The Brain Doctor and The Wisdom of Crowds

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Chareva’s parents, Alan and Nancy Smiley, sold their Chicago-area home last month and have moved in with us temporarily, along with her brother and sister-in-law. They’re looking around Franklin now for a new home. For those of you who asked in comments, yes, Alan is the one who built a train line around his property some years ago. That’s one of the things I always liked about the man: his go-go-go, get-things-done drive. That drive is the reason he was able to buy a luxury home in the same neighborhood as mobsters and movie directors at an age when most young husbands are saving for a starter home.

Unfortunately, Alan had a significant stroke in April. As a result, he can no longer move his left arm. He can walk, but has to shuffle along with a cane because he can barely lift his left leg. He’s been plagued by insomnia since the stroke and has occasional hand tremors. The doctors who treated him in Chicago said he might have Parkinson’s.

I’d hate to see this happen to anyone. I especially hate to see it happen to the bundle-of-energy guy who barely left the dance floor at our wedding reception and exhausted several dance partners who were considerably younger.  Some people are happy to retire to an easy chair.  Alan would have preferred to retire to a workshop and a string of projects that require expertise with tools.

Alan’s cousin, a neurologist with more than 30 years in the field, offered to drive down from Kentucky last weekend for a visit and a consultation. I was upstairs working on a programming project when Chareva’s mom told me the conversation was turning to nutrition, and Alan thought I might want to listen in. Nutrition? Well, of course I wanted to listen in.

On my way downstairs, I hoped I wasn’t going to hear the standard-issue advice about avoiding fat and eating those hearthealthywholegrains. I promised I’d bite my tongue if need be. After all, Dr. Mike Mayron, the neurologist, made the trip from Kentucky out of the goodness of his heart.

Imagine my relief when Dr. Mayron began by telling Alan that sugars and grains are bad for the brain. We weren’t programmed by evolution to deal with the high levels of glucose those foods produce, he said. We’re programmed to thrive on a diet in which fat is our primary fuel. The best diet to help heal your brain and give it the fuel it needs is a ketogenic diet.

Dr. Mayron explained that he prescribes a ketogenic diet as part of the therapy for a number of brain conditions, then added, “There’s a book I want you to read. I recommend it to all the patients I put on a ketogenic diet, because it was written by a layman and it’s easy to understand. It’s called—“

Holy @#$%, I bet he’s about to say “Keto Clarity.”

“—Keto Clarity, by Jimmy Moore.”

“I’ve got a copy upstairs, Doctor.”

“Oh, good!”

“Actually, Jimmy and I good friends.”

“You’re friends with Jimmy Moore? Seriously?”

“Yeah, in fact he and his wife will be visiting us for Thanksgiving. They were here last Thanksgiving too.”

“Wow. Well, be sure tell him I said thank-you for writing a book that’s helped a lot of people.”

“I will. Actually, hang on, I have a better idea. You can tell him.”

I went and grabbed my iPhone, dialing up Jimmy on FaceTime as I returned to the room. When Jimmy’s face appeared onscreen, I told him I was with a neurologist who wanted to thank him for his work. I handed the phone to Dr. Mayron, and the two of them had a nice chat.

Jimmy then mentioned that he was in Australia to give a speech, and it was 1:00 AM. He should probably try to go back to sleep. Oops. Sorry, Jimmy. It’s a credit to your character that you answered the call cheerfully instead of denigrating my manhood and/or place in the food chain.

After the call with Jimmy, Dr. Mayron continued explaining the many reasons Alan should be on a ketogenic diet, both as a stroke survivor and a type II diabetic. He explained that it normally takes a few weeks to make the adjustment, but there are drink mixes available now that help boost ketones right away. One of them, this one, was originally developed for Navy Seals. Apparently the military figured out Seals have more endurance and focus during long missions if they’re in ketosis.

I was, of course, delighted that Alan was hearing all this from a neurologist. I want him to control his diabetes and be as healthy as he can for as long as he can. After all, he just moved to the same town as the daughter and granddaughters who love him.  We’d all like for him to stick around for awhile.

But I was also delighted to see another example of how more and more doctors are catching on. I didn’t know Dr. Mayron before this weekend. He didn’t know I produced a movie called Fat Head. In fact, as he was assuring Alan that a ketogenic diet doesn’t have to be boring, he said he makes a low-carb pizza crust that taste just like real pizza crust. As he described the ingredients, I asked, “When you found that recipe online, was it by any chance called Fat Head Pizza?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, I’m pretty sure it was.”

“I’m Fat Head.”

I tried not to sound like Michael Keaton saying “I’m Batman.” I also felt obligated to explain that people call it Fat Head Pizza even though all I did was post a recipe my nephew found elsewhere online.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one) is that once again, I saw the Wisdom of Crowds effect at work. I can guarantee you that when Dr. Mayron was in medical school, he wasn’t taught about ketogenic diets as a therapy for brain issues. But thanks to the internet and the astounding ability we all have to acquire and share information, he’s quite familiar with the benefits of a ketogenic diet now. (He lost a lot of weight after going ketogenic himself.) The information gatekeepers don’t control the gates anymore, because the gates are gone. The overlords at the USDA have lost their grip on the conversation about diet and health.

Now when a neurologist wants to educate patients about a good-for-the-brain diet, he recommends a book by a blogger named Jimmy Moore.

And I believe there’s a good chance you’ll hear from Dr. Mayron on a future episode of Jimmy’s podcast show.  Let’s keep that Wisdom of Crowds effect growing.

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117 thoughts on “The Brain Doctor and The Wisdom of Crowds

  1. pam

    wonderful, keep us updated.

    (i dont’k now if you have read it:
    The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doige
    has some discussion on stroke patients.

    the Brain’s Way of Healing is also interesting

    Reply
  2. Mikko

    That’s very interesting, my neurosurgeon also recommended a ketogenic diet in the first meeting I had with him after having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Not exactly the diet I was expecting to hear from him, given that this happened in the UK where the official guidelines are full of hearthealthywholegrains etc.

    Reply
  3. LauraB

    Just FYI – a knitter/designer had a stroke and wrote very eloquently about her experiences across 4-5 years. I found it very enlightening to read what and how she was feeling, and her recovery battles. You can search for the tags for stroke on her site if interested. I hope I need never take her words into my own battle but I think they really can aid those coping with someone who has had a stroke.
    https://katedaviesdesigns.com/

    Also, too – thanks for the pizza recipe!! Not as vital, perhaps, but certainly makes life worth living.

    Reply

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