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Best-Selling Toothpaste Contains Hazardous Endocrine-Disrupting Chemical


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Some of the most obvious ones include soaps and antibacterial wipes, but you can also find it in cutting boards, toys, clothing, household furnishings, pet food dispensers, and much more.

Despite the pervasive use of this chemical, troubling questions linger about its potentially harmful effects, especially for children.

Research has shown that triclosan can alter hormone regulation and may interfere with fetal development.

Animal studies have also raised concerns about its ability to affect fertility, and bacteria exposed to triclosan may also become resistant to antibiotics. Even an increased cancer risk has been suggested.

In short, while you’re disinfecting your body and your home to keep your family safe from potentially harmful bacteria, you may actually be causing far more harm than good in the long run.

Triclosan Removed from Soap, But Still Found in Best-Selling Toothpaste

Three years ago, Colgate-Palmolive responded to safety concerns brought forth by consumer groups by removing triclosan from its soap products. But the company left it in its best-selling toothpaste, Colgate Total. (Colgate Total is the only triclosan-containing toothpaste sold in the US.)

But if triclosan can cause serious health problems when used topically, surely using it in your mouth is not going to be any safer, as chemicals are readily absorbed in your oral cavity.

For example, zinc-containing denture creams like Fixodent, Poligrip, Super Poligrip, and others, have been linked to zinc poisoning.1 Toxic effects include serious neurological problems, including neuropathy.

There are even class-action lawsuits underway by people who have been poisoned by their denture creams. With regards to triclosan-containing toothpaste, Bloomberg2 reports:

“Total is safe, Colgate says, citing the rigorous Food and Drug Administration process that led to the toothpaste’s 1997 approval as an over-the-counter drug.

A closer look at that application process, however, reveals that some of the scientific findings Colgate put forward to establish triclosan’s safety in toothpaste weren’t black and white — and weren’t, until this year, available to the public.”

Toxicology Studies Withheld from Public View

According to the featured Bloomberg report, 35 pages of summaries of the toxicology studies performed on triclosan were initially withheld by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

They only became available via a Freedom of Information Act request from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The toxicology summaries are now available on the FDA’s website.3

A crucial point that has been noted before is that the FDA relies on company-backed science to “prove” that a drug or product is safe and effective. This despite the fact that industry-funded research is almost never impartial, thanks to obvious and massive conflicts of interest.

Many people still do not take this into consideration. They believe that “FDA approved” means that the FDA has performed some sort of independent scientific study. It hasn’t.

At best, the FDA carefully reviews the research submitted, but there’s plenty of room for cherry-picking and other strategies that can skew the safety profile. According to the featured report:

“The recently released pages, taken alongside new research on triclosan, raise questions about whether the agency did appropriate due diligence in approving Total 17 years ago, and whether its approval should stand in light of new research, said three scientists who reviewed the pages at Bloomberg News’s request.”

Triclosan Is One of the Most Prevalent Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals on the Market

For example, some animal studies showed that triclosan caused fetal bone malformations in mice and rats. Colgate claimed the findings were irrelevant. But bone deformations may hint at hormonal effects, affecting the endocrine system. There were also apparent weaknesses in Colgate’s cancer studies.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are a serious concern, as they can promote a wide variety of health problems, including: breast, ovarian, prostate, and testicular cancer, preterm and low birth weight babies, precocious puberty in girls, and undescended testicles in boys.

According to Thomas Zoeller, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who specializes in how chemicals affect the endocrine system, there are an estimated 800-1,000 endocrine-disrupting chemicals on the market.

But triclosan is one of the top 10 used on a regular basis by most people. Subsequently, removing triclosan may have a much greater impact than removing other chemicals.

Other Disinfectant Chemicals That May Cause More Harm Than Good

A recent article in Scientific American4 also discusses new research showing that other common household disinfectants produce adverse health effects too. The study, published in Reproductive Toxicology,5 assessed the reproductive toxicity of alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC).

These two disinfectants are commonly found in commercial and residential disinfectant products. (These quaternary chemicals are commonly referred to as “quats.”) Mice exposed to these chemicals took longer to get pregnant and had smaller litters. They also had more miscarriages and more distressed fetuses. Forty percent of the exposed females died from labor difficulties. According to the authors:

The results suggest that quaternary ammonium compounds affect both the maternal ability to achieve and sustain pregnancy and the developing fetus… Long term exposure decreased fertility and fecundity and caused dam mortality in a dose dependent manner. This study highlights the importance of testing the toxicity of mixtures over individual compounds.”

Safety Problems Are Often Found by Chance…

An interesting side note here is the back story of how researchers were prompted to investigate these chemicals (ADBAC and DDAC) in the first place. According to Scientific American:

“Hunt and Hrubec came upon the finding unexpectedly. Both observed breeding problems in research mice at their separate facilities after changing to disinfectant products containing the quat combination. Hunt determined that quat residues in the caging materials contributed to breeding failures and poor pregnancy outcomes.

For Hunt, the experience was a bit of déjà vu: In 1999, she discovered what was then a little-known chemical, bisphenol A, in water bottles mimicked estrogen and disrupted hormone levels in her lab mice. The finding helped spur investigation of the health risks associated with BPA Hunt said both incidents illustrate a problem with the way that new and existing chemicals are regulated in the US. Thousands of products have entered the market in the past few decades with little information on potential health impacts, she said. ‘The onus is really on consumers to determine which products are safe. That’s not OK.’”

When you consider this chain of events, it really raises questions about the accuracy of any number of studies into completely unrelated fields. A researcher may be using animals to study, say, the effects of a particular drug, and depending on the soap they use to clean the lab, the health outcomes of the animals may be skewed, for better or worse! In most cases, they may never put two and two together—unless they switch cleaning products in the middle of a trial and notice sudden alterations in their research results that cannot be explained…

Triclosan May Affect Thyroid Function

As noted by Professor Caren Helbing Ph.D. at the University of Victoria in Canada, the chemical structure of triclosan is similar to thyroid hormones and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This similarity allows it to attach to hormone receptors. Helbing’s research shows that tadpoles exposed to triclosan suffered stunted development and leg deformations. The metamorphic process these frogs undergo is mediated by thyroid hormones. Her findings were published in the Journal of Aquatic Toxicology6 in 2006, which concluded that: Exposure to low levels of triclosan disrupts thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and can alter the rate of thyroid hormone-mediated postembryonic anuran development.”

While Colgate cites a Cochrane Review7 as supporting evidence for Colgate Total’s safety and effectiveness, the review in question focused on the toothpaste’s effectiveness in fighting bleeding gums and inflammation; not its long-term safety… The review, which covered more than 30 studies published between 1990-2012, found “moderate quality evidence” that Colgate Total is more effective than other toothpastes with respect to reducing gum bleeding and inflammation, but the authors, Philip Riley and Thomas Lamont, noted that the studies did not really allow them to assess any long-term adverse effects.8

Antibacterial Chemicals Found in Pregnant Women’s Urine and Newborns’ Cord Blood

In one recent study,9, 10, 11 traces of triclosan, triclocarban, and butyl paraben were found in the urine of pregnant women and their newborns’ cord blood. The women in the study were all residents of Brooklyn, New York. This demonstrates that everyday, real-world exposure to these chemicals is indeed pervasive. Shockingly, triclosan was detected in 100 percent of all urine samples, and 51 percent of cord blood samples. Triclocarban was detected in 87 percent of the urine samples, and 23 percent of the cord blood samples.

And, as reported by The Atlantic:12 “In another, still-unpublished study, the researchers found that all of the cord blood samples contained ‘at least one paraben,’ according to Dr. Rolf Halden, director of ASU’s Center for Environmental Security.” Paraben esters have also been found in 99 percent of breast cancer tissue samples, suggesting a strong link between the chemical and breast cancer development.

Making matters worse is that there’s very little evidence that antibacterial products will actually help you avoid disease. So you’re exposing yourself to these harmful chemicals for no good reason… Most recently, a randomized trial13 investigating the effectiveness of hand sanitizers in a school setting found that they “did not prevent disease of severity sufficient to cause school absence.”

Other Toothpaste Chemicals to Beware of

There are also other chemicals in toothpaste that may do more harm than good. Fluoride is one obvious one that I’ve written about quite extensively. But many toothpastes also contain surfactants like sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES). Surfactants are chemicals responsible for the foaming action of the toothpaste.

But these chemicals can also interfere with the functioning of your taste buds.  As noted in a previous Lifehacker article,14 they suppress taste receptors responsible for tasting sweet notes. As noted in the article, they also “break up the phospholipids on our tongue. These fatty molecules inhibit our receptors for bitterness and keep bitter tastes from overwhelming us, but when they’re broken down by the surfactants in toothpaste, bitter tastes get enhanced.

This is thought to be the reason why everything tastes so bad right after you’ve brushed your teeth. So, choosing a toothpaste that does not contain SLS or SLES will allow you to taste your food properly after brushing your teeth. This may also be part of why coconut oil works so well for oral hygiene, as it helps maintain a more natural balance of lipids on your tongue, while still having potent antibacterial properties.

Keeping Yourself and Your Home Clean, Safely

I strongly encourage you to ditch all of your chemical disinfectants, including your antibacterial soaps, laundry detergents, and bath and kitchen cleansers, in favor of more natural alternatives. No study has shown that a vigorous program of home disinfection leads to a reduction of illness in a family. They have, however, shown that disinfectants can cause harm. It is best to use any soap minimally on your body as it removes the sebum that your body produces, which is full of beneficial fats designed to protect your skin from infection. Using soap will remove not only dirt but also these useful fats.

For those times when you need to do a bit of cleansing, one of the best non-toxic disinfectants is a mild soap and warm water. You can use this for washing your hands, your body, and for other household cleansing. Another all-purpose cleanser that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards, and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Simply put each liquid into a separate spray bottle, then spray the surface with one, followed by the other.

In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing the two mists killed virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces when used in this fashion, making this spray combination more effective at killing these potentially lethal bacteria than chlorine bleach or any commercially available kitchen cleaner. The best results came from using one mist right after the other — it is 10 times more effective than using either spray by itself and more effective than mixing the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in one sprayer.

Coconut oil also has potent disinfectant properties, and can be used to disinfect wooden cutting boards. Sunlight is another powerful disinfectant, and drying your laundry in the sun is one of the best ways to save energy and wind up with fresh, clean linens and clothing. Truly, there’s no need to expose your family to dangerous chemical disinfectants. As an added bonus aside from the health benefits, using this type of natural homemade cleanser is much less expensive than commercial varieties.


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Good News: Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Paleo Diet Hits the Mainstream


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

My book, The No Grain Diet, was published in 2003 and my clinical recommendation included eliminating gluten as a first line intervention before I would fine tune a patient’s diet.

It’s taken well over a decade, but the Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Paleo (GFLCP), which is essentially the same kind of high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet I’ve been promoting, is now hitting the mainstream. Gluten-free diets are also becoming widely recognized.

For those with celiac disease, avoiding gluten is vital, but physicians are also starting to recognize that many have some sort of gluten intolerance, and fare better on a gluten-free diet.

Now, the US Food Administration (FDA) will start to crack down on food manufacturers misusing the gluten-free label, which is good news for those trying to avoid gluten.

Four years ago, I warned that many food products bearing the gluten-free label were in fact contaminated with sometimes high amounts of gluten. In one study, even naturally gluten-free products tested positive to gluten, courtesy of cross-contamination during processing.

New Gluten-Free Labeling Standard Is Now in Force

In August 2013, the FDA issued a standard for gluten-free labeling, requiring any product bearing the label to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. As reported by CNN1 at the time:

“The new regulation is targeted to help the estimated 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, a chronic inflammatory auto-immune disorder that can affect the lining of the small intestine when gluten is consumed. Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, rye, barley and crossbreeds of these grassy grains.

‘Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating celiac disease…’ said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg… ‘The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health.’”

According to the rule, in order for a food to bear the label “gluten-free” it must be:

  • Naturally gluten-free
  • Any gluten-containing grains must have been refined in such a way to remove the gluten. The final product may not contain more than 20 parts per million of gluten

Naturally gluten-free grains include rice, corn (just make sure it’s non-GMO), quinoa, sorghum, soy (which I don’t recommend eating for other reasons), flax, and amaranth seed. The following foods may NOT use the gluten-free label:

  • Foods containing whole gluten-containing grains
  • Foods made with gluten-containing grains (such as wheat, rye, barley, or any their derivatives) that are refined but still contain gluten
  • Foods that contain 20 parts per million of gluten or more as a result of cross-contact with gluten containing grains

Most People Can Benefit from Avoiding Grains

The deadline for compliance was August 5, 2014.2, 3 You may still find some products manufactured before the deadline that may not conform to this standard, however.

The gluten-free labeling standard should make it much easier to comply with a gluten-free diet, whether you’re suffering from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity or not.

Celiac disease is really just one of several autoimmune disorders that can be significantly improved by avoiding grains. The autoimmune thyroid disease known as Hashimoto’s is another disorder where gluten avoidance is very important.

There’s also compelling evidence that high-grain diets fuel Alzheimer’s disease, and that avoiding gluten can help prevent and treat this devastating brain disorder. Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain goes into this in detail.

Similarly, if you want to avoid heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or even cancer, you’d also want to severely limit your grain consumption, or avoid grains entirely. The reason for this is because grains and sugars are inherently pro-inflammatory and will worsen any condition that has chronic inflammation at its root.

In my experience, about 75-80 percent of ALL people benefit from avoiding grains, even whole sprouted grains, whether you have a gluten intolerance or not. The ONLY carbohydrates your body really needs are vegetable carbs. All sugar/fructose and all grains, including the “healthful” ones, will tend to raise your insulin levels, which is a detriment to your health.

Low-Carb Paleo and Ketogenic Diets Embraced by Athletes

I’m quite pleased to see that the high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet I’ve been recommending is now being embraced by a number of athletes. This eating plan is in stark contrast to traditional carb- and protein-loading.

The idea behind carb-loading is to saturate yourself with carbs so your muscles will have plenty of glycogen to go on while you exercise. This can work well for really fit athletes that have an intense workout regimen.

However, I believe it is totally inappropriate for the vast majority of non-athletes that exercise casually. There’s also compelling reasons for professional athletes to rethink carb-loading, for the fact that high-fat, low-carb diets provide more long-lasting fuel and has an overall better impact on metabolism.

Athletic superstars like NBA players LeBron James and Ray Allen claim to have switched to a low-carb diet with beneficial results.4

Other athletes jumping onto the high-fat, low-carb diet include Ironman triathlete Nell Stephenson, pro cyclist Dave Zabriskie, and ultra-marathoner Timothy Olson. Former Ironman triathlete Ben Greenfield is said to have followed a ketogenic diet while training for the 2013 Ironman World Championships.

“After switching to a ketogenic diet, Ben experienced improved stamina, stable blood sugar, better sleep, and less brain fog,” the featured article5 states. “Greenfield, author of Beyond Training, no longer follows the ketogenic diet, but advocates consuming plenty of healthy fats.”

Ironman Triathlete: High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet with High Intensity Training Is a Winning Combination

Former Ironman triathlete Mark Sisson is another tremendously fit athlete who has reportedly improved his athletic performance, body composition, and energy levels after ditching carb-loading for a high-fat, low-carb, Paleo style diet. He subsequently went on to write the popular book, The Primal Blueprint.

Even more interesting, he reports getting fitter on this diet while simultaneously exercising less. As I’ve discussed on many occasions, high intensity interval training can cut your workout routine down from an hour to about 20 minutes, three times a week, without any reduction in efficacy. On the contrary, you can reap better fitness results by exercising this way, and that’s exactly what Sisson experienced as well.

High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet Benefits Pediatric Epilepsy and Cancer Recovery

High-fat, low-carb ketogenic diets are also well-recognized in certain fields of medicine. For example, children with epilepsy are frequently prescribed a ketogenic diet to control their seizures when medications are ineffective.6 The ketogenic diet benefits your brain by making your brain cells burn ketones (which are byproducts of fat burning) instead of sugar. According to epileptologist Ahsan Moosa Naduvil Valappil, MD:7

“[The ketogenic diet is] based on a ratio of fat to carbohydrates and proteins. A normal diet contains a 0.3:1 fat-to-carb and protein ratio, but the classical ketogenic diet is based on a 3 or 4:1 ratio… This means that the diet includes 3-4 grams of fat per 1 gram of protein and carbohydrate… Research has shown that more than 50 percent of the children with epilepsy who eat this diet can have their number of seizures cut in half. About 10-15 percent of children will stop having seizures… Fats like butter, heavy whipping cream and olive oil are recommended. Carbohydrates are strictly limited.”8

Ketogenic diets may also be key for cancer recovery. All of your body’s cells are fueled by glucose. This includes cancer cells. However, cancer cells have one built-in fatal flaw – they do not have the metabolic flexibility of your regular cells and cannot adapt to use ketone bodies for fuel as all your other cells can. So, when you alter your diet and become what’s known as “fat-adapted,” your body starts using fat for fuel rather than carbs. When you switch out the carbs for healthy fats, you starve the cancer out, as you’re no longer supplying the necessary fuel – glucose – for their growth.

The Benefits of Mimicking the Life of Our Ancient Ancestors

During the Paleolithic period many thousands of years ago, people ate primarily vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots, and meat. These foods form the basis of the Paleo diet, although there are slight variations of it. Unfortunately, many Paleo diets recommend switching the carbs for protein rather than fat, which can have detrimental consequences. I’ll discuss this more below. Today, these staple foods have been largely replaced with refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cereal, bread, potatoes, and pasteurized milk products. This processed food diet has promoted the rise of a wide array of chronic and debilitating diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Going back to basics and refocusing your diet on fresh, whole, unprocessed, “real” food is foundational for optimizing your health and addressing just about any health condition. You can easily mold your diet around the principles of Paleo eating by following my nutrition plan. Episodes of intermittent fasting may also be important, as our ancestors clearly did not have access to food on a 24/7 basis like we do today. I believe it to be one of the most profound interventions for the 21st century. While my nutrition plan goes into many details, as a general rule I advocate eating a diet that is:

  • High in healthy fats. Many will benefit from 50-85 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fat from avocados, organic grass-fed butter, pastured egg yolks, coconut oil, and raw nuts such as macadamia, pecans, and pine nuts
  • Moderate amounts of high-quality protein from organically raised, grass-fed or pastured animals. Most will likely not need more than 40 to 70 grams of protein per day, for the reasons I’ll discuss below
  • Unrestricted amounts of fresh vegetables, ideally organic

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Your body needs protein for bone and muscle maintenance and for the creation of hormones, among other things. However, you do need to be careful to not consume too much. The average American consumes anywhere from three to five times as much protein as they need for optimal health. I believe very few people will need more than one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Those that are aggressively exercising or competing and pregnant women should have about 25 percent more, but most people rarely need more than 40-70 grams of protein a day.

To determine your lean body mass, find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos.

The rationale behind limiting your protein is this: when you consume protein in levels higher than recommended above, you tend to activate the mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway, which can help you get large muscles but may also increase your risk of cancer. There is research suggesting that the “mTOR gene” is a significant regulator of the aging process, and suppressing this gene may be linked to longer life. Generally speaking, as far as eating for optimal health goes, most people are simply consuming a combination of too much low-quality protein and carbohydrates, and not enough healthy fat.

It is particularly important though to make sure you increase your protein intake by 25 percent when you are working out with strength training. Your body will need the additional amino acids to build muscle tissue.  

Translating Ideal Protein Requirements Into Foods

To determine whether you’re getting too much protein, simply calculate your lean body mass as described above, then write down everything you’re eating for a few days, and calculate the amount of daily protein from all sources. Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts.

Again, you’re aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which would place most people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. If you’re currently averaging a lot more than that, adjust downward accordingly. You could use the chart below or simply Google the food you want to know and you will quickly find the grams of protein in the food.

Red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood average 6-9 grams of protein per ounce.

An ideal amount for most people would be a 3-ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9- or 12-ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18-27 grams of protein

Eggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein.

If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese)

Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cup Cooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup
Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cup Most vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce

Take Control of Your Health with a Health-Promoting Diet and Exercise

I recommend minimal to no consumption of grains and sugars in my Food Pyramid for Optimal Health, which summarizes the nutritional guidelines espoused in my Nutrition Plan. Again, most people would benefit from getting at least 50 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, nuts, and raw butter until they are able to burn fats as their primary fuel and have no evidence of insulin/leptin resistance. In terms of bulk or quantity, vegetables would be the most prominent feature on your plate.

They provide countless critical nutrients, while being sparse on calories. Next comes high-quality proteins, followed by a moderate amount of fruits, and lastly, at the very top, you’ll find grains and sugars. This last top tier of sugars and grains can be eliminated entirely. Another tremendous benefit is that once your body has successfully switched over from burning carbs to burning fat as its primary fuel, carb cravings tend to disappear as if by magic. To summarize, there are two primary ways to achieve this metabolic switch, and these strategies support each other when combined:

  • A high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet: This type of diet, in which you replace carbs with low to moderate amounts of high-quality protein and high amounts of beneficial fat, is what I recommend for everyone. This kind of diet is very helpful for normalizing weight and resolving insulin/leptin resistance.
  • Intermittent fasting: There are many reasons to intermittently fast. In my view, it’s one of the most effective ways to normalize your insulin and leptin sensitivity and shed excess weight, which is foundational for optimal health and disease prevention. You can boost your results further by exercising in a fasted state.
  • Besides turning you into an efficient fat burner, intermittent fasting can also boost your level of human growth hormone (aka the “fitness hormone”). High intensity interval training will do this as well. Intermittent fasting can also improve your brain function by boosting production of the protein BDNF, which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and triggers other chemicals that promote neural health. This protein also protects your brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and helps protect your neuro-muscular system from degradation.


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Nutsedge: This Dirty Little Weed May Have Cleaned Up Ancient Teeth


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Plaque that gets stuck below your gum line can calcify in a matter of weeks, leading to an extremely hard substance that can last for thousands of years, especially among prehistoric people who had no access to a dentist.

Interestingly, plaque isolated from skeletons located at a 2,000- to 9,000-year-old burial site in Central Sudan can actually give clues to what the people ate.

Using various techniques, including chemical analysis, archaeologists with the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona revealed a glimpse into prehistoric diets and, perhaps, ancient dental habits as well.1

Purple Nutsedge: An Ancient ‘Weed’ for Dental Health?

The analysis revealed “all sorts of things” in the teeth of 19 ancient skeletons, including sand, dirt, pollen, plant fibers, and carbon (from breathing smoke).2 Seven of the individuals had evidence of cracked starch granules in their teeth, which suggests they were eating roasted purple nutsedge, a grass-like plant with small, potato-like roots.

Once valued by ancient Egyptians to make perfume, and eaten as a staple in certain Aboriginal groups,3 the starches in purple nutsedge probably offered the hunger-gatherers much-needed energy, while modern analysis revealed it also contains lysine, an important amino acid.

Even after farming became widespread thousands of years later, the researchers noted there was still evidence of nutsedge on teeth, and perhaps those who ate it had some intrinsic knowledge of its benefits.

Nutsedge, it turns out, produces antibacterial compounds that might help prevent tooth decay. According to the study, although nutsedge is widely regarded as a pervasive weed, it actually has some serious medicinal value:

“This plant is a good source of carbohydrates and has many useful medicinal and aromatic qualities, though today it is considered to be the world’s most costly weed.

Its ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of caries found in the agricultural population.”4

‘Hunter-Gatherers Had Really Good Teeth’

So said Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA.5 His team also looked at calcified plaque on teeth from prehistoric skeletons and revealed that changing diets lead to detrimental shifts in oral bacteria. While hunter-gatherers tended to have really good teeth, that changed among farming populations.

“…as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up,” Cooper said.6

The two greatest culprits as far as dietary shifts and dental health go was the introduction of carbohydrate-rich farming diets in the Neolithic period (about 10,000 years ago) followed by the more recent introduction of industrially processed flour and sugar (around the mid 1800s).

The calcified dental plaque offered researchers a “detailed genetic record” that showed a transition from a hunger-gatherer diet to farming “shifted the oral microbial community to a disease-associated configuration.”

Cavity-causing bacteria became dominant, likely during the Industrial Revolution, and the oral microbiotic ecosystems also had “markedly less” diversity, which the researchers said “might be contributing to chronic oral (and other) disease in postindustrial lifestyles.”7

Is Diet Alone Enough to Guarantee Perfect Teeth?

In the 1900s, Dr. Weston A. Price did extensive research on the link between oral health and physical diseases. He discovered that the most successful primitive groups health-wise were those who paid attention to and integrated beneficial ancient knowledge and dietary wisdom into their lives.

The difference, Price reasoned, between primitive cultures who were healthy and those who were diseased came not from solely eating a traditional diet (as they all did), but in the accumulated wisdom enjoyed by certain populations, which allowed them to enjoy optimal health.

Clearly, one of the keys to oral health is eating a traditional diet rich in fresh, unprocessed vegetables, nuts, and grass-fed meats that are in line with your genetic ancestry. Dr. Price, too, found, and documented in his classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, that native tribes who were eating their traditional diet had nearly perfect teeth, and were nearly completely free of tooth decay.

But when these tribal populations were introduced to sugar and white flour, you can guess what happened… their health, and their perfect teeth, rapidly deteriorated. However, as beneficial as a traditional diet is to your dental and overall health, it might not be enough to guarantee perfect oral health.

We know, of course, that eating highly processed foods and sugar certainly causes and worsens dental decay in humans, but there must be more to the story. There is evidence of tooth decay in ancient populations, long before there was exposure to refined sugar and white flour, as well as among wild animals today.

Even some dolphins, which generally eat no carbohydrates whatsoever — only fish, squid, and crustaceans — have problems with tooth decay. Clearly, simply following a traditional diet is not enough to explain this phenomenon, or else there would be no dental decay in ancient peoples or wildlife.

Chewing Sticks: An Effective ‘Natural Toothbrush’

Ancient populations may not have had toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss, but they did have tools for protecting their oral health. One of the most well-documented is the use of chewing sticks, which has been done since ancient times in India, China, Egypt, and Africa (and many cultures still use them to this day).

As the name implies, chewing sticks are simply twigs from trees with antimicrobial properties. Generally, a frayed end would be used like a toothbrush to brush teeth while a pointed end would act as a toothpick. Many tree species were used for chewing sticks, including tea tree, cinnamon, mango, and dog wood, although neem is probably the most widely known.

One study published in 2012 showed that neem had the most antimicrobial activity, including against cavity-causing Streptococcus mutans, compared to three other commonly used chewing sticks (miswak, mango, and banyan).8

If you are so inclined, chewing sticks are widely available today and their use is even encouraged by the World Health Organization (WHO). Plus, you’ll probably enjoy their taste far more than you would chewing on a purple nutsedge (which researchers described as tasting “like dirt”).

Researchers writing in the Journal of Periodontal Research referred to chewing sticks as “timeless natural toothbrushes for oral cleansing” due to their active antimicrobial properties, low cost and simplicity:9

“…natural methods of tooth cleaning using chewingsticks selected and prepared from the twigs, stems or roots from a variety of plant species have been practiced for thousands of years in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.

Selected clinical studies have shown that chewingsticks, when properly used, can be as efficient as toothbrushes in removing dental plaque due to the combined effect of mechanical cleaning and enhanced salivation. It has also been suggested that antimicrobial substances that naturally protect plants against various invading microorganisms or other parasites may leach out into the oral cavity, and that these compounds may benefit the users by protection against cariogenic and periodontopathic bacteria.”

Oil Pulling Is Another Time-Tested Natural Trick to Improve Your Dental Health

Oil pulling involves “rinsing” your mouth with the oil, much like you would with a mouthwash (except you shouldn’t attempt to gargle with it). The oil is “worked” around your mouth by pushing, pulling, and drawing it through your teeth for a period of about 20 minutes. I recommend coconut oil for oil pulling because it also has antibacterial properties. Candida and Streptococcus are common residents in your mouth, and these microorganisms and their toxic waste products can contribute to plaque accumulation and tooth decay. Oil pulling may help lessen the overall toxic burden on your immune system by preventing the spread of these organisms from your mouth to the rest of your body, by way of your bloodstream.

Many people think oil pulling sounds strange… until they try it. Then many become hooked. It’s just one more way that you can use a natural, simple substance to significantly boost your oral health. People have been using this technique, and others like chewing sticks, for centuries because they work. Anecdotally, virtually everyone who tries it notices an improvement in their oral health. Personally, this technique has significantly reduced my plaque buildup, allowing me to go longer between visits to the dental hygienist. As reported by the Indian Journal of Dental Research:10

“Oil pulling has been used extensively as a traditional Indian folk remedy without scientific proof for many years for strengthening teeth, gums and jaws and to prevent decay, oral malodor, bleeding gums and dryness of throat and cracked lips.”

If you take a look at the research, it’s easy to understand why:

  • Oil pulling reduced counts of Streptococcus mutans bacteria – a significant contributor to tooth decay – in the plaque and saliva of children.11 Researchers concluded, Oil pulling can be used as an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health.”
  • Oil pulling significantly reduced plaque, improved gum health and reduced aerobic microorganisms in plaque among adolescent boys with plaque-induced gingivitis.12
  • Oil pulling is as effective as mouthwash at improving bad breath and reducing the microorganisms that may cause it.13
  • Oil pulling benefits your mouth, in part, via its mechanical cleaning action.14 Researchers noted, The myth that the effect of oil pulling therapy on oral health was just a placebo effect has been broken and there are clear indications of possible saponification and emulsification process, which enhances its mechanical cleaning action.”

Honey, Fermented Vegetables, and Omega-3 Fats: Three More Dental Superstars

Total video length: 1:11:28

Proper dental hygiene is important for optimal health in your mouth and in the rest of your body, as discussed by Dr. Bill Osmunson in the interview above. The key is your diet and proper dental care: good old brushing and flossing. By avoiding sugars and processed foods, you help prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause decay in the first place. Eating fermented vegetables is another simple “trick.” Fermented vegetables are loaded with friendly flora that not only improve digestion but alter the flora in your mouth as well. Since the addition of these foods into my diet, my plaque has decreased by 50 percent and is much softer.

Practicing twice daily brushing and flossing, along with regular cleanings by your biological dentist and hygienist, will ensure that your teeth and gums are as healthy as they can be. I believe oil pulling once or twice a day will also enhance your current dental hygiene routine. In addition to consuming foods that are part of the “traditional diet” and avoiding processed foods and refined sugar, make sure you are getting plenty of omega-3 fats. The latest research suggests even moderate amounts of omega-3 fats may help ward off gum disease. My favorite source of high-quality omega-3 fat is krill oil.

A particular type of honey from New Zealand called Manuka honey has also been shown to be effective in reducing plaque. Researchers found Manuka honey worked as well as chemical mouthwash — and better than the cavity-fighting sugar alcohol xylitol — in reducing levels of plaque. This is most likely due to the honey’s antibacterial properties. Clinical trials have shown that Manuka honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant varieties. So while your toothbrush and toothpaste are important, don’t be misled by thinking they’re the only options for sound dental health. Many natural substances also have the power to drastically improve the health of your teeth and gums.


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Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal
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