Welcome! We started  “Keto Joy!” (2013) as a way to get the encouraging word out on the Ketogenic Diet for the treatment of Epilepsy. The best place to start is to watch the above short video; it tells Autumn Joy’s entire seizure story, and gives you a great start to  “Keto Joy!”  SECONDLY, go straight over to the RESOURCES page – that will probably answer most of your questions! Our goal is to encourage people to see the diet as a joy and blessing rather than a burden.

Our family would like to help encourage anyone who may be struggling with the ravages of seizures and considering the diet.  Thus far, due to the diet, we have had a very short seizure story; perhaps it will help others have a “short story” as well.  We will be posting recipes, resources and links that may help in guiding you to find answers.

We don’t have all the answers  and we don’t know yet how our “keto story” will end, however for now, we are so thankful that “Morning has broken into a seizure free year…and counting!”

Update July 2014:  After once having up to 100 seizures a day, Autumn has now been seizure-free for over 2 years!  We have begun to wean Autumn off the diet, and although she is not totally off yet, so far so good.  Earlier posts will have more 3:1 ratios or higher.  More recent posts are more “low carb.”

Update October 2014: Autumn has been completely off the diet since July.  She recently had an EEG where the results showed all of her brain activity was completely normal.  That is the result of KETO JOY! Be encouraged and keep holding fast!

Update April 15, 2017: Autumn has been off the diet for almost 5 years and remains seizure free! Keto Joy! I am hoping to launch a new forum called FORTIFY in the next month or so to talk about all the ways you can fortify your health. After 55 years of living and 8 kids that keep telling me to “write all that stuff down, mom”, I hope to get started!

Celebrating 5 years Seizure-Free!

On May 30, 2012, I was recording, as I had grown accustomed to doing every day, the time of Autumn’s seizures:


Little did I know at the moment I wrote 9:08, that would be the last seizure I would record…for 5 years…and counting!

You can just imagine how many times the phrase “Has she had one yet?”  was said during the hours, days and weeks that followed.

We went from this nightmare:

To this dream:

May 2017

None of this would have happened without these people: Kate – Mom of 2 autistic boys, who introduced me to Tresa, mom to a son with unrelenting seizures, who then introduced me to an amazing dietitian, Christine (who I still don’t have a picture for!).

And she introduced me to this incredible organization and these amazing resources:

All this to say, is that none of this would have been possible if all these people had not fortified our family with their knowledge, time and willingness to help. These were complete strangers. We were in desperate need.  And because of their help, Autumn was cured.  

We started this blog to encourage others walking down this same path, and thankfully we have been able to do just that throughout these past 5 years.  

In an effort to continue on the theme of fortifying others, we have started a new blog, specifically geared towards moms, called, “Fortify”.

The goal is the same: encouraging others, by others who have walked along life’s ways and are willing to take time out to fortify those who are in need.

Today we celebrate all those who picked up the phone, sent an email, wrote a book and started an organization – all those who fortified us – and we give thanks, that is immeasurable, to each and every one of you!  

(And in all honesty, we’ll probably have some cake and ice cream!  😉  )







Dare I say it? The Vaccine Controversy

I have deliberated for a great deal of time as to whether to write this post or not.  Many might applaud me for the courage to post it, and others will write me off as a crackpot conspiracy theorist for doing so.  The goal would be to encourage you to honestly read and watch everything in this post and then come to your own conclusions.

This is a long post. I know that brevity makes for a much more readable post; however, I am not a savvy enough writer to know how to make it shorter. I will just state that this is an extremely important issue that will affect all of us in one way or another.  Especially now since some states are mandating vaccines, with no “option-out”. If you are really interested in having an honest discussion on this topic, I hope will consider carving out some time to get through it. Most of all the information I am providing is in the form of video clips – please DO NOT skip past them – because they hold the key information.

I would like to state at the very onset that my husband and I are not “anti-vaccine”. Our first 4 children had all started on their vaccine schedule.  Then we became personally aware of adverse reactions to vaccines.   Because of that, we started researching all we could, and we decided not to vaccinate our last 4 children. That was over 16 years ago. The issue has recently been brought up again in our lives because our oldest daughter would like to go to Africa and work, short term, in an orphanage. So we need to do what we can to keep her, and others, safe and healthy.  Over the last several months we have been researching, once again, the safest way to do this. Contrary to what many vaccine blogs may assert, just because someone questions vaccines, does not mean they are “anti-vaccine”. We are pro-education, pro-informed consent, and pro-safety.

There is no shortage of information on the vaccine issue – both pro and con – on the internet, literally millions of sites – mostly screaming at one another.  Anything I write in this article, you will be able to provide ammunition for or against – I know because I have read a great deal of it!

I am going to start this conversation with this video from the Today Show, which aired today (April 13, 2016).  The host is interviewing Robert De Niro about his Tribeca film festival,  The subject of the conversation turns to a film De Niro had wanted the festival to include, but ended up pulling it (See controversy video clips below).  The name of the movie is: Vaxxed From Coverup to Catastrophe.  The movie discusses how the CDC covered up data showing a link from the MMR vaccine to Autism.  De Niro has a son with Autism and he feels that there needs to be a conversation on this matter. “There is more to this than meets the eye,  There is something there, that people aren’t addressing. All I wanted is for the movie to be seen. People must see it. They can come to their own conclusions….there is a link…it is much more complicated.”

Now there has been a huge amount of controversy about the film since just being released a few weeks ago.

This video gives a timeline of the controversy and includes an interview clip with NBC Today host Matt Lauer and (retired head of NBC) Bob Wright, where Matt asked Mr. Wright, after stating all the scientific research has disproved a link between autism and vaccines, straight up, “As a man who has done so much in an effort to educate people what is the definitive answer on vaccines?” to which Mr. Wright says, “There is no definitive answer.”

Of note, John Wright’s book,  “The Wright Stuff” also just came out in the last several weeks. Wright has a grandchild who developed Autism.  Sheryl Attkisson (American author and formerly an investigative correspondent in the Washington bureau for CBS News) on her blog reviews a portion of his book and notes the following:

“In his book, [former head of NBC Bob Wright] says that President Obama’s key adviser, Valerie Jarrett, killed a proposal to improve the safety of vaccines, so that parental fears about the link between vaccines and autism could be addressed.

The Bush administration killed a similar proposal, he says. In that case, the explanation was that “the White House was afraid of press reaction.”

Attkisson notes: The federal government recognizes the risks and dangers, having established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to compensate victims of vaccines. This takes the vaccine makers off the hook for injuries and deaths caused by government-mandated vaccines. In short, Big Government is protecting Big Business from liability for their products. Wright notes that $100 million a year is paid in damages to victims of vaccines.

Florida Congressman Rep. Bill Posey, who is a safe vaccine advocate, addresses this issue here on the house floor where he mentions that our government has paid out over 3 BILLION dollars in vaccine injuries. He then discusses the CDC cover-up.


The Vaxxed film was then pulled about a week ago from the Houston film festival, with this info:

The Director of a Houston film festival was threatened by officials in the Texas government to withdraw a film that accuses government officials and scientists at the CDC of fraud and collusion with respect to science on the vaccine/autism link.

“Dear Philippe~ Good Morning…

“I wanted you to know that just like DeNiro and Tribeca, we must withdraw our invitation to screen VAXXED! It has been cancelled, and there was no press release about the film… that was scheduled for today, but after very threatening calls late yesterday (Monday) from high Houston Government officials (the first and only time they have ever called in 49 years) – we had no choice but to drop the film. Heavy handed censorship, to say the least… they both threatened severe action against the festival if we showed it, so it is out. Their actions would have cost us more than $100,000 in grants.

I do hope that they did not call or threaten you. It is done, it is out and we have been censored… There are some very powerful forces against this project. It does seem a bit of overkill, as I am confident that it will be released Online soon and millions of people can see it.

My Thanks and Best regards,
Hunter Todd
Chairman & Founding Director
The 49th Annual WorldFest-Houston”

The local news covered the story here:


This is a fascinating article on linking all of the parties involved in the shut down of this movie- it is hard to dismiss all of the connections – this is a powerful group:



Probably the biggest controversy of the movie revolves around the “de-frocked” doctor who has been labeled the “father of the anti-vaccine movement”, Dr. Andrew Wakefield.  The label is very much a misnomer because Dr. Wakefield has not been, and is not, anti-vaccine. He is pro-safe vaccine. If you were to Google his name you would find things like: “discredited, fraud, dangerous and disgraced, or conversely you would find: hero, champion, pioneer, child defender, greatest scientific mind of our time.

The controversy started back in 1999 when he suggested that there MAY be a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.  He was a strong proponent of the measles vaccine, but felt that it should be given by itself.  Thus was born the “anti-vaccine” movement (again, a misnomer). In lieu of writing up the entire history (which is very long) of this controversy surrounding him, this interview covers his side of the story. PLEASE, if you are sincerely interested in this controversy, you will need to take the time to listen to this ENTIRE interview from start to finish.  This is the foundational piece to this entire controversy.   If you don’t watch it, it will be extremely difficult to wade through the claims surrounding him.  Yes, it is a long, but it is important and it is only fair to listen to the words of the man who is at the heart of the story.   Now, some may object and ask why am I not posting the other side to this story? Well, because quite frankly, the other side is pretty much all you get when you research this controversy. I am not saying that you shouldn’t, I am just saying at least listen to both sides. It is often the case when people use alternative methods of curing their cancer or other diseases and even though they have been cured, when they promote what helped them, they are dismissed as quacks. You will have no shortage of sites to read about what a “fraud” he is. So to be fair please listen to him speak, and decide for yourself. Also, it is noteworthy that Dr. Wakefield is credited by Bob Wright’s daughter as the doctor that helped her child receive significant help.


Here are some facts on the rise of autism and the vaccine schedule:

The Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014)

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability. (CDC, 2008)

# of Recommended Vaccines VS Autism Prevalence:
1953 – 16 dosages of 4 vaccines (Between 2 months and age 6) 1 in 5000 (1973)(Prior to 1973 it was believed prevalence was 1 in 10,000)
1983 – 23 doses of 7 vaccines (Between 2 months and age 6) 1 in 2500 (1985)
2013 – 118 vaccines (49 doses of 14 vaccines by age 6 (69 doses of 16 vaccines ages 7 – 18 ) 1 in 50 (2013)

Did you catch that?  1 in 50!


Consider how that vaccine schedule might get even more crowed given the rise in new vaccines coming out:

“By 2016, the Global Vaccines Market is Expected to Generate More Than Twice the Annual Revenue of 2009(The global vaccine market is expected to surpass estimated USD 100 billion by 2025). 

The global vaccines industry was valued at $24 billion in 2009 and is expected to reach $52 billion in 2016 at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.5%.The ability of vaccines to generate high revenue and profits despite being priced at a premium has proven attractive to both existing players in the market and to big pharmaceutical companies who have been watching the development of the market with interest.

The surge in revenues and growth rates came at a time when the pharmaceutical industry was under huge pressure from patent expiries and weakened pipelines…. The success of premium priced vaccines such as Prevnar, Gardasil, and Cervarix has prompted big pharmaceutical players such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca to invest in the vaccines industry which promises safe revenues due to a lack of threat from generics.

The Vaccines Industry is Looking to Increase its Revenues Through the Introduction of Novel Vaccines and Indication Expansions for Established Products.”  (business wire.com)

Is it any wonder that these companies would not like any one questioning any adverse effects of vaccines? Perhaps this is too much of “good thing’?

It is understandable that government officials do not want to put the general public in a panic mode; obviously millions of people don’t react to vaccines. Certainly government officials are concerned for the health and safety of its nations’ citizens. However, it is just as understandable that the thousands of families whose lives have been changed just hours or days after their child was vaccinated want the truth of their injuries to be heard, and bring awareness for the safety of others. We need to start building trust on both sides of this issue. I don’t know of a parent who is not concerned for the safety and health of their child and would like to be able to trust what they are told by their health care providers.


Lastly is the Gardasil vaccine. This has nothing directly to do with Andrew Wakefield or the movie Vaxxed.  There has just been so much written regarding this vaccine that I have seen over the last several years that I am simply just going to share these links. Is the risk of what you see here really worth any benefit? While reviewing these links, keep in mind that Gardasil has been a huge profit maker for Merck.

Not a coincidence


Oh, I guess there is one more item – you know how many kids have peanut allergies today? Check this out  –  this was interesting:  http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/whats-really-behind-peanut-allergy-epidemic/ )


Finally,  here is just a sample post of a recurring theme which has probably been reiterated thousands of times –  many educated, well informed individuals who are just trying to raise awareness:
My son was born in July 1995. He was bright, alert, engaging and clearly neurotypical in every way. He met and exceeded all of his developmental milestones until 7 1/2 years of age when he sustained a vaccine injury from the flu shot in late 2002. Within a very, very short period of time after the vaccine, he developed severe neurological, neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral changes. I was forced to research this issue, as did my late husband, a physician, in order to save our son. We were not anti-vaccine (which should be obvious, otherwise, our child would not have suffered a vaccine injury). We were not conspiracy theorists. We were intelligent, educated, articulate parents trying to find out what happened to our formerly healthy son. We understood medicine, statistics and how to read and comprehend scientific research. My late husband was a triple board certified physician and Chairman of Emergency and Trauma at a major Level 1 Trauma Center. He served as Associate Professor of Surgery at a well-respected medical school/teaching hospital, as well as Medical Director of a Physician Assistant program at a major university. He did peer-review for numerous medical journals, served on the boards of numerous National, State and local medical societies. He was a published author of numerous medical articles, peer-reviewed scientific studies and even a medical textbook. My background was in politics, nursing in physician offices and forensic accounting. In others words, we were NOT clueless, gullible, conspiracy theory, “anti-science” parents as the CDC and mainstream media try to paint anyone who has the audacity to question vaccines.
All one has to do is follow the money to ascertain why the pharmaceutical companies and government vaccine program defenders (like the CDC, FDA, NIH, WHO, etc. are attacking anyone who questions vaccines. They have 30+ billion reasons per year (money generated each year from vaccines) to deny any evidence of harm from vaccines. Denying that vaccines cause severe harm does not change the FACT that vaccines CAN and DO cause severe harm and/or death to some. My child IS evidence of harm. This is why I encourage all parents to educate themselves about the true RISKS before they vaccinate their child. I wish I had done so instead of relying on the misinformation of my well-intentioned, but woefully misinformed pediatrician.”

Andrei Sakharov, a Russian nuclear physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb, said before dying, ‘I always thought that the most powerful weapon in the world was the bomb. I’ve changed my mind. The most powerful weapon in the world is not the bomb, the most powerful weapon is the truth.'”

So, is it the truth that this is the greatest cover-up of our time, or is it all just an “anti-vax” conspiracy that is going to bring mass disease back into the land? Or perhaps, the answer lies somewhere in-between?

You will need to decide for yourself.

Get informed.



Chocolate Hearts, Raspberry Pie and Parfaits – Valentine’s Day is on its Way!

(Thought I would re-post this from last year as Valentine’s Day is once again upon us – Yum!)

Valentine’s Day is coming up! We wanted to give you some “mmm mmm good” ideas so you would have plenty of time to plan ahead. ♥

Simply click on the title to get the recipe:

Super Simple Chocolate Hearts

Or footballs, trucks or legos  – whatever works for you 🙂


 Raspberry Chocolate-Bar Parfait:


Oh My  – Scrumptious Raspberry Pie!


Pretty-in-Pink Creations:


Use coupon code “valentine2015” to receive 20% of your scarf order at

the girls’ etsy site: Morning Has Broken

If there are chocolates and treats – then there must be Keto Joy!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Candy Time!

I saw this today and thought it might be a great resource to share, especially with Halloween and the holiday season coming up!



I have done previous posts on candy that you can view here:


IMG_0737 IMG_0753 IMG_0229

And here:



And here:



All will provide many happy faces!



They’re Home :)

Actually they have been home for a while

– Just been busy!

 The cats and dogs were probably as excited as I was!


They had tons of fun with cousins and grandparents..swimming, hiking, hanging out. And NO Seizures! They loved their trip to legoland. Yes, this is all built with legos – amazing!

Now we are back to…… 

Frisbee Tournaments and Soccer practice:

First game 6-0 win!   Working off the boarding/riding stable fees – But with a brand new smile – Braces off!

Harvesting Honey:


Music Practice 

Piano for all:

Starting  in Dance this year:

Joining two others

Getting the animals fed.

The 4H pig project

And the chickens…

And Oh do the cows love what’s in the scrap bucket!

Enjoying their brothers, who are also back at home…

…even when they wear funny colored pants!  😉

and of course, the beloved kittens!

All is well again! 😉

(Although I also would be delighted to see this family home again! Possibly Thanksgiving???  😉  )

Thank you Keto Joy!

Raw Honest Truth

The last few days have been all a buzz in “busyness” and excitement over 4H projects and some of the girls getting ready to leave with Dad on a trip to California to visit family.

The truth is I, unfortunately, have been busy with fear.

I hate living there. But I have to be honest.

Debbie Synder, the author of “Keto Kid”, once asked Dr. Freeman the question, “How long will it take before I don’t worry any more?” His answer, “When you are 76.”

I’m sure it will be 106 for me.

Autumn has had ear pain for several weeks, and all my usual remedies that typically work, didn’t fix it.  So this past Monday found us in the doctor’s office.

“I am pretty sure I see some pus behind the ear drum,” says he.  And then comes the RX for an antibiotic.

In my mind I am thinking, “If she wasn’t getting on a plane in 3 days, I would just try to ride this out.  But she is getting on a plane, and she could be in excruciating pain if that infection continues. What is worse, the treatment or the pain.”

For some of you reading this, you won’t understand  what is the big deal about putting your kid on antibiotic. I am not against antibiotics.  I am grateful they exist.

The issue is living life after seizures and being worried that something will set them off again.

With all the research about the microbiome and gut health affecting brain health…as a past seizure mom…it makes you worried.  In addition to that, the flight times are a bit crazy and will yield very little sleep.  And of course with all the family gatherings there will be lots of activity and lots of great food – all kinds of great wonderful favorites and treats to eat while laughing and hanging out with her cousins.  But she will need self-control…that antibiotic will be messing with her gut… and if she’s eating the wrong food… and perhaps not getting enough sleep…. could be a recipe for disaster…and on… and on… and on.

I wanted her to be able to go and just enjoy the trip. She hasn’t been out to see family for almost 6 years.

I didn’t want her to be worried about anything.

But she knows mom is worried.

This is not the way I wanted it to be.

“Wanting things your way — can destroy any way at all.”*

And so I wait. I just have to wait.  I have to wait for 10 days until they are all back home. With me. (Of course then they will be safe, right?!)

“Waiting can feel like an insane asylum of its own.”

Yes, I am living there today. I want the answer now! “Is she going to be ok?!”

“He who is hurried by worry, delays the comfort of God.

I am literally exhausted today by worry…Why can’t I just rest in that comfort?

“We can simply want our situation solved — when God simply wants to be our answer. And the best situation — is always what makes God your best hope.”

For those of you who pray, I would covet those prayers for peace and protection right now. I am not afraid to ask.

One thing I know for sure, I know her dad will keep her close and take the greatest care of her.  

He is an amazing man.


Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)

I will press on. 🙂

Keto Joy!

* All quotes come from today’s  Ann Voscamp

Pass It On!

Well, the 4-H Summer 2015 Judging was yesterday and here are some of the results:

Grand Champion for Autumn’s Keto Joy display board and brochure!  

2015 Grand Champion

The judge told her several times that she really needed to enter her project into any and all science fairs that she could. We will look into that. This award really goes to everyone who has ever helped anyone with this diet. I can’t imagine this day even being possible without that help. This is where we once were:


Champion for Consumer Clothing

Champion for Fashion Review for her division, Reserve Champion overall; Sister, Promise, received Reserved Champion for her division.

Champion for Sewing:

None of this would have been possible without our beautiful sewing helper over the years, the amazing, Leah!

 Promise, took Grand Champion for her Cake:

Promise really owes her success to the help of big sister, Rebekah. Rebekah missed judging this year as she went out to help out her big brother, and sister-in-law, with child care for Max and several of their foster children. She has been busy building forts, playing games, doing art projects and cooking in the kitchen with them! (I can only show 1/2 the picture due to privacy laws). 


 Kristen, took Grand Champion for all Needlework!

Kristen’s cards are Brazilian embroidered with beading. Brazilian embroidery is a rarity today and we were so blessed by some wonderful ladies from the embroidery guild that put on FREE classes at our local library in the summer.  The girls started the classes several years ago and Kristen really progressed with the help of this dear, sweet 80 + -year-old member, Betty.  The girls and I had presented a picture frame and poem to her last year to thank her for all her help!


Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.09.41 PM

The blessing of investment.  Oh, how we have been SO blessed by SO many who have been willing to invest their time, talent and resources to help us…

I hope we can pass it on!

Keto Joy!


Creating Awareness: It’s Hard, but…..

It’s not TOO Hard! 🙂

That is the message Autumn is proclaiming about the Ketogenic Diet, for one of her 4-H projects this year.

In an effort to create awareness of using the Ketogenic diet as a treatment option for seizures, Autumn has created a brochure that she can hand out to people at our local county fair.  She has also distributed the brochures to local doctors in our area to help inform them on this treatment option.



Once the fair is over, we will be moving on to our next project of organizing our website with a few updates.   One being a “Read Me First” page to let people know what to expect the first few weeks of the diet. We have found that most people who contact us have the same initial struggles and it would be helpful for them to have a quick “HELP!” reference page.  Secondly, we need to put the recipes in an easier-to -find format.  We want to do whatever we can to help people know that although the diet may be hard….it is not TOO hard!  Because life without seizures is certainly a lot easier that life with them!

Keto Joy!

“Has She Had One Yet?”

That was the constant phrase whispered in our household about a half-hour after I recorded  Autumn’s seizure at 9:08 a.m, May 30, 2012.


Again and again, throughout the day, brother to sister, sister to brother, brother to mother, father to mother…”Has she had one yet?”

No, not yet.

After one hour, then two, then three.

No, not yet.

The phone calls and the emails kept coming, all with the same question: “Has she had one yet?”

Although we did not want it…and hoped it would not happen…we were all still waiting for it to happen.

A day passes, then another day, then a week, and then a month.

The question then became, “How long has it been since she has had one?”

Two months. Six months. Ten months.

No seizures.

One Year. No, she still has not had one yet.

Another year later on the diet, still seizure-free.

The next question everyone started to ask: “When will she come off the diet?”

The decision is made, after 2 years on the diet, Autumn is weaned off.

Then the conversation changed to, “Has she had “anything” happen yet?”

Well yes, she has.

She has learned to be relentless, committed and determined to a goal. She has learned self-discipline and self-denial. She has learned great empathy for kids who have physical struggles as she remembers what it felt like to collapse in the middle of a grocery aisle, in church, on a playground among friends – sometimes as often as every 5 minutes.  She has learned many cooking skills and loves being in the kitchen. She know hows to do a lot with whipping cream, butter, egg whites and macadamia nut butter. She knows coconut oil will be her life-long friend!

She knows that somethings are hard but reap a great reward.

We urge anyone who is considering the diet to please NOT be overwhelmed with the difficulty of the diet, but rather be overwhelmed with the possibilities and blessings of the diet.

Start, and you can begin reaping a harvest. This is not just a Ketogenic Diet principle, it is a life principle.

Tomorrow at 9:08 a.m. we will (hopefully!) be celebrating a wonderful testimony – that “she has NOT had one yet”, a sentiment captured well in a Journal Gazette headline from last year:

Leaving Seizures Behind!


“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  James 1

Consider it all joy….Keto Joy!

The Cure for Brain Diseases is in Your Gut

KetoJoy has a Facebook page, but for any of you who are not on Facebook, I thought I would post this article here:

The Cure for Brain Diseases Is in Your Gut

Researchers are just now starting to link inflammation in your gut with some of the most deadly and debilitating diseases we have.

Why are we making such little progress in our attempts to uncover the causes of various forms of brain degeneration? These days we frequently hear about breakthroughs in our understanding of diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, but when the discussion turns to the brain, there seems to be very little news.

Medical research continues to operate with a reductionist mentality. The human body is looked upon as simply a compilation of various parts and systems, and each of these is looked upon as functioning independent of the others.

Many attribute the tenants of reductionism to the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician Renée Decartes, who, in 1637, proposed that the world and all living beings were basically like machines, made up of clockwork mechanisms. In his Discourses, he argued that animate beings could be taken apart, studied, and then reassembled to gain a better perspective as to the meaning of the larger picture.

And so it is that, by and large, research endeavors attempting to understand what causes the brain to degenerate in conditions like Parkinson’s disease or ALS focus on the nervous system. These are devastating conditions for which modern medicine offers up no cure. And it may well be that clinging to this reductionist approach—one that sees the brain and its myriad diseases as existing apart from the rest of the body—underlies our failure to uncover the causes and therefore treatments for some of our most feared maladies.

The counter to this pervasive reductionist mentality is the notion of holism. Holism celebrates the panorama of interrelationships between various body parts and systems and embraces the notion that each of these seemingly disparate parts actually nurtures the others.

Microscopic bacteria living within us may be charting our brain’s destiny.
Here’s another way of looking at it. If a football team is unable to gain yardage, a reductionist perspective would focus exclusively on the quarterback. A holistic perspective, on the other hand, takes a step back and looks at the entire team. It recognizes, for example, that the offensive line plays an important role by protecting the quarterback and giving him time to execute the play while the running backs and receivers also play crucial roles in determining a positive outcome.

Parkinson’s disease is the world’s second-most common neurodegenerative condition. By the year 2030, it’s predicted that the global burden of this disease will affect nearly 10 million people. Unfortunately, researchers remain almost exclusively focused on the quarterback with countless millions of dollars dedicated to “brain research” in an attempt to unravel the mystery of this condition.

Fortunately, vanguard researchers are now recognizing the merits of a more holistic approach. Take researchers at Rush University Medical Center, for one. They’ve begun publishing data demonstrating the significant bowel issues associated with Parkinson’s disease that may actually have a role in its cause.

Dr. Christopher B. Forsyth and his team have recently demonstrated significant gut permeability, more commonly referred to as “leaky gut” in Parkinson’s patients. Their research has further revealed that this increase in gut leakiness enhances inflammation as well as the production of a unique protein—alpha-synuclein—both of which are characteristic of this disease.

This is beyond groundbreaking, it is iconoclastic in that it represents a break from the long-held mentality that brain disease must arise in the brain.
ALS affects as many as 30,000 in the United States, with 5,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. While considerably less common than Parkinson’s disease, ALS is almost uniformly fatal.

And despite the sudden increase in funding for ALS research resulting from the “ice bucket challenge,” again, it may well be that we are simply looking in the wrong place.

In research headed by Dr. Rongzhen Zhang at the University of California, San Francisco, he and his team discovered that, like the Parkinson’s research had revealed, in ALS there is also an increase in the leakiness of the gut. And again, like in Parkinson’s, their research revealed that this mechanism caused a robust increase in inflammation, a mechanism that has long been known to be associated with ALS.

These are but two examples of a welcomed change in mentality as it relates to medical research. Inflammation, as a mechanism, is thought to underlie virtually every degenerative condition that humans experience—including Alzheimer’s disease, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and even cancer. And it has become clear that the integrity of the lining of the gut plays a fundamental role in determining the degree of inflammation that the human body experiences.

One of the most important elements involved in maintenance of gut wall integrity is the degree of balance and diversity of the various organisms that live within the gut. These organisms and their genetic material are collectively referred to as the human microbiome.

The microbiome is tasked with shoring up the gut lining and therefore reducing permeability. This helps to reduce inflammation in human physiology. When the gut bacteria are altered by any number of events—including overusage of antibiotics, exposure to environmental toxins, and even inappropriate food choices—the integrity of the gut lining can be challenged.

So the dots are being connected. As researchers break the bonds of reductionism and venture forth looking outside of the brain, exciting information is being revealed that may well pave the way to understanding—and possibly curing—devastating neurological disorders. As it turns out, we are just beginning to understand how critical a role is played by the gut bacteria in terms of virtually every aspect of human health and disease. Indeed, it’s a very humbling notion to recognize that microscopic bacteria living within us may be charting our brain’s destiny.

Ironically, Decartes himself may have been first to recognize the importance of the “gut-brain connection” when he wrote this: “Even the mind depends so much on temperament and the disposition of one’s bodily organs that, if it is possible to find a way to make people generally more wise and more skilful than they have been in the past, I believe that we should look for it in medicine. It is true that medicine as it is currently practiced contains little of much use.”

David Perlmutter, MD is a Board-Certified Neurologist and author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life.

I have posted other articles and videos about this topic here: