This article is part 2 of a 3 part series exploring the fundamental role that diet and nutrition play in our ability to create optimal oral health. In the first article in the series, we explored how our diets have a foundational impact on whether our teeth are prone to decay or able to resist decay, and particularly how the system called dentinal fluid transport is primarily responsible for determining whether our teeth are decay resistant or prone to decay. In this article, we will focus on what foods support proper dentinal fluid flow, therefore those contributing to greater oral health and more importantly why.
If you haven’t read the first article on dentinal fluid flow, we strongly encourage you to read part 1 of the series before jumping into today’s article. You see, the information from the first article really sets the stage to best understand today’s discussion.
Riding on the shoulders of giants…
Any discussion on the impact of nutrition on oral health must include the landmark work of Dr. Weston A. Price.
Many of you may know this story so for those of you not familiar with the work of Dr. Price, he was a dentist in the 1930s in the US who decided to travel the world to study people living in isolated areas who were still eating their traditional foods. In other words, they weren’t living on the ‘foods of commerce’ as Dr. Price referred to them.
His hope was to identify what was causing the rampant decline in oral health he was seeing in his dental practice back in the United States. Dr. Price traveled the globe to remote locations in Africa, the Pacific islands, South America, what is now Alaska, rural Switzerland, Australia, and Ireland studying the diets of the isolated villages he visited and their relative level of oral health.
What he found across the board was that people living their traditional ways had a very low rate of tooth decay and were generally very healthy. In fact, in one village he studied where the residents allowed Dr. Price to study the skulls of the dead from that village, Dr. Price found one cavity in 100 skulls! Not 1 cavity in 100 teeth, 100 skulls! That’s one cavity in 3200 teeth!
Despite very different diets across the world, Dr. Price did find common threads through the traditional foods the various cultures ate around the world. One of the common threads he found was that the traditional peoples consumed 4 times the minerals as Americans in the 1930s and 10 times the fat soluble vitamins! Mind you, this was well before the low-fat propaganda blitz hit the US.
It’s all about bio-available minerals and fat-soluble vitamins…
Given this information, it does make sense that we dearly require more minerals in our diets and WAY more healthy fats than most people in our culture consume regularly.
We are very grateful for the rise of the ‘real food’ movement, the concept of nutrient dense cooking, and the awesome work that so many great researchers, authors, and bloggers are doing to help spread the word about the benefits of eating real foods such as our ancestors did.
Here’s the rub about minerals…
There are several challenges we face when it comes to getting sufficient minerals in our diets. As you’ll see in the next article in the series, certain foods inhibit our ability to uptake minerals. These foods act as ‘anti-nutrients’ and bind certain minerals in the foods we eat thus making them unavailable for our bodies to utilize. More on this in the next article…
Another challenge we face when pondering how to obtain sufficient minerals in our diets is how our food has been grown for the past 80 years. When our global culture took the ‘better living through chemistry’ pill, industrialized farming began dumping lots and lots of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) into the soil because soil scientists inaccurately determined that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium were the only elements necessary to grow healthy plants and agricultural products. The following decades of high demand farming with NPK have resulted in a soil that is very depleted of all the other minerals necessary to live a vital healthy life. Many of these minerals are required to ‘turn on’ specific enzymes in the body. Trace minerals are the ‘spark’ that provides the necessary parts for the body to produce all the enzymes our bodies make every day. If, however, we are depleted of chromium, for example, our bodies simply will not be able to produce the enzymes where chromium is required.
A great book on this subject documents the travels of another pioneer like Dr. Weston A Price. Maynard Murray studied the role of trace minerals and their function in providing the body all the ‘parts’ necessary to live a vital life. Among other things, Dr. Murray was successful in reversing cancer in many species by providing the minerals necessary in their diet. His work is beautifully documented in the book from Chuck Walters, editor of Acres USA (another awesome read!), and the title is Fertility from the Ocean Deep.
The third challenge with getting sufficient minerals in our diets is due to not having a healthy gut colony. As we understand it, the ‘good bugs’ in our intestines actually predigest the foods we eat thus making the nutrition more available for us to uptake. Without healthy gut colonization, eating the most nutritious diet would still fall short. We think the expression ‘we are what we eat’ isn’t quite accurate. We find that ‘we are what we assimilate from what we eat’ is a more accurate statement. In other words, if we eat lots of quality foods but have less than optimal digestion and absorption, then we’re still going to fall short of our nutritional needs.
OraWellness diet rule #1: Eat more quality fats 🙂
Let’s move on to how all of us need more fat soluble vitamins and activators. The vitamins we are referring to here are vitamins A, D, E and K, particularly K2. While giving this subject the attention it deserves is beyond the scope of this article, we’d like to share one example relating to oral health of how these vitamins are crucial and work together synergistically.
Vitamins A and D together stimulate cells in our bones to produce osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is used by the body to build new bone tissue or reinforce bone tissue that needs support (including teeth that are demineralizing).
However, osteocalcin needs to be activated (a term that Dr. Price recognized and identified as activator X in his research for lack of a better term). Vitamin K2 is what activates osteocalcin and makes it ready to plug into existing bone tissue.
In other words, without sufficient vitamin K2 in the diet, you can supplement all the vitamin A and D you want and it won’t have nearly the same impact as if you have the synergistic benefit of A, D and K2 together. (Incidentally, if you would like to read a very thorough article on this subject, here’s a link to a great article by Chris Masterjohn over at the Weston A Price Foundation site.)
So, the real question is where can we get these vitamins together in a highly available form, which from our perspective is in their whole food form? Well, it turns out that Dr. Price again identified that the combination of cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil were a fabulous combination to supplement to provide our bodies with lots of these fat-soluble vitamins to bring about positive change in our oral health.
Before we get into what other foods are high in fat-soluble vitamins and available minerals, let’s reflect on one other comparison that Dr. Price found. He compared people living in their traditional ways with other people from the same villages who had moved into the towns nearby that ate processed, convenient, foods of commerce.
He found an average % of decay in the people who ate their traditional foods was right around 2% of all teeth he studied. In contrast, the % decay in the same peoples living on modern diets averaged over 30% with a high of over 70% among Australian aborigines living on modern diets!
There’s no way around it, diet plays an integral, foundational part to any path to optimal oral health. If you stop and think about it, this really makes sense. Unless our bodies have the building blocks, the parts necessary to thrive, they will do the best they can with substandard ingredients, which will result in substandard health.
Unless our bodies have the building blocks, the parts necessary to thrive, they will do the best they can with substandard ingredients, which will result in substandard health.
So, what foods provide us lots of nutrition in the form of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins? Well, many of them happen to be out of favor of what our modern society says is ‘healthy’ and ‘delicious’ . Foods like eggs from animals raised on pasture, cream and butter from animals raised on pasture, organ meats from animals raised on pasture, even some cheeses are high in some of these fat-soluble activators.
Do you hear the common thread here? The quality of the food products we eat is of paramount importance when it comes to the nutrition that these foods contain. Animals must live on pasture and have access to lots of sunlight in order for them to get the nutrition they need which will be passed to us in the products we eat.
For example, we mentioned the importance of vitamin K2 to activate and make available the vitamin A and D for bone production. Well, animals create K2 from vitamin K1 that they get from eating green grass. In fact, the amount of K2 in animal products drops significantly when the animal is off green grass. The lesson here is to source the quality of animal products well. Organic is always wise too. You see, healthy animals living on their natural foods accumulate the minerals from the food they eat and concentrate them into very available forms when we consume their products.
I understand how it would be great if we could live healthy, vital lives without having to consume animal products, but from our studies of history and nutrition, we are gratefully and hopelessly dependent on animals to optimize our nutritional needs.
Let’s quickly offer a list of foods that we consider to be some of the highest nutritional components of a healthy diet.
One important source is quality products from healthy animals living in their natural environments. This includes eggs from pastured chickens or ducks, fish eggs, the organ meats of cattle and other grazing animals, chickens and fish as well as dairy products from pastured cattle, goats or other milk producing livestock.
Another big source of lots of healthy fats and proteins along with a bunch of very available minerals is homemade bone broths or stocks made from bones of healthy animals living on pasture. We consider bone broths to be a foundational component of a healthy diet. Every traditional culture has their version of grandma’s chicken soup that they rely on to provide their families lots of nourishment in a very easy to digest form.
Also, any discussion of optimizing diet for greater oral health wouldn’t be complete without including the vital role of naturally fermented foods to increase the beneficial bacteria in our guts. Like we mentioned above, it’s the good bugs in our digestive systems which make the food we eat available to absorb! We consider foods like unpasteurized saurkraut as well as homemade kefir and yogurt if you do dairy, fundamental parts to a healthy diet as these foods nourish and support a healthy bacterial colonization in our bellies.
The special place butter has in our home…
If you lean toward a vegetarian diet, then look at the traditional Indian diet and how they eat A LOT of dairy products in the form of yogurt like cultured milk products and clarified butter, or what is called ghee. We really consider butter to have a very foundational place in any healthy diet. However, we really have to get the very best butter possible in order to be really helping to optimize our oral health. An easy way to determine the value/quality of the butter your family eats is to simply look at the color of the butter. The paler the color, the fewer vitamins in the butter. We may have to write a whole separate article just on butter. It really does deserve the individualized attention. 🙂
As an interesting side note, consuming animal products like fatty cuts of beef and organ meats is the very best way to stabilize and optimize blood phosphorus which, as you know from the first article in this series, is the game when it comes to keeping our teeth healthy.
So, to wrap up today’s discussion, we must focus on eating the highest quality foods we can to maximize the minerals and fat-soluble vitamins in our diets if we want to reach optimal oral health like what our ancestors experienced. Here’s a link to a list of resources of books and other websites that share helpful information regarding eating to maximize our genetic potential.
In the next article, we’ll explore which foods undermine our ability to create optimal oral health and why.
Please comment below if you find benefit from this information and as always, if you know someone who could benefit from this information, please share it.
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”.
Thank you and Aloha!