Every day of every year, people across the fruited plain engage in do-it-yourself brain damage. Sadly, we have no idea what we’re doing..
How can this be? I’m glad you asked.
First, some background: Along the bottom of the brain is a small, sort of pancake-shaped thingy called the hypothalamus. And although it’s considered part of the brain, it’s not protected by the blood-brain barrier that keeps most of the bad stuff out of our brains. So it’s vulnerable.
Small and vulnerable though it may be, the hypothalamus is mighty. It controls the endocrine system, our glands that manage metabolism, sex and reproduction, immunity and so on. It also controls the nervous system, which is the rest of us. In short, the hypothalamus controls pretty much everything that happens in our bodies. Get it out of whack, and your health suffers.
So what gets the hypothalamus out of whack? Well, a lot of the problem comes from what we eat and drink, which we can control, so let’s talk about that.
The problem comes from excitotoxins. This is not a word that trips off too many tongues, so let me explain. An excitotoxin is something that damages the hypothalamus and causes brain inflammation–and lets loose all kinds of chaos in our endocrine and nervous systems, usually slowly and silently.
What kind of chaos? Well, research ties excitotoxins to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimers, autoimmune diseases, such as MS and lupus, cancers, such as lymphoma and leukemia, and thyroid damage.
Hypothalamic damage can also lead to obesity. And it’s tied to autism.
Excitotoxins become part of our diet through glutamate, the basis for monosodium glutamate, and aspartate, the basis for aspartame. Ingesting both multiplies the damage. Children are more vulnerable than adults. Baby food companies took MSG out of baby food for a while; now it’s back.
Right after World War II, monosodium glutamate was isolated from the Japanese sea weed kombu, sea tangle, by stripping away all the enzymes, minerals and other pro-health parts. Now, some sixty years later, it’s in most prepared foods, under a variety of names, at your local grocery store and also in most food served at chain restaurants. Their packages of prepared food arrive from the home office with MSG already in them. Then their menus piously say, “We add no MSG to our food.” They don’t have to add it; it’s already there.
Soy, a bad idea for a lot of reasons, is about 60% MSG by nature, so watch for that on the label. The word “hydrolized” in the ingredient list is a MSG tip-off, too, as is “autolyzed.” Even “spices,” “artificial flavoring” and “natural flavoring” can be used as a cover-up.
MSG should be banned, regardless of what they call it, but until and unless that happens, you have to protect yourself by avoiding MSG as best you can.
Want a little more excitement? Glutamate is part of every injection given–to babies, to old folks seeking to avoid the flu, to everybody who gets a shot. One statistic that’s bandied about says anybody who gets an annual flu shot starting at age fifty doubles their risk of dementia.
Aspartame comes from the amino acid aspartate. It arrives in our bodies via diet sodas and the little blue packet. Sodas are loaded with the stuff, and the packets are pure aspartame–an oxymoron is there ever was one. Aspartame should also be banned, but don’t hold your breath.
Do MSG and aspartame damage everybody’s health? Well, they don’t do anybody any good, but, no, MSG and aspartame don’t guarantee a future of chronic health conditions. But then, smoking doesn’t guarantee lung cancer, either. How lucky do you feel?
But let’s end on a positive note. Of course, avoid excitotoxins as much as possible, but also be proactive. Avoidance isn’t the only tool in the shed. A good high-protein-and-vegetable- based diet is a start. Anybody with endocrine problems has problems absorbing nutrients, so add a vitamin B-100 capsule (not tablets)and a good multiple vitamin/mineral capsule (no iron) to breakfast and lunch. Add extra folic acid and vitamin D3 (at least 2000iu) There’s more we need to talk about, but that will get you started.
Whenever you add supplements to your diet, accepted wisdom says to consult your doctor.
About the author: Bette Dowdell is not a doctor, nor does she purport to be one. She’s a patient who’s been studying and successfully handling her own endocrine problems for more than 30 years. She offers introductory teleseminars and an in-depth12-month subscription program, “Moving to Health” about living well with endocrine issues. She explains how things work–or don’t, discusses what things to avoid as well as the things that help, and she provides a lot of well-researched nutritional information. Subscribe to her free e-zine at