Most Health Experts Agree…
CHRONIC INFLAMMATION is Public Enemy Number One. Diseases that cause the highest death rates, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and conditions affecting the lungs, kidneys, and liver, along with the ongoing ailments that folks suffer from day-in and day-out — headaches, arthritis, digestive disorders, dementia, nerve and muscle degeneration, and skin diseases, to name a few — are linked to chronic inflammation.
When the immune system is overtaxed and asked to put out fires that are constantly raging, or if there are fires on too many fronts, it can lead to delayed healing, pain and suffering, permanent tissue damage, and death. So it behooves us all to find the root of chronic inflammation in our own bodies, and squelch it at its source (instead of merely covering up the symptoms with prescription and over-the-counter medications).
So where’s your inflammation coming from? There are a few usual suspects that I’ll list here:
• Your Diet (sugar and other refined carbohydrates, charred food, lack of green veggies, gluten, dairy and other allergens);
• Your Environment (pollution, toxic home cleaners and personal care items, and even your negative thoughts);
• Leaky Gut;
• Belly Fat;
• Your Mouth.
Wait…What? My Mouth?
That’s right, your oral cavity. Each of the categories listed above deserve their own explanation, and we’ll get to those in other posts. But for this article we are going to focus on the mouth as a primary source of chronic inflammation.
Periodontal disease and chronic gum infections have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease by about a gazillion studies (rough estimate). But new research has taken it a step further and proven that the pathogens — bad bacteria and other critters — in your mouth that are causing your gums to be swollen and bloody are also moving into your bloodstream and causing your arteries to clog up and choke. For the science-minded among you, here are a few studies to check out :
J Med Microbiol 09:58:1568-1575
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 11; 108
Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 05; 25:e17-e18
J Bacteriol 10;192(12):3024-3032
How can this be, you may ask? How has my mouth betrayed me? Or maybe the question should be, how have you betrayed your mouth?
The mouth has a rich and dynamic blood supply, and the skin in and around the gums is very fragile. Your immune system can handle the occasional onslaught, but if you have chronic gum or periodontal disease (chronic inflammation,) the persistent bleeding provides quick and ready access for the pathogens to have direct entry into your blood stream, your arteries, and your heart.
So What Can You Do? Put These Tips Into Practice:
1. Improve your dental hygiene.
Brush twice a day and floss once a day. I recommend using a dental floss with tea tree oil, and rinsing your toothbrush with hydrogen peroxide before each time you brush. Tee tree oil is a natural antibacterial, and diluted with water it makes a great mouth wash and gargle. Hydrogen peroxide will kill the nasty germs that are lurking on your toothbrush. Another advantage: H2O2 whitens teeth. Consider ditching the store-bought toothpaste and brushing with food-grade hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.
2. Cut the sugar and sugary drinks.
Streptococcus mutans is the name of the bacterium that causes dental cavities (caries). It’s the culprit that forms the plaque that attracts microorganisms to attach to the surface of your teeth and gums. And just in case you’re wondering, antibiotics can’t touch these bacterium because the biofilm (plaque) that forms on your teeth protects it, which is why antibiotics are ineffective for preventing and treating cavities. Guess what the S. mutans uses to make this biofilm…drum roll please…sucrose, a.k.a. sugar.
Sugar also changes the pH of the biofilm, which causes a demineralization and breakdown in tooth enamel and underlying dentin. When you cut out sugar you starve S. mutans. Buh-bye cavities. Buh-bye inflammation.
But here’s the real kicker for your ticker: S. mutans has also been implicated in heart disease. It is the most prevalent bacterial species found in the artery cell walls of patients who undergo cardiovascular surgeries, and S. mutans infection is a leading cause of endocarditis (heart valve inflammation). So the bacteria in your mouth, fed by sugar, goes directly into your blood stream via your inflamed, bloody gums, and causes your heart to become diseased. Cut the sugar, starve the bad bacteria, save your heart, and possibly your life.
3. Chew on THIS:
Another major step you can take to cut your risk of chronic inflammation and all its tentacles is to use an oral probiotic. You know by now that I am enamored with probiotics, or good bacteria, and all the great things they do for our bodies. Our bodies have more bacteria than cells by far, and if your good bacteria outnumber the bad, chances are you are healthy.
Probiotics are important for digestive health, a strong immune system, hormonal balance, detoxification, and the list goes on and on. But did you know that probiotics are important for your mouth and upper-respiratory system as well? So, while it’s important to swallow your probiotics, preferably one that is enteric-coated to survive the stomach acid and make it into your intestines where it can do the most good, I also recommend chewing a probiotic every day. This allows the good bacteria to infiltrate your mouth and sinus cavities, as well as your upper GI tract. Clinically, I have found that my patients of all ages (children, adults and seniors) who are diligent with their probiotic intake enjoy these benefits:
• Fewer cavities, gum disease, halitosis (bad breath,) and scraping and drilling when they go to their dentists for their regular cleanings and check- ups.
• Fewer sinus infections and other upper-respiratory infections. Bad bacteria can’t set up shop where good bacteria are prolific. The good bacteria also regulate the pH in the mouth and sinus cavities, and help to undo some of the damage from the acid that we come into contact with when we eat and drink during the day.
• Less gastric reflux/heartburn/GERD, and decreased GI symptoms such as nausea. The good bacteria help to squelch the acidity and can give almost instantaneous relief.
• Lower levels of C-Reactive Protein as measured by blood work. C-Reactive Protein is a major indicator of inflammation within the body. Decreased chronic inflammation can translate into less pain and discomfort, a healthy heart, clearer skin, a calm tummy, and better brain health.
So What Should You Do NOW?
I’ll tell you what I do and what I recommend to my patients: get a box of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics, STAT from Your Supplements! If you’ve never taken them before, check with your nutritionist or functional medicine doctor, and start slowly. There are times that high dosing comes in handy, but talk to your doctor first.
The maintenance dosage I recommend is 1 pill for every 50 pounds of body weight*. You’ll want to make sure you chew at least one of them, before bed, after you brush your teeth. For example, what I do personally is swallow two and chew one. If you are 200 pounds, your maintenance dosage is to swallow three and chew one each night before bed.
*There’s an added benefit to consuming more probiotics the more weight you are carrying, because research has shown that good bacteria is associated with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). Taking the right probiotics can actually help you to lose weight. But that’s the subject of another blog.
Until we meet again, keep the inflammation low and the probiotic count high, and be blessed, healthy and happy.