Blog

Can Acupuncture Help with Your TMJ Pain?

Drugs are hardly the only solution when it comes to TMJ pain. Take acupuncture, for instance.

New research in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies offers some new evidence that the therapy may provide at least temporary relief from TMJ problems by rebalancing the energy (Qi) along the meridians.

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is a hinge for your jaw. There’s one on each side of your head. Injury, misalignment, and behaviors like bruxing can damage these joints and adjacent structures and cause them to work incorrectly.

Here’s how the TMJ functions normally:

Here’s how it looks in one type of dysfunction:

TMD can lead to ongoing problems with headaches and pain in the jaws, face, neck, and shoulders. You may have ringing in your ears or other hearing issues. You may feel toothache-like pain. You may have popping, clicking, or grating sounds when you chew. It can become hard to even open your mouth.

Suffice it to say, TMD is no fun.

But back to the study, in which 43 TMJ patients were separated into two groups. For four weeks, one group was treated with traditional acupuncture; the other, with sham acupuncture (no needle penetration). Meridian assessments were taken before and after each session.

acupuncture diagram of headInterestingly, both groups experienced less pain. Both groups experienced a decrease in Yang energy.

But only those who received real acupuncture maintained Yin energy levels over the course of the study. They were also more able to open their mouths on their own without pain.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yin and Yang energies must be balanced to maintain good health.

Increasingly, the medical establishment is accepting acupuncture as a valid treatment for various forms of pain. In fact, earlier this year, the FDA gave it a preliminary endorsement for pain management.

On a similar note, the Joint Commission – a major medical accreditor – also now recognizes acupuncture as an effective stand-alone or combination treatment for TMD. According to commentary in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, this turnaround provides great opportunities for integrative pain treatment.

[Integrative clinicians can] use it to convince naysayers by showing them that the evidence behind these services and practitioners in pain treatment has been prevetted by a conservative organization that serves as medicine’s police force. Notably, the pharmacologic approaches are appropriately—if only for alphabetical reasons—listed prior to pharmaceuticals. Clearly these typically more high-touch, time-, and human-intensive approaches are not relegated to the past role of if all else fails, try acupuncture.

Of course, there are other therapies that can help, as well, in providing long-term relief from TMJ problems without drugs and without surgery. The key, as ever, is to identify the cause and address that through treatment suited to that specific cause. In some cases, that might be appliance therapy; in others, DTR; in others, neural prolotherapy.

One size seldom fits all.

Image by Mot

Save

Save

How Do You Know When “Organic” Is Really Organic?

organic label with question markAs we mentioned last time, trust is a big issue when it comes to food labeled “organic.” When people don’t trust it, they don’t buy it.

But matters of trust can also be confounded by our own expectations – and lots of people have different, not always correct, ideas about what “organic” actually means.

According to the USDA,

Organic crops are raised without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Animals raised on an organic operation must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors. They are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. The NOP regulations prohibit the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge in organic production and handling.

But even this doesn’t necessarily mean “all natural.” As you may already know, there are plenty of approved synthetic substances that can be used in the production of crops or animal products and still allow a food to be called “organic.”

Similarly, a processed food can still get the USDA organic seal even if some ingredients – up to 5% – are non-organic.

But these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to trust.

With popularity and demand, organic food production has grown beyond our current domestic capabilities. More food is being imported, yet as news has shown through the last several months, regulation may be more than a little bit lacking.

Earlier this year, for instance, shipments of corn and soybeans from Turkey wound up labeled as “organic” – and thus, worth about $4 million more than they should have been – even though the crops had been grown conventionally. And while “USDA officials say that their system for guarding against fraud is robust,” reported the Washington Post, the facts suggest otherwise.

Under USDA rules, a company importing an organic product must verify that it has come from a supplier that has a “USDA Organic” certificate. It must keep receipts and invoices. But it need not trace the product back to the farm. Some importers, aware of the possibility of fraud, request extra documentation. But others do not.

Regardless of where organics come from, critics say, the system suffers from multiple weaknesses in enforcement: Farmers hire their own inspection companies; most inspections are announced days or weeks in advance and lack the element of surprise; and testing for pesticides is the exception rather than the rule.

These vulnerabilities are magnified with imported products, which often involve more middlemen, each of whom could profit by relabeling conventional goods as “organic.” The temptation could be substantial, too: Products with a “USDA Organic” label routinely sell for twice the price of their conventional counterparts.

In recent years, even as the amount of organic corn and soybeans imported to the United States has more than tripled, the USDA has not issued any major sanctions for the import of fraudulent grain, U.S. farmers said.

“The U.S. market is the easiest for potentially fraudulent organic products to penetrate because the chances of getting caught here are not very high,” said John Bobbe, executive director of the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing, or OFARM, a farmer cooperative. In Europe and Canada, he said, import rules for organics are much stricter.

Since the news broke, an industry group, the Organic Trade Association, has said it will create an anti-fraud task force. US organic farmers remain skeptical, even “amused” by the thought.

And meantime, a USDA audit has revealed further issues. As Civil Eats recently reported,

The resounding issue is a lack of transparency. First, auditors found that the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which houses the NOP, did not clearly share with stakeholders its methodology for determining how other countries’ organic standards compared to the USDA’s. And the on-site audits meant to ensure the efficacy of other countries’ certification practices were not conducted in a timely way, auditors found.

In addition, once products reached the U.S. border, auditors found that the agency did not provide reasonable assurance that inspectors reviewed the required documents proving organic practices at U.S. ports of entry. Finally, auditors also found that millions of pounds of organic products were sometimes fumigated with conventional pesticides to prevent invasive pests from entering the country, but still labeled and sold the food as organic.

“While most organic food is safe, and dramatically reduces your exposure to pesticides, the report reveals serious regulatory gaps that allow a few bad actors to ship sham ‘organic’ products to the U.S.,” explained Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety. “The USDA must up its game to block these imports, both to protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for American organic farmers.”

So what can we do? Is there any way to make sure that the organic food you buy is really organic?

The only sure way right now is to start your own garden. Then you control what’s put in, on, and around your food. It doesn’t need to be huge. Start small with just a simple tomato plant, say, or a few peppers, both of which can be very fruitful with pretty low maintenance. As your green thumb develops, you can always expand with more plants.

You can also limit the number of processed products you buy, centering your diet on whole food rather than collections of ingredients. It’s simpler to source single or minimally processed products than pre-made ones.

If you support your local community gardens, farmers markets, and CSAs, you can find out as much as you want to know about how the foods were produced. You can ask the growers directly – something impossible to do at a big box store or even your local grocery store.

That said, more and more supermarkets now are starting to feature more local, organic produce, at least. If that’s not an option, at least seek domestic products, which are more regulated for now.

And if money is a concern, there really are ways to eat organic on a budget. Here are some tips to get you started.

Image via Food Renegade

The Magic of Food Labeling

grocery storeShop in a grocery store, and most of what you see has been processed to one degree or another.

Yes, strictly speaking, even things like cleaning, sorting, and bagging organic fruit or veg count as processing.

In essence, “processing” is merely about turning food in its natural form into a product for consumption. Such products run the gamut from minimally- to hyper-processed, with foods tending to lose more of their nutritional value the more processed they are.

Regardless of the degree of processing, something funny happens when food companies slap labels onto their products: Consumer perceptions can change.

According to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), a front group for the food and beverage industries, many consumers base their opinions of what they think is “processed” only if the item seems like it was altered in some way.

And if you label it as “organic,” the product may seem even less processed.

Only three out of fourteen carrot-based products listed were considered “processed” by over half of respondents…Interestingly, consumers were only half as likely to categorize organic bagged baby carrots (7%) as processed compared to conventional bagged baby carrots (14%).

A recent study in Appetite likewise found that the “organic” label can indeed lead consumers to attribute qualities to a processed food quality that may or may not actually be true.

Overall, processed organic (vs. conventional) foods were perceived as tastier, more healthful (Study 1) or equally healthful (Study 2), but also as more caloric.

“Uncovering the specific conditions in which food claims bias consumer’s perceptions and behavior,” note the authors, “may have important implications for marketing, health and public-policy related fields.”

Of course, we have good reasons for favoring organics. As a study in Procedia Economics and Finance noted,

the reasons advocated by the consumers for buying organic food products are varied and primarily the motivations behind their decision to purchase include concerns for environment, health concern and lifestyle, food product quality and their subjective norms. Consumer behaviour involves the psychological processes that consumers go through in recognizing needs, finding ways to solve these needs; collect and interpret information; make plans and implement these plans, making purchase decisions and post-purchase behaviour.

But our willingness to buy and our purchases making a difference hangs on another important thing: trust. This was demonstrated nicely by a 2015 Thai study in the Journal of Business Ethics. Through two focus groups and 10 interviews, as well as a related intercept study, its authors found that lack of trust in the labeling and control procedures of organic food in Thailand have resulted in consumers being much less likely to buy organic.

Mistrust in the control system and in the authenticity of food sold as organic has a significant negative impact on self-reported buying behavior. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.

Next week, we’ll look further at the issue of organics labeling and how you can make sure you’re getting the quality you pay for.

Guest Post: Dental Ozone Is for More Than Just Fighting Pathogens

Our thanks to the office of St. Louis biological dentist Dr. Michael Rehme for letting us share this post from their blog. The original is here.

ozone moleculeWhen you hear about ozone in dentistry, it’s usually about its power to fight infection. That power comes courtesy of a third oxygen atom that turns “breathing” oxygen (O2) into ozone (O3). This makes the molecule unstable. It really wants to lose that extra atom and become “regular” oxygen once again.

That instability is what makes it such a powerful antimicrobial. That third atom readily attaches to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, interfering with their function. Ozone also stimulates oxygen metabolism and activates the immune system, further defending against harmful microorganisms.

So ozone is ideal for treating infectious conditions such as gum disease and dental caries (tooth decay). It’s also used to support healing from dental surgery and preparing teeth for restorations.

What you don’t hear about so much in dentistry is ozone for treating pain, such as from tooth sensitivity or TMJ disorders. Yet here, too, it may have a role to play.

A new study in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation focuses on this – in particular, treating chronic pain in the chewing muscles. The trial compared treatment results between two groups of women, one that received ozone therapy, one that received sham ozone as a placebo.

Both groups experienced improvements, actually.

However, the study hypothesis that bio-oxidative ozone application to the sites of most severe pain would produce better results than sham bio-oxidative ozone application at predetermined points was supported. Bio-oxidative ozone application appeared to be superior to sham bio-oxidative ozone application and differences were significant. [emphasis added]

Pain intensity went down and patients’ pressure pain thresholds went up. They also experienced ”significantly better results” with respect to their ability to move their jaw compared to the placebo group.

masseter muscleThe follows earlier research suggesting that ozone may be more effective than drugs for treating TMJ pain. In one such study, 87% of patients receiving ozone therapy either improved or recovered completely. Only about a third of the patients in the drug group showed improvement, and none recovered completely.

Why should ozone help with pain? Dr. Frank Shallenberger, among others, has suggested that chronic pain results from a lack of oxygen utilization. “Reverse this,” he says, “and an area of chronic pain will become normal again. Reverse this, and an area of chronic degeneration will begin to regenerate exactly as it was supposed to in the first place.”

Cells need oxygen to heal. Ozone stimulates the healing response.

This makes it even more valuable to dentistry – and medicine – than ever. Powerful. Effective. Non-invasive. Safe. What more could you ask for in a treatment?

Masseter image by Anatomography

Bad Breath: Why You’ve Got It & How to Get Rid of It

open mouthHear “bad breath” and chances are you can instantly think of a person or two with this problem – maybe even yourself.

It’s a common issue, after all. One new review of the science in Clinical Oral Investigations found that it afflicted more than 30% of participants – nearly one in three people. What’s more, those numbers seem to be on the rise.

Our results demonstrated that the estimated prevalence of halitosis was 31.8%, with high heterogeneity between studies. The results suggest a worldwide trend towards a rise in halitosis prevalence.

Why so much halitosis (the clinical term for bad breath)? It’s not just from eating stinky foods such as garlic, onions, and strong spices. In fact, most cases spring from oral conditions.

Although halitosis has multifactorial origins, the source of 90% cases is [issues in the] oral cavity such as poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, tongue coat, food impaction, unclean dentures, faulty restorations, oral carcinomas, and throat infections.

The mouth provides ideal conditions for the growth of harmful bacteria. It’s dark, moist, and contains hard-to-reach, low-oxygen areas such as periodontal pockets in which these pathogens can thrive.

There are hundreds of bacterial species that live in even the cleanest mouth. Many are helpful. Some are harmful. And according to the paper quoted above,

most of them are capable to produce odorous compounds which can cause halitosis.

The answer, of course, starts with better hygiene: brushing (including your tongue), flossing, rinsing, and thoroughly cleaning any appliances or prosthetics you wear.

Essential oils such as cinnamon and lemongrass can be quite helpful in controlling oral bacteria, yeasts, and other pathogens (“bad bugs”). Such oils can be found in many natural mouthwashes, but you can also make your own at home quickly and easily.

That said, there are some cases in which bad breath is a sign of more significant issues that should be addressed by a dentist or physician. These include oral infections, respiratory problems, GI disease, metabolic conditions, and more.

If ramped up hygiene isn’t enough to help your breath, do talk with your healthcare providers.

More tips for taming bad breath

Image by Allsha Vargas

Trouble with Titanium Dental Implants

corroded titanium dental implantWhen it comes to replacing teeth with dental implants, we opt for biocompatible ceramic instead of the usual titanium. Now new research offers even more support for this choice.

One of the biggest risks with implants is the potential for peri-implantitis. This condition is marked by inflammation and bone loss around a failing implant. It’s not something to be taken lightly. According to implant expert Dr. Stephen Jacobs, studies suggest that one-third of patients will be infected.

And according to a new study in the Journal of Periodontology, titanium may elevate the risk.

Researchers took plaque samples from 20 implants with peri-implantitis and 20 without, coming from 30 total patients. Then they looked for evidence of titanium. Why?

Increasing preclinical data suggest that peri-implantitis microbiota not only triggers an inflammatory immune response but also causes electrochemical alterations of the titanium surfaces, i.e., corrosion, that aggravate this inflammatory response.

That is, the bacteria causing the infection also corrode the titanium, and that makes the inflammation worse.

Thus, it was hypothesized that there is an association between dissolution of titanium from dental implants, which suggests corrosion, and peri-implantitis in humans.

And this is indeed what they found.

Greater levels of dissolved titanium were detected in submucosal plaque around implants with peri-implantitis compared with healthy implants, indicating an association between titanium dissolution and peri-implantitis.

Other studies have looked at other triggers for corrosion. According to research in the Dental Materials Journal, fluoride appears to have a significant impact on the dissolution of titanium.

Although titanium is well known for its superior corrosion resistance, it is not strongly resistant to corrosion caused by fluoride.

Hydrogen peroxide was also found to break down some titanium alloys. Peroxide is commonly used to bleach teeth and so appears in a good number of oral hygiene products and is often seen as an ingredient in natural DIY home care recipes.

Yet other research showed that ultrasonic scaling – deep cleaning – released titanium and thus increased inflammation. More, that inflammation triggered bone loss, which the study authors suggest ”is unlikely to be reversible.”

We’ll stick with ceramic.

For even more on corrosion, check out this excellent article by implant specialist Dr. Sammy Noumbissi.

Image via Dr. Noumbissi

A Look Back at…Nitric Oxide

Originally posted September 29, 2016

nitric oxide moleculeUnlike nitrous oxide, a.k.a. “laughing gas,” nitric oxide it is no laughing matter. Rather, it’s a signaling molecule that our body produces to help the trillions of cells in our body communicate with each other.

Nitric oxide is made by the body’s blood vessel’s lining. When this lining – the endothelium – senses healthy conditions, such as when you exercise, it releases more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, increases blood flow, and decreases plaque and blood clotting.

A healthy release of nitric oxide has been reported to

  • Help memory and behavior.
  • Support the immune system’s fight against pathogenic bacteria and defend against tumors.
  • Regulate blood pressure.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Increase endurance and strength.
  • Aid digestion.

We get plenty of nitric oxide when we’re young, but production falls later in life. Production also drops off when the endothelium senses less than healthy factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and increased stress levels. Free radical damage, inactivity, and poor dietary choices likewise have a negative effect nitric oxide release.

Happily, there are ways to increase nitric oxide and reap its benefits.

  1. Exercise
    When you exercise your muscles require more oxygen, which is supplied by the blood. As your heart pounds, your arteries release nitic oxide into the blood. This opens and relaxes the vessel walls and allows more blood to pass through.

  2. Diet
    Vegetables such beets, beet juice, celery, and dark leafy greens such as kale chard, arugula, and spinach are high in dietary nitrates and nitrites, both of which stimulate the production of nitric oxide. In addition, eating food with color increases the flavonoids in your diet. Flavonoids protect nitric oxide from free radical damage. Generally, it’s best to avoid a diet either too high in fat or carbohydrate. Both can inhibit nitric oxide production.

  3. Nitric oxide supplements
    Traditionally, supplementing for nitric oxide meant taking supplements containing L-arginine. But current research indicates that, as you age, L-arginine is less likely to prove effective.

    Enter new research out of the University of Texas Health Science Center, which has led to a proprietary, beetroot-based, nitric oxide formula that generates authentic nitric oxide while supporting the enzyme that makes nitric oxide in the body.

    The scientist at the helm of this form of supplementation is Dr. Nathan Bryan who co-authored The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution based on his research.

Whether you increase nitric oxide via exercise, diet, supplementation, or a combination of all three, tapping into this overlooked molecule’s power may well help you age with strength and vitality.

The Future of Dentistry Is Mercury-Free

no mercuryThis week marks the 7th anniversary of the Mercury Awareness Week, a joint campaign by Dr. Mercola and Consumers for Dental Choice, the organization leading the fight against the use of mercury amalgam in dentistry.

Our office has proudly been mercury-free – and mercury-SAFE! – for many years now. Through that time, we’ve seen more and more practices turn away from amalgam, too. Just a few decades ago, only 3% of American dentists were mercury-free. Today, more than half are.

More, we now have the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty that went into effect just last week. Among other measures to stop the use of mercury in consumer products and industry, it requires member countries to begin phasing out dental mercury – a provision fought for by Consumers for Dental Choice. And that’s just the latest milestone in the movement toward mercury-free dentistry.

  • 1800s: Mercury-based amalgam fillings are introduced.

  • 1830s: Dentists express concern about the health risks of filling teeth with mercury.

  • 1845: The first US professional association of dentists, the American Society of Dental Surgeons (ASDS), makes its members sign a pledge not to use amalgam. They considered its use malpractice.

  • 1850s: A group of pro-amalgam dentists abandons the ASDS and forms the organization today known as the American Dental Association, which continues to endorse mercury amalgam.

  • 1920s and 30s: German chemist Alfred Stock’s research on mercury toxicity revives interest in amalgam research.

  • 1970s: There is another surge in amalgam research, while Dr. Hal Huggins begins his very vocal campaign against dental amalgam. In 1985, he publishes the first edition of It’s All in Your Head: Diseases Caused by Silver-Mercury Fillings.

  • 1996: Consumers for Dental Choice is founded with the ultimate goal to “phase out the use of amalgam…worldwide.”

  • 1997: Sweden officially announces a ban on mercury amalgam, but it doesn’t pass EU administration until 2008. Norway bans amalgam in 2008, as well.

  • 2013: The Minamata Convention on Mercury treaty is signed.

  • 2016: A new EPA rule requires all dental offices that routinely handle amalgam to install separators to keep mercury out of the water supply. Although the rule is temporarily rolled back in early 2017, it is soon reinstated and takes effect come summer.

Learn more about the march toward mercury-free dentistry:
 

 
Yet for all the progress, we still have a long way to go. Find out how you can get involved in turning the promise of a mercury-free future into a reality.

Changing the Narrative of Food

Healthy eating starts with whole food, real food, including lots of fresh produce. When you picture how it’s grown, you may imagine wide open spaces, fields spanning acres and acres.

But it can just as well happen on a much smaller scale, in urban and suburban areas alike. Think front yard gardens, rooftop and courtyard gardens, or any underutilized space. Many communities have unused or struggling properties that can be repurposed for flourishing community gardens.

In this TED Talk, Pam Warhurst describes how she and a group of others made it happen in her community of Todmorden in northern England, launching an initiative they came to call “Incredible Edible”:

Such programs are cropping up all over the world, including here in Arlington, where we have things like the Community Garden of UT Arlington and the Harvesting Hope Community Garden.

Consider supporting one of these or another community garden project. Volunteer or donate or buy from harvests put up for sale. Or follow Warhurst’s lead and create your own concept for an edible neighborhood landscape and make it a reality.

Already doing so? Share your experiences in the comments!

More Reason to Kick the Sugar Habit (and More Tips on How to Do It)

dropped cupcakeEver notice that when you cave in to sugar cravings, you don’t end up feeling any better – and may, in fact, actually feel worse?

That feeling worse may not just be a short term effect. According to new research in Scientific Reports, depressive symptoms can be directly linked to the intake of sugary foods and drinks.

Food frequency questionnaires were reviewed from over 23,000 British subjects dating back to 1985 and compared with mood responses on validated questionnaires. Men who ate the most sugar were found to have a 23% higher chance of common mental disorder (CMD) after five years – a condition marked by insomnia, fatigue, irritability, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and somatic (physical) complaints.

Both men and women who ate the most sugar were found more likely to experience recurrent depression, as well.

The researchers also tried to find a reverse causation between mood disorder and sugar intake – in other words, whether mood also caused more sugar consumption. The answer to that was “no.”

“Our research,” they wrote, “confirms an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet food/beverage on long-term psychological health and suggests that lower intake of sugar may be associated with better psychological health.”

With a high prevalence of mood disorders, and sugar intake commonly two to three times the level recommended, our findings indicate that policies promoting the reduction of sugar intake could additionally support primary and secondary prevention of depression.

No, the study isn’t perfect. All data was self-reported and thus prone to bias. Sugar from alcohol wasn’t counted. But its results do jibe with the new understanding of the role chronic inflammation appears to play in depression.

Sugar is one of the main fuels for inflammation. Eating less of it is the first step in any anti-inflammatory diet: You quit adding fuel to the fire.

Here are 7 simple tips for cutting back on added sugars (and keep in mind, when we’re talking sugar, we’re talking about all kinds, including honey, agave nectar, and other “natural” alternatives):

  1. Try a squeeze of fresh lemon into your iced tea instead of a sweetener.

  2. If you eat oatmeal or other grains in the morning, top them with fresh sliced whole fruit instead of pouring sugar on them.

  3. Clean your cupboards to simply remove temptation.

  4. Include more healthy fats such as avocado or coconut and olive oils to help satiety.

  5. Create a schedule with healthy snacks throughout the day to avoid those “hangry” moments that might lead you to binge on a sugary snack.

  6. Consider making your own “pudding” with whole fat coconut milk rather than buying something at the store packed with artificial ingredients and extra sugars. Here’s one way to do it, for example.

  7. Substitute things like bananas and applesauce in your baking. Here’s a simple cookie recipe using bananas, oats, Sunbutter, and raisins (optional).

Previously

Image by mumblyjoe