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).

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That Warrior Pose Could Be Good for Your Gums, Too!

Warrior 2 poseYoga is traditionally thought of as a way to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and reduce stress. Sure, it does all of that, but did you know that it’s linked to healthier teeth and gums, too?

One way is by improving blood flow. As a recent post at India’s Tribune noted,

The strength of our teeth is directly related to the strength of our bones. The organ responsible for stimulating the growth of bones is the pituitary gland. So any posture or asana like sirshasana [a headstand pose], which will stimulate more blood to this gland will increase the strength of bones and teeth.

Here are more poses that can help with circulation.

Then there’s yoga’s well-known ability to reduce stress. Chronic stress is one of the major risk factors for gum disease. It can also lead to bruxing – habitual clenching and grinding – which can cause gum recession and damage teeth.

But there’s another way in which stress can have a negative impact on your oral health. As a paper earlier this year in the International Journal of Dentistry Research noted, it can lead us to neglect our oral health.

People who are stressed are less likely to give their teeth and gums the proper oral care. Yoga is one of the most effective treatment[s] for stress. Yoga reduce[s] the stress, improve[s] the [oxidative] status of body, improve[s] the immune system, and reduces chronic gingival inflammation. Yoga also improve[s] the life style more towards the natural. All these effects help…in better maintenance of oral hygiene, and reduction in gingival inflammation and prevention of dental diseases.

Other benefits the authors note include maintaining a healthy balance of saliva, preventing autonomic dysregulation, and managing health overall.

Other research has shown yoga’s ability to reduce inflammation. For instance, a 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that regular yoga practice lowers levels of two key markers of inflammation, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6).

It also reduces the extent of increase of TNF-α and IL-6 to a physical challenge of moderate exercise and strenuous exercise. There is no significant gender difference in the TNF-α and IL-6 levels. Regular practice of yoga can protect the individual against inflammatory diseases by favourably altering pro-inflammatory cytokine levels.

Even yoga’s impact on posture can affect your oral-systemic health. As Yoganonymous notes,

Poor posture can affect just about every part of your body, including your mouth. When one’s posture is poor, it can cause the lower jaw to move forward. It can even affect the alignment of the teeth and result in a condition called TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder can result in dental problems, such as teeth grinding. It can also cause a person to have difficulty chewing and swallowing. Additionally, TMJ disorder can cause pain in the face and jaw.

Not to mention the head, neck, and shoulders. Yoga may help prevent TMJ problems from arising in the first place, but it can also be one way to find some relief from the pain (in addition to long-term dental solutions).

Partner yoga with practices like good home hygiene and mindful nutrition, and you only add to the whole-body approach to maintaining healthy teeth and gums.

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Treating Gum Disease May Lower Blood Sugar Levels

gum diseaseEarlier this week, folks observed World Diabetes Day in response to growing concerns about the global epidemic. A joint project of the International Diabetes Federation and World Health Organization, the annual campaign reaches a billion people in 160 countries around the world.

But despite casting such a wide net, half of all people with diabetes will stay undiagnosed. Considering that more than 370 million have the condition, that’s more than a few in the dark about their health. And those numbers are only expected to grow.

What you may not know is that the mouth suffers right along with the rest of the body when it comes to diabetes. As a 2012 study in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences puts it,

Diabetes is a systemic disease which is a serious oral co-morbidity. Most oral complications occur in uncontrolled diabetics, involving the periodontium, the calcified tissue, and the oral mucosa. Therefore, poor metabolic control, periodontal disease, dental caries, xerostomia (dry mouth), and fungal infections go hand in hand.

The good news? Treating your gum disease may actually lower your blood sugar levels and keep diabetes in check.

Another great video for getting to know more about the link between your mouth and diabetes is Dr. Evie Lalla’s “Unscrambling the Periodontitis-Diabetes Connection.” Though her talk is geared toward doctors, don’t let that scare you. It’s valuable information. It’s also likely to spark questions you can ask your dentist or doctor.

We see education as a vital component of good oral health. It provides a foundation of understanding – the first step toward action. Good oral practices can prevent or control inflammation, helping you return to your desired state of health.

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Dietary Balm for Gum Disease

toothy grin with gum diseaseYou do all the right dental things. You brush at least twice a day. You floss (even if some insist there’s “no scientific evidence”). You schedule your next hygiene appointment before you leave your last one. Still, you have gum disease.

So what base might you be missing? It could well be diet.

A recent pilot study suggests that switching to a low inflammation diet may help that gum disease finally heal.

The small study focused on 15 adults with gingivitis and an apparent appetite for carbs – a major contributor to chronic inflammatory conditions. Ten of them followed a low-carb, anti-inflammatory diet. They were also directed to increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin D, and antioxidants.

The remaining five served as the control group and kept on eating their typical high-carb diet. All participants were told to stop using floss or other interdental cleaners but otherwise keep up their usual oral hygiene habits. Each group followed their plan for six weeks.

After the four observational weeks, the experimental group showed significantly reduced gingival and periodontal inflammation compared with the group who did not change their diet. Specifically, reducing carbohydrates led to a significant improvement in gingival index, bleeding on probing, and periodontal inflamed surface area. In addition, increasing omega-3 fatty acids and fibers improved plaque index.

The improvements pose many questions for further studies to explore. First, since the periodontal health indicators occurred despite both groups showing no change in periodontal values, the authors question the actual role plaque plays in the development of gum disease.

Further research will likely be done to determine if one particular component of the anti-inflammatory diet was more significant than another. But one thing’s certain from this very limited study: Dietary pattern plays a significant role in the development of periodontal disease.

In the meantime, you don’t need to wait. You, friend, can be an experiment of one. Give the study’s protocol a try:

  1. Put the kibosh on carbs.
  2. Get on your omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. Welcome the vitamin C and vitamin D.
  4. Eat a rainbow of antioxidants.
  5. Fiber up!

And by all means, keep practicing your effective oral habits!

Image by Morgan

Your Mouth Is Trying to Tell You Something

woman biting moneyDid you know that paying attention to the signals your mouth is giving you can result in saving money on healthcare?

A 2014 analysis of insurance company data showed that treating gum disease can improve overall health and lessen complications with other medical conditions. Medical costs were as much as 74% lower for those who had their gum disease treated.

As material from Cigna puts it,

Every dollar spent on preventive dental care could save $8 to $50 in restorative and emergency treatments – and potentially more in additional types of medical treatment.

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Our nationally published study supports an association between treated gum disease and lower medical costs for individuals with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. When compared with patients undergoing initial treatment for gum disease, patients who were previously treated for gum disease and were receiving maintenance care had reduced medical costs.

Dental & Medical Integration

Routine dental care helps address minor problems before they become major. Program outcomes from studies show that the integration of good preventative dental care and visits with a primary care doctor positively impacts medical health for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. One report from Aetna found that an integrated approach

  • Lowered medical costs by an average of 17%.
  • Improved diabetes control by 45 percent.
  • Reduced the need for major and basic dental services by almost half.
  • Required 3.5% fewer hospital admissions.

Inflammatory Concerns

As a biological dental practice, we’re excited about the possibility of integrating dentistry and medicine. We see it as a promising change in healthcare. When it comes to your health, developing a rich exchange between physicians and dentists has always been the ideal. We know that what we see in your mouth is connected to your entire body’s system.

Oftentimes, your mouth will give the first signs of inflammation in the body. Gum disease, or a tooth abscess, will create inflammation because the body is responding to a bacterial assault, either localized or systemic.

When these acute issues go unchecked, inflammation can become chronic. Chronic inflammation is a potentially dangerous shift because it affects your body in a systemic way, contributing to or exacerbating heart disease, stroke and diabetes — three of the leading causes of death in the US.

Numerous studies have shown the same pathogenic bacteria found in clients diagnosed with gum disease have been found in the blood clots of patients who have suffered a heart attack. This correlation suggests that these oral pathogens can contribute to heart disease and stroke.

Type 2 diabetes is another inflammatory disease that is closely linked to mouth health. One study of nearly 3000 patients found that 93% of those with periodontal disease are at a heightened risk of diabetes. According to the study’s author, Dr. Shiela Strauss of NYU,

In light of these findings, the dental visit could be a useful opportunity to conduct an initial diabetes screening, an important step in identifying those patients who need follow-up testing to diagnose the disease.

Dentists are the only doctors who can diagnose – and treat – gum disease. But for best results, YOU take an ACTIVE role. Prevention is not only a choice; it’s also a vital component of reaching personal health goals — especially if they include saving money and staying out of the hospital.

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