In today’s discussion, we are going to dive into what foods undermine our ability to navigate to greater oral health.
More importantly, by the end of today’s discussion, you’ll understand WHY these foods directly undermine our ability to create positive change in our oral health.
Understanding the real cause of tooth decay…
We have found that it’s one thing if someone has a list of foods to eat and not to eat. But when we really understand why a food causes problems, we’re much more able to take ownership of that information and apply it in our lives to create positive change.
To start today, let’s learn from the work of Drs. Edward and May Mellanby. The Mellanby’s were doctors in the UK in the 1930s and 40s. Dr. Mellanby is credited with the discovery of vitamin D, which you know from our article, “What foods support our oral health?” is an important component to health.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the development and repair of healthy bone tissue including teeth.
Do you remember in our article that details the primary cause of tooth decay how we discussed the role of blood phosphorus in maintaining the healthy flow of dentinal fluid through the teeth?
This is really crucial in today’s discussion of what not to eat because these foods we’ll cover today directly disrupt the balance of phosphorus in the blood. If you haven’t read these two articles, we encourage you to consider reading these articles from the beginning as the material really does build upon one another. Here’s a link to article one in this series, why teeth decay (and how we can stop it). Here’s a link to article two, what TO eat to navigate to greater oral health.
So, the Mellanby’s discovered vitamin D and made the connection between vitamin D deficiency and the disruption of the body in maintaining healthy bone tissue. They also were very interested in the role of phytic acid found in foods. Here’s a quote from Dr. Mellanby’s book to explain what phytic acid is.
“Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and seeds. It contains the mineral phosphorus tightly bound in a snowflake-like molecule. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus is not readily bioavailable. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the ‘arms’ of phytic acid bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable as well. In this form, the compound is referred to as a phytate.”
So, what foods are high in phytic acid?
It turns out that we really want to watch the amount of grains, seeds, nuts and legumes we consume as eating a diet heavy in these foods that contain high phytic acid content will directly undermine our efforts to create greater oral health.
Eating lots of grains will function as an ‘anti-nutrient’ in the body by lowering our blood phosphorus levels AND blocking our body’s ability to absorb the other necessary minerals in our diet.
To test their theory, the Mellanby’s conducted a study with children with existing cavities.
They wanted to see if they could reverse the existing decay applying the information they had gathered around the importance of vitamin D and eating foods high in phytic acid.
So they organized 62 children up to age 6 into 3 groups and ran the study over the course of 6 months.
In group 1, they had the children eat a regular diet plus oatmeal (which is high in phytic acid).
The group 2 children ate a regular diet plus supplemented vitamin D
And group 3, the children ate a diet very low in phytic acid containing foods plus supplemented vitamin D. Interestingly, this third group didn’t eat a perfect diet in our eyes.
Here’s another quote from Dr. Mellanby on the diet of this third group of children.
“Although [the group 3 diet] contained no bread, porridge or other cereals, it included a moderate amount of carbohydrates, for plenty of milk, jam, sugar, potatoes and vegetables were eaten by this group of children.”
They tested the children before and after the 6 month period checking for both existing cavities that got worse, new cavities formed and existing cavities that had hardened, showing signs of healing the cavity.
The results speak for themselves.
Group 1: The children who ate a regular diet with added oatmeal to ‘enrich’ their diets with more phytic acid and did not supplement vitamin D had 20 new cavities for every 1 cavity that was hardening! 🙁 (So much for thinking that oatmeal is a good breakfast option! )
Group 2, the children who ate a regular diet with no added phytic acid and supplemented vitamin D, for every 1 new cavity had 4 existing cavities that were hardening!
Group 3, the kids who ate a low phytic acid diet plus supplemented vitamin D saw the highest improvement. They experienced for every 1 new cavity, 15 existing cavities healing.
Let’s recap the results of this study. All the kids had existing cavities at the beginning. And in 6 months time, the ones who ate a less than ideal diet (group 1) had lots more and the ones who ate a diet low in phytic acid plus vitamin D (group 3) had much fewer cavities!
This is actually really good news because simply by having our vitamin D levels tested and bringing them to an optimal level, we can really make great strides in navigating not only to greater oral health but whole system health as well! If we simply add plenty of quality butter to a decent diet and supplemental vitamin D, we definitely provide our bodies more of the nutrition necessary to create positive change in our oral health!
So, with this piece of the puzzle in place, let’s turn our attention to the other damaging food that our culture consumes in staggering amounts. Yeah, you already know it… Sugar.
We could write a series of articles on the damaging effects of consuming sugar and perhaps one day we will. For now, let’s focus on how eating sugar impacts our oral health. To do this, we’ll go back to the work of Dr Ralph Steinman and his incredible work with dentinal fluid flow.
In a series of tests, Dr. Steinman conducted, he wanted to determine if sugar was the cause of decay because of the sugar in the mouth causing fermentation of sugars resulting in acids which eat enamel or was some other mechanism involved. Incidentally, that’s pretty much the conventional understanding of the cause of decay these days, sugars from foods sitting on the teeth that ferment and cause a proliferation of bad bugs which cause decay.
We will see that although this theory does play a role which is why it’s still wise to brush your teeth, Dr. Steinman proved that other factors are involved with decay. Here’s what he did.
He fed rats a sugar-rich diet directly into their stomachs to bypass their mouths having contact with the sugars. They developed decay at the same rate as rats who were fed the same sugar-rich diet through the mouth. How is that possible? Well, what Dr. Steinman found is that sugar directly suppresses blood phosphorus levels.
Sugar directly disrupts blood phosphorus levels…
Do you remember the blood chemistry teeter totter with phosphorus on one side and calcium, glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride on the other? Well, if glucose, that’s sugar, goes up in the blood, that’s going to directly drive down phosphorus in the blood. Consistent low blood phosphorus results in a reverse of dentinal fluid flow which promotes tooth decay!
So, before we wrap up today’s session, let’s pick some gems out that you can apply in your life today.
First, if you are going to eat something sweet, eat it with quality healthy fats like coconut oil or our favorite, pastured butter, to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. By slowing the absorption of sugar into the system, the impact on phosphorus in the blood is less dramatic.
Second, Dr. Steinman’s work also showed us that the absolute worst way to eat sweet foods is how so many people do every day. … Grazing on little amounts of sweet foods through the day particularly between meals. For example, sipping sodas, sweetened coffee or tea drinks, anything that is sugary that you essentially drip into your system day in and day out. In this way, the body’s blood sugar is constantly higher than is ideal and therefore the blood phosphorus level is never above that critical threshold to allow for a healthy flow of fluid through the teeth.
Incidentally, what I find very helpful when I feel the need to wrestle my own sugar demon into submission is to strictly limit any consumption of sweet foods to one day per week. In this way, you give your body 6 days to function in a healthier way giving it the opportunity to stay on top of any oral health issues that it’s currently dealing with. An added benefit to this 1 day of sweet foods is it gives our taste buds the chance to recalibrate to what sweet tastes like so we don’t crave it as much.
I recall one time many years ago when Susan and I chose to ‘push the reset button’ on our sugar consumption and completely eliminated all sugars from our diets for 3 weeks (all fruits too). When we completed this sugar fast, eating a whole apple was just too much sweet for one sitting! When you can’t finish an apple for a snack, that’s when you know your taste buds have ‘recalibrated’ to a lower, healthier sugar threshold.
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources on how to go about making these changes in your diet if you want to change. Here’s a link to a resource page which will give you lots and lots of blog sites, books and videos to watch to continue your education on these subjects.
By all means, if you have any questions or comments, please post them below as we love to hear how you benefit from the information we share.
To gain a complete understanding how to stop tooth decay and reverse cavities, feel free to download our FREE resource guide, “How to Remineralize Your Teeth”.
Until next time, thank you and Aloha!