4 Books on the Mouth-Body Connection that Just Might Change Your Life

Woman reading bookMany who seek our services have immune system challenges. They’re looking for the most biocompatible materials and the least invasive approach to dentistry they can find. Others have nagging symptoms they – and their health care providers – have been unable to identify.

As a biological dental office, we believe the best solutions to nagging health issues require a comprehensive look at the whole person, not just the mouth. We recognize that medical doctors are trained to focus their attention on the body, minus the mouth. Yet current scientific research indicates the mouth can be a focal point for health issues.

This means, the more familiar you are with the mouth’s connection to your body, the more you can help yourself.

One way you can do so is through reading. So we offer up this short list of new books to help you navigate both the medical and the dental realms and bring them together into a cohesive whole.

Mirror of the Body: Your Mouth Reflects the Health of Your Whole Body by Dr. James Rota
If you’re concerned about the materials in your mouth, you’ll want to read this book for sure.

Though Dr. Rota had an inkling of mercury amalgam dangers when protestors first handed him a brochure on mercury’s toxicity, it wasn’t until faced with his own health crisis that he dug beneath the surface of this commonly placed material.

His book not only describes his own journey but looks at the politics behind dental associations and their assurances of safety to the public despite a lack of scientific evidence. It will encourage you to have more than a voice in your health care; it will encourage you to listen to your body.

Six-Foot Tiger, Three-Foot Cage: Take Charge of Your Health by Taking Charge of Your Mouth by Felix Liao, DDS
Using case studies from his patients, Dr. Liao showcases how the mouth and body relate. In doing so, he allows us to see how body symptoms can refer back to mouth issues. From posture, neck and muscle pain, and headaches to numbness, fatigue, sleep disorders, dizziness, and more, your mouth may be the culprit.

This powerful book gives you the tools to

  • Understand the role your mouth plays in your overall health.
  • Recognize that an impaired mouth can lead to health conditions that often defy easy diagnosis.
  • Seek holistic or biological support.
  • Think of dental care as part of whole body care.

book jacketsThe Holistic Dental Matrix: How Your Teeth Control Your Health and Well-Being by Dr. Nicholas Meyer
If you’ve ever wanted to speak up to a health care provider but didn’t feel you knew enough to actually do so, this book will empower you. By book’s end, you’ll realize that no one can know your body like you do. Sure, doctors and dentists have specific training, but many fall back on methods that are, at best, one-size-fits-all – despite the fact that each of us is unique, from what we eat to how we think, the exposures we face daily, the stress we encounter, the foreign materials placed in our bodies, and more.

Not only does Dr. Meyer address the systemic effects of dental materials such as mercury and fluoride, he delves into some of the most challenging dental situations and how they can impact overall health.

The visual resources here – including meridian charts, diagrams, photos, and resource pages – promote a deeper understanding of the material. This particular book will help you go to your next dental office equipped to be your own best advocate.

Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America by Mary Otto

Medical journalist Mary Otto is the only author in our selection who is not a dentist. But her investigative experience provides a well-rounded approach to oral health as it relates to overall health.

From a biological perspective, what we find particularly interesting about this book is how Otto illuminates the distinctly negative effect that the separation of dentistry from general medical care has had. Like those of us who work from a holistic or biological perspective, she notes the devastating and wide-reaching effects of this segregation. But her perspective goes far beyond the individual desire for well-being, extending to the role dentistry plays in societal health, as well. Otto’s book encourages you to look beyond your own well-being to see the bigger picture.

Image by Paul Bence

At Risk for Prediabetes or Diabetes?

pricked finger

Not sure if you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) wants to help you with its “Alert Day,” slated for March 28.

The ADA has a free, quick, and anonymous risk test available you can use to find if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. If you are, their site can help you learn how to decrease your risk. Certainly there are many outlets, that offer good information, tips to help you maintain a healthy weight, make better food choices, incorporate exercise and ways to maintain motivation. To reclaim and maintain your health you’ll need to identify what works best for you. Could be a supportive friend who will take a daily walk with you or a one day a week dinner party with friends interested in healthy cooking–let it be unique to you.

Whether you take a holistic approach or a more traditional one, we believe Alert Day serves a critical function in bringing a much needed awareness to the diabetes epidemic. The CDC estimates that 29 million Americans have diabetes yet only 21 million have been diagnosed. That means that 8.1 million remain undiagnosed.

If you’re concerned that one of them could be you

  1. Schedule a dental exam and hygiene visit.
    The latest science indicates that dentists can play a vital role in diagnosing diabetes. If you have gum disease, science now indicates it could mean you already have diabetes or that it’s immanent.

  2. See another health care provider.
    A health care provider can evaluate and monitor your level of risk. They can also support you in developing a lifestyle that may improve your disease profile. This is critical because diabetes is a disease of chronic inflammation. As such, it affects the entire body. Systematically, it has been linked other diseases of chronic inflammation, such as

    • Cardiovascular disease.
    • Obesity.
    • Stroke.
    • Some cancers.
    • Periodontal disease.
  3. Do your research and make necessary changes.
    There is good information out there. Through the years, we’ve put together our own library on health and wellness. Much of it is geared toward eating better, exercising more, and improving diseases of chronic inflammation. Since the health of your mouth is vital to your overall health, we’ve made it easy to search our blog by topic anytime. Here’s a sampling of entries that can help you learn more about the systematic nature of diabetes. Check them out, because whether it’s  March 28th’s Alert Day, or any other day, we think it makes for some pretty good reading:

    Image by Alisha Vargas

Fluoride in Your Tea

5001227590_1a883e0927_zThough we’ve blogged before on the benefits of green tea for healthy gums and its ability to relieve oral pain, we’ve not looked at the relationship between tea – green or otherwise – and fluoride

A recent entry on the Nourished Kitchen blog, a traditional foods blog, posed the question: Should you be worried about fluoride in your kombucha? If you have never even thought to ask the question, you’re not alone. Most of us don’t know where to look for fluoride.

In answering the question, the blog’s creator Jenny McGruther cites the Big Book of Kombucha:

Kombucha is made from weak tea, rather than strong, so there will be less fluoride in kombucha than a strong tea of the same volume.

On the surface, this answer might seem plausible. But it’s an incomplete answer. The reality is, since we don’t often consider what foods and beverages may contain fluoride; since many of us live with fluoridated municipal water supplies; since many of us use products like toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride, we have no real way of knowing what our daily intake is.

The truth is, ingesting a known toxin daily at unknown levels can be problematic.

Though McGruther says she doesn’t “worry about relatively small amounts of fluoride in the modest amounts of kombucha my family drinks,” this might err on the side of simplicity.

If you’re wondering about fluoride in tea products, one of the best sources for scientifically based information is the Fluoride Action Network.

Five informative links to assist  your decision making:

  1. How fluoride ends up in a tea plant?
  1. Which tea contains high levels of fluoride?
  1. What kind of health issues a heavy tea drinker might expect?
  1. How much fluoride is in newer tea commodities, such as: packed teas, bottled tea, canned tea, and instant tea powders?
  1. How to minimize your exposure to fluoride in tea, and other products?

That said, it’s important to remember that drinking tea does have many benefits, some which may offset potential fluoride exposure. A well-researched approach can provide information that allows for balanced decision making.

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Can Fitness Trackers Help You Reach Your Health Goals?

fitness trackerYou’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. Sit all day, and you’re at an increased risk of breast and colon cancer, have the highest rate of heart attacks, and have a higher risk of stroke, diabetes, bone loss, loss of muscle mass, and weight gain.

And because diseases of inflammation know no boundaries, they have a direct effect on your oral health, as well.

So maybe you’ve already gone out and bought yourself a fitness tracker to monitor your daily activity. Counting steps is a great way to tally the movement in your daily life. But if you were hoping to see that boost in activity translated to, say, a lower number on your bathroom scale, you might be disappointed.

According to a new study in JAMA, fitness trackers appear to miss the mark when it comes to helping you lose weight.

The study involved 471 participants divided into two groups. One calculated their activity manually. The other wore trackers that did the calculation automatically. After 24 months, those who wore the trackers lost less weight than the others – 7.7 pounds vs. 13 pounds.

Lest that seem discouraging, bear in mind that both groups still lost weight. More, the benefits of movement run much deeper than simple weight loss.

Activity trackers are now worn by one out of every six people, many who have experienced extraordinary weight loss and many who experienced other health benefits from moving more. Still, this JAMA study does bring up questions about why the group tracking manually was more successful than those with electronic trackers.

  • Are we are less engaged in actual change when it’s monitored passively?
  • Does seeing an increase in activity justify eating more?
  • Do we expect to see weight loss results from activity alone, without incorporating dietary or behavioral changes?

These questions and more are likely to be addressed in future research. Fitbits alone are currently enrolled in over 200 ongoing studies. But until the definitive answer is in, whether you wear a fitness tracking device or not, it’s largely about taking things into your own hands.

As Eric Chemi pointed out after wearing 10 activity trackers at one time and getting 10 different results, if you’re going to wear a tracking device, it’s probably best to pick one and use it for relative gains toward your health goals. But you don’t have to wear one to meet with success. Reaching the finish line, after all, starts with taking that first step – with movement.

Image by Israel.

Sugar Lies: The Bitter Truth

sugarBy now you know, you’ve been duped.

Recent news has revealed how the sugar industry paid off Harvard scientists to steer evidence away from sugar as a culprit in heart disease. Payola, not actual science, persuaded scientists to indict fat.

The falsified research helped shape 50 years of dietary recommendations.

The disclosure of this deception seems the perfect time to re-examine the work of Dr. Robert Lustig, a UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. Following in the footsteps of British physiologist and nutritionist John Yudkin, Lustig was well ahead of the curve in pointing out the true dietary villain – sugar.

Seven years ago, Dr. Lustig’s presentation “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” walked on what then seemed the edge of accepted scientific knowledge. Today, as we learn more about the sugar industry’s tactics, this talk seems more relevant than ever.
 


 
Image by Adam Engelhart

Building Trust in the Mind-Body Connection

senior woman sitting Our body talks to us. Got a sore back and a stiff neck? Could be your body’s way of saying, “Don’t sit hunched over the computer so long.” That stomach acid coming up your esophagus at night? Your body saying, “Hello, how many times must I tell you not to lay down right after you eat?” And more troubling, unexplainable fatigue and a gnawing feeling about it.

But it doesn’t end there.

A recent study shows our active listening to the body’s conversation goes into our psyche where it gets turned into feelings about our health. And researchers have determined that those feelings may have greater implications for our health outcomes – including mortality – than even medical tests do.

Recycling data collected a decade ago from 1500 participants gathered for a study on the relationship between stress and health, researchers evaluated their blood tests for active oral herpesvirus and matched the results to a self-assessment questionnaire.

Oral herpesvirus was selected because most people are exposed to at least one species of these viruses in early life. Herpesvirus is also a marker of decreased cellular immunity and one that advances inflammation in the body.

To be clear, having a herpesvirus “doesn’t mean you’re sick,” explained one of the study authors in a press release.

It’s probably been dormant in your cells for most of your life. But because it reactivates at a cellular level and prompts the immune system to fight it, it becomes a great marker of how the system is working.

And what did the researchers find?

That poor self-rated health was associated with more reactivation of these latent herpesviruses, which was associated with higher inflammation, and we know those two things are associated with morbidity and mortality, as well as some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

This study is a powerful reminder of the mind-body connection, which is just as important to dental care as medical care. It underscores the importance of our listening deeply to what patients say when sharing their symptoms.

While clinical tests can measure physical, physiological or biochemical data, they can’t speak much to what the patient is experiencing.

Tests don’t pick up subtle markers of disease – symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, degree of discomfort, and how often symptoms appear. For that information, direct input from the patient is required.

Too often patients share with us how they’ve seen multiple dentists who looked at them like they’re crazy when they told them they started getting sick after mercury was placed. They consulted doctors, answered questions, took various tests. “Nothing” was found.

When doctors and dentists can’t explain it, patients may leave those offices feeling it’s all in their head. But for all of you have ever felt that way – or feel it now – you you aren’t crazy.

You were right. You had feelings of disease. We encourage you to trust that. And to keep trusting that.

And seek care from a biological dentist or integrative physician who understands that; who has the right knowledge and technology to evaluate potential causes of your problems; who will work with you to map a path towards healing.

Image by Jason Parks

A Look Back at…10 Tips for Eating Organic on a Budget

A recent article over at Vox goes into “the shifting economics of organic food.” But while some organic food is getting cheaper, the fact remains that it can be pricey. But as we point out in this post from October 2013, buying organic doesn’t have to break the bank…

 

You often hear complaints about how expensive organic food is. And if you rely on lots of processed food products or measure value only by calories-per-dollar, then foods grown with chemicals or bioengineered or manufactured in factories might seem the best deal.

But in terms of human and environmental health, they’re only a bargain in the short run. As they say, you can

pay

Why are organic foods priced higher than conventionally grown? Rest assured, the pricing’s not arbitrary. The fees organic farmers pay for certification are hefty and frequently go up. Operations are small, and special facilities are often needed. Organic is more time-consuming and not focused on the subsidized commodity crops at the heart of the modern, conventional food supply. (You can read more reasons for the cost differences here.)

Still, it’s entirely possible to eat organically even on a tight budget. Here are 10 ideas for keeping your food bill low without compromising your health:

  1. Plant a garden! Probably the cheapest way to have organic food is to grow your own. Mother Earth News has a great guide on growing organic food by crop. And if you rent or don’t have the space to garden, there are community gardens that offer space across the country.
  2. If you do grow a garden, consider using heritage seeds – seeds collected from harvested foods and saved for the next growing season. Doing so maintains trusted plant varieties and encourages diversity in our gardens.
  3. Prioritize and buy organics selectively. The Environmental Working Group provides a handy list of what it calls the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 – respectively, foods to buy only in organic form due to their tendency to retain pesticide residues and foods that are acceptable whether conventionally or organically grown.
  4. Buy whole foods – unprocessed grains, vegetables, fruits and meats. Whole foods have the most nutrition and give you more bang for your buck.
  5. Buy food in season. Seasonal food is usually cheaper and always better than off-season. There is greater nutrition per dollar than in the same product during the off-season.
  6. Stock up when there’s a sale. If the food is perishable, consider canning or freezing it for later use.
  7. Buy in bulk – not Sam’s Club bulk but things like grains, dried beans, seeds and nuts. Because you’re not paying for fancy labeling, packaging or marketing, you save money. And you also reduce your environmental footprint by using less disposable packaging. Many natural food stores allow you to bring in pre-weighed containers for shopping their bulk aisles, and they may even offer a discount at the register for bringing your own.
  8. Buy local. Support your local economy, help save the environment and get better and cheaper food by doing business with your friendly, neighborhood farmer. If the produce at the farmer’s market food isn’t marked as certified organic, it still may be organic, so don’t be afraid to ask! Remember that cost of certification is prohibitive, so some farmers may forgo certification. If these reasons don’t convince you, here are 10 more reasons to enjoy shopping locally.
  9. Sign up with a CSA, or community supported agriculture. You get local, seasonal food delivered to you or you can pick it up each month. This may not be significantly cheaper per product, but the vegetables are much fresher than you’ll find in a grocery store, which makes the actual nutrition far cheaper.
  10. Shop online. Is there an organic product you like, such as a sunflower seed butter? Try comparison shopping at your computer to see if you can get cheaper through the mail.

The important thing here is to eat food that is good for you and that you enjoy. You shouldn’t have to be wealthy in order to enjoy good, wholesome food.

Have tips of your own for eating healthfully on a budget? Share them in the comments!

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Then/Now: Mercury Amalgam Fillings & Human Health

In 1990, Morley Safer framed a 60 Minutes episode around one simple question: “Is There a Poison in Your Mouth?”

He was referring, of course, to those little “silver” fillings that many people, especially in 1990, didn’t know contain at least 50% mercury. This classic exploration of the mercury in our mouths acknowledged some facts that even today are news to a lot of folks:

  • Mercury is toxic. Really, really TOXIC.
  • Even when mercury is amalgamated – combined with other metals – low levels of mercury vapor are constantly emitted from “silver” amalgam fillings.
  • There’s no scientific evidence supporting the ADA claims that mercury or its vapors are “not going to cause a problem.”
  • FDA oversight on mercury amalgam does not include scientific oversight.
  • Patients have a right to know about the risks of mercury fillings.
  • The ADA issued gag orders and threats of prosecution for “unethical behavior” for any dentists who spoke out against mercury.

 

 
As controversial as this all was back in 1990, it did little to change dentistry. In 2015, journalists were still asking the same question: “Are the Fillings in Your Mouth Toxic?”

To this day, the ADA has the same basic spiel about mercury amalgam:

Dental amalgam is considered a safe, affordable, and durable material that has been used to restore the teeth of more than 100 million Americans.

You might notice the ADA never points toward any science that proves their claim of safety. Instead rather, they imply safety exists in numbers. They invoke the 160+ years that amalgam has been in use. It’s an appeal to tradition – and a logical fallacy (“argumentum ad antiquitatem,” if you want to get fancy and Latin about it).

Still, there’s a glimmer of light on the horizon: The Minamata Convention on Mercury. This treaty is meant to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. It includes steps for a “phase down” of dental mercury.

To date, mercury amalgam placement has been banned in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and largely in Japan. In addition, the European Environmental Bureau asked European Union member state representatives to support a phase out. Though the US has signed the treaty, the government has yet to take any action.

Still, it offers some hope that someday, dentistry – and other industries – will finally be mercury-free, and our planet a better place for it.

Just What Is Biological Dentistry Anyway?

In Sickness and in Health: Field Guide to the Invisible Wildness Within (Or, Everything You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know About The Microbiome)

E. coliLet’s face it, when we think of microorganisms – if we think of them at all – we tend to think of them as the “bad guys” that need to be eliminated. With good reason, too: Less than 100 years ago, many types of infections were severely debilitating, if not a death sentence.

This changed when the first antibiotic, penicillin, was introduced in the the 1940s. With antibiotics, many microbial diseases became easily treatable.

Meantime, industry picked up the “bad bugs” concept and ran with it. Look in any American grocery or drug store, and you’ll find shelves stacked with antibacterial everything. From hand and dish soaps to sanitizers to cleaning products, everything seems to promise to eliminate bacteria and viral germs.

And we buy, thinking a sterilized home base is a key factor in keeping us healthy.

Yet in 2008, the National Institute of Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project (HMP) staged a coup of sorts. Instead of going down the same rabbit hole, investigating how microbes relate to disease, the HMP began looking at how microbes maintain a state of health in our bodies.

You Are Far Less Human Than You Think

It turns out each of us carries about two pounds of microbes, attached to various parts of our body, mostly in our gut. This is more than just dead weight we each lug around. Our microbiome, science suggests, is better thought of as a vital body organ, essential for understanding health – and for healing what ails us.


 

Human Microbiome Essentials

To help you learn more about the microbiome and its role in our well-being, here are 7 of our favorite longreads on what the science has shown us thus far:

  1. Me, Myself, Us (The Economist) gives a good glimpse of our body’s innate ecosystem. Like any ecosystem, balance is key, and if disrupted, consequences will occur.
  2. Meet Your Microbiome (American Museum of Natural History) will surprise you with evidence from Dr. Martin Blaser’s research on just how much of our body is comprised of microorganisms. Blaser is Director of the Human Microbiome Program, NYU Langone Medical Center.
  3. How the Western Diet Has Derailed Our Evolution (Nautilus) emphasizes how Americans and those who have Westernized their diets suffer most from what is called “Extinctions Spasm Within.” The key factors related specifically to a Westernized lifestyle include the use of antibiotics, sanitation that limits beneficial microbes, separation from nature/the natural world, and the failure to nourish key microbes with fibrous foods.
  4. What Your Microbiome Wants for Dinner (Nautilus) expands on the microbiome concepts and explores food choices in the context of creating a healthy microbiome, driving home the point that what we eat, feeds our microbiome.
  5. How Your Microbiome Controls Your Health (Mercola) provides a nice graphic that illustrates the factors that work against our microbial friends. It also offers suggestions on how to repopulate microbial parties.
  6. Germs Are Us (New Yorker) poses the question: Where do human genetics fit into all this? Science has long thought of our genetic makeup as our biological destiny. Certainly our own genes influence our health. But there is mounting evidence that our health is affected more powerfully by the bacteria we harbor than by genetic inheritance.
  7. Last, in Some of My Best Friends Are Germs (NY Times Magazine), Michael Pollan gives up intimate pieces of himself, literally, to further science. On this quest, we follow his oral, skin, and stool samples to the Human Food Project’s American Gut study at the University of Colorado Boulder. This up close and personal look at the bacteria that call Pollan’s body home is intriguing.

Want to participate in the American Gut study yourself? Learn more about how you can learn more about your gut – and contribute to science – here. Any data collected will be included as part of the Earth Microbiome Project, “a systematic attempt to characterize the global microbioal taxonomic and functional diversity for the benefit of the planet and mankind.”

Who knows? If enough people take part in pioneering projects like American Gut, we might not just develop a field guide for the wild invisible frontier. We might actually curate a garden of health in uncharted territory.