By Dr. David Perlmutter
HOW WONDERFUL IT is that we are moving away from the idea that our various body
parts and systems work in isolation. Leading-edge medical research is now focusing, for
example, on the powerful relationship between
the digestive system and the brain. And while
most everyone is aware that good bacteria play
a pivotal role in digestion, the important relationship of these friendly microbes to the
brain is just now being revealed.
Fortunately, cultivating a garden of
healthy gut bacteria and paving the way for
brain health is as simple as welcoming new
foods to the table, including the following.
Kefir. Like yogurt, kefir is a fermented
dairy product that’s high in lactobacilli and
bifidobacteria, among the most powerful pro-
biotics for general health, and brain health in
particular. For people who are sensitive to
dairy, there are now dairy-free kefir and even
yogurt products made from coconut.
Kimchi. The health benefits of fermented
vegetables were recognized by the Chinese
over 6,000 years ago. Kimchi is a popular traditional Korean side dish usually made from
cabbage. It is now showing up in grocery
stores and is also easy to prepare at home.
Aside from being rich in probiotic bacteria,
kimchi is also a great source of calcium, iron,
beta carotene and B vitamins.
Kombucha. This fermented beverage,
originally made from black tea, has become
quite popular in recent years and now seems
to be available almost everywhere. Low in
sugar but rich in flavor, kombucha is packed
with healthy probiotics.
Prebiotic foods. Prebiotic foods
enhance the growth of friendly gut bacteria.
Research has shown that consumption of prebiotic foods can also reduce inflammation;
enhance the absorption of minerals, including
magnesium and calcium; and even lower
some risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Prebiotic-rich foods include garlic,
onions, asparagus, jicama (Mexican yam),
Jerusalem artichoke and dandelion greens.
Acacia gum is an effective natural prebiotic
Thinking with your gut
OSTEOPOROSIS IS A disease in which
the bones become weak and are more likely
to break. About 54 million Americans age
50 or older are affected by osteoporosis and
low bone mass, according to the National
Osteoporosis Foundation ( nof.org). Broken
bones are most likely to occur in the hip,
spine and wrist, but other bones can break
Looking at healthy bone under a
microscope, parts of it look like honey-
comb. In osteoporosis, the spaces in the
honeycomb are much bigger than they are
in healthy bone. As bones become less
dense, they also become weaker and more
likely to break.
A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to
osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast,
ovarian and uterine cancer combined. A
man age 50 or older is more likely to break
a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get
Who is at risk for osteoporosis?
• People age 50 or older
• Women more than men
• People with a family history of
• People with a low body weight, or small
and thin body type
• People who have had broken bones or
Some osteoporosis risk factors
can be controlled
• Getting an adequate daily allowance of
calcium and vitamin D
• Doing weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises
• Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables
(see cdc.gov and search for “Nutrition
for Everyone: How Many Fruits and
Vegetables Do You Need?”)
• Quitting smoking
• Reducing or eliminating alcohol use
• Maintaining a healthy weight
A bone density test will determine if
you have osteoporosis. It is routinely rec-
ommended for postmenopausal women
and men age 50 and older. Talk with your
health-care provider if you feel you are at
risk for developing osteoporosis.
For more information, visit nof.org.
The Costco Connection
Costco Pharmacy offers free bone density
screenings. Test subjects need to remove
a shoe and sock, gel is applied to the
heel area and then the foot is placed in
a device that looks like a foot massager.
The test is quick, and a pharmacist will
be available to discuss the results. To find
a bone-health screening near you, go to
Costco.com and search “health fairs.”
used in some commercially prepared foods as
well as nutritional supplements.
Probiotic supplements. Probiotic
supplements are a convenient way to further
enhance the levels of healthy bacteria in the
intestines. These friendly microbes play an
important role not only in digestive health but
in general health as well as brain health.
Adding a good probiotic to your daily regi-
men is clearly a smart decision.
Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is another
example of probiotic-rich fermented cabbage.
Sauerkraut also contains choline, an important
chemical needed for optimal brain function.
Yogurt. Live-cultured yogurt is a delicious way to add healthy probiotic bacteria
and enzymes to your diet. Some yogurt products are loaded with added sugar, so be sure to
It’s clear: By making a few simple shifts in
your diet, you can open the door to unprecedented brain health potential. C
Costco member Dr. David Perlmutter is a
neurologist and fellow of the American College
of Nutrition. His new book, Brain Maker, is
available in most Costco warehouses. Item
#172271; 4/28. Many of the items he lists in
this article are available at most Costco warehouse locations.
for your health