whole Wheat is unhealthy. In fact, the wheat we have today is nothing like the wheat of old – as recently as with our grandparents. He gives a thorough history of the grain of wheat. Gluten is the key ingredient, according to Davis, that makes wheat stick together and what makes problems for many. Other grains have gluten as well, but since Americans do not eat as large quantities of these other grains as we do wheat, Davis simplifies by saying, “wheat.”

Then, in Part Two, Davis presents all of the ways in which wheat destroys health. What we have today has been genetically changed into something that is actually addictive. Dr. Christine Zioudrou and her colleagues of the National Institutes of Health studied the effect of gluten on the brain. It penetrates the blood-brain barrier. Based on the effects to the brain, they called the polypeptides “exorphins” – short for exogenous morphine-like compounds. Also, wheat functions as an appetite stimulant. Wheat produces belly fat that looks like a pregnant belly. Further, wheat triggers the production of a cycle driven by insulin of satiety and hunger with emotional ups and downs. This visceral fat is very dangerous to our health. One outcome is diabetes.Some suffer from celiac disease – the intestines react violently when wheat, even a tiny bit is consumed. While animal products including cheese upset the pH in the body by producing too much acid, wheat also disrupts the balance. Excess acid in the body produces joint pain and demineralizes the bones.

Other problems that wheat causes include cataracts, wrinkles, osteoporosis and dowager’s hump (bent posture) skin problems (acne, rash), and heart disease. Regarding the brain, wheat messes with cerebellar health. “Cerebellar ataxia is progressive, getting worse with each passing year until the sufferer is unable to comb his hair, brush his teeth, or go to the bathroom alone. Even the most basic self-care activities will be performed by someone else.” (p.167) Peripheral neuropathy has also been linked to gluten. MRIs have also shown brain damage in the cerebral cortex the center of memory and higher thinking. Dementia and temporal lobe seizures have been connected with wheat as well.

Finally, in Part Three, Davis guides his readers in how to “create a healthy, delicious, wheat-free life”. He lists foods that contain wheat and give recipes in the appendix. What is left in a wheat-free life? Vegetables, raw nuts, good oils (butter, olive oil, coconut and others), meat and eggs, some dairy and some fruit. By doing so, you will enjoy a healthy and slender life. Davis makes an excellent case.

A Book Review: When the Brain Can’t Hear – Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder by Teri James Bellis, Ph.D

Bellis begins the book by introducing her readers to “The Many Faces of APD” to illustrate that it looks different in people of all different ages. In this first chapter she does an excellent job of demonstrating the complexity of the disorder identified as Auditory Processing Disorder. As often is the case some remain unconvinced of its existence so Dr. Bellis addresses those concerns.

From there Bellis discusses how auditory processing relates to spelling, reading, receptive language, speech production, problem solving and socialization. Truly auditory processing affects so very much in how we relate in life and in learning. Each of these complex processes requires many sub-skills. For example, problem solving requires that one can read the problem or understand it orally, have all the essential information, understand all of the words and concepts, remember them, identify which operation to use, know the sequence of steps and perform the computation accurately.

APD can occur anytime in life, but occurring early in life greatly impacts learning as this is the time when we receive so much new information. Some of the many possible factors of APD include early neonatal intensive care, syndromes, hearing loss in family, abnormality in head, maternal infections during pregnancy, jaundice, neurological disorders, chronic ear infections and delays in hearing, speech, language or development.

Bellis goes into detail listing normal development throughout the ages and red flags when there are delays. If a young child behaves as if he cannot hear or becomes confused, APD (as well as ADHD) should be considered. Delays in developing language including articulation, syntax, semantics and pragmatics also raise flags. Individuals with APD can lose the thread of thought or tune out. When multisensory cues appear to confuse or overload an individual, there may exist a lack in interhemispheric (between the two sides of the brain) communication.

Middle and high school students with APD may have increased difficulty because of new demands of changing classes, multiple teaching rooms, more information given in lectures, puberty and peer pressure. Later, college students may have increasing difficulties due to large lecture classes and more freedom / less structure. Adults may first experience these same difficulties later in life. Men tend to experience it earlier (late 30s and early 40s) than women (post-menopausal years). Trauma to the head can occur at any time in life causing these difficulties.

Then, after the author takes the reader through the long, laborious process of

diagnosing APD she goes into the treatment of APD. Treating APD, at this time, according to Bellis is a three way process:

1) Environmental modifications.

2) Direct Therapy – training skills.

3) Compensatory strategies.

As I read this book, I recognized my clients in some of her descriptions and I tried to reconcile the

two approaches. I applaud Dr. Bellis for her work in this field with her great perceptive skills. As I thought, this is what I imagined: The phone rings and a parent describes the difficulties her child experiences. If one of Dr. Bellis’ trained staff answers the phone, the parent will get a description of the process of finding a diagnosis and treatment plan. If on the other hand the phone is answered by an individual trained in the neurodevelopmental approach, the parent will get a description of the evaluation process and the resulting individualized neurodevelopmental plan. In the first instance, a diagnosis will be the first step. In the second there will be no diagnosis, but a discovery of missing pieces of development which point to areas of the brain that need to be stimulated in order to encourage development and removal of the targeted behavior. While the parent has many questions, essentially, she wants to know one thing – “Can you help my child?” Personally, I would to see mostly direct therapy given by parents with instruction and support by the neurodevelopmental team and very little environmental modification and compensatory strategies. Certainly, the parent should understand the process and determine which approach best fits the needs of her child.

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D. – Chapter 8 –“Imagination – How Thinking Makes It So”

In this chapter, Doidge introduces us to another eminent neuroscientist, Alvaro Pasqual-Leone. Pasqual-Leone, born in Valencia, Spain in 1961, is the Director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, part of the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Pascual-Leone was the first to use Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS to map the brain. Further, he used the TMS to activate areas of the brain or to temporarily deactivate part of the brain to confirm the function of that part. Repeated activation has a therapeutic effect. TMS has been used to help severely depressed individuals.

In one piano experiment, Pascual-Leone demonstrated that individuals who “mentally practice” a piece can perform equally as well as those who “physically practice.”

Soviet political prisoner, Sharansky played mental chess for months, resulting in little to no brain loss that is common among prisoners. He later became a cabinet minister in Israel.

Doidge explains, “One reason we can change our brains simply by imagining is that, from a neuroscientific point of view, imagining and act and doing are not as different as they sound. When people close their eyes and visualize a simple object, such as the letter a, the primary visual cortex lights up, just as it would if the subjects were actually looking at the letter a. Brain scans show that in action and imagination many of the same parts of the brain are activated. That is why visualizing can improve performance.” P. 203-204

In a similar experiment it was noted that “physical exercise” increased muscle strength by 30% while “imagined exercised” increased muscle strength by 22%.

Experiments with rats and monkeys also demonstrated that these animals could be trained to do tasks with their minds. This research can be used to help patients with muscular dystrophy, strokes and motor neuron disease.

Researchers further explored by blindfolding individuals. They found that within days of being blindfolded, the “visual” cortex began processing tactile (fingers) and auditory stimulation. After removing the blindfolds, the “visual” cortex stopped processing that stimulation within 24 hours.

Pascual-Leone asks and answers an interesting question: If our brains are so plastic how can we get stuck in rigid repetition? He uses Play-Doh to illustrate. After making one shape, then another with the same clay, one can return the clay to the first shape. Even though it is the same shape, it will not be identical. Our system is plastic, not elastic that would revert to its original state. This would further confirm that our brain is not as localized in function as previously thought. Pascual-Leone says, our brains are not truly organized in terms of systems that process a given sensory modality. Rather, our brain is organized in a series of specific operators.” P. 211

Doidge summarizes, “We have seen that imagining an act engages the same motor and sensory programs that are involved in doing it. We have viewed our imaginative life with a kind of sacred awe: as noble, pure, immaterial, and ethereal, cut off from our material brain. Now we cannot be so sure about where to draw the line between them.” P. 213

We can now see that Descartes and his model of the “mechanistic brain” slowed our understanding of the brain. P. 214 Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139)

This research explains why assessing and training “visualization” skills so important in math and other areas, is an essential part of the neurodevelopmental evaluation and training.