On “Healthy” Food

shopping cart filled with produceThere was an interesting read in the New York Times last week on beliefs about “healthy” foods, based on a survey inspired by the FDA’s reconsideration of what kinds of foods can be called “healthy.” (Earlier this year, the agency also invited public comments on showed the use of the term “natural” on food labels. The comment period is closed now, but you can view the comments here.)

And it’s about time they do. It’s been more than 20 years since they last looked at those rules. And as ThinkProgress reported back in May,

Under the FDA’s current rule, food can only be labeled as healthy if it’s below a certain threshold in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Meanwhile, any regulation on sugar content is conspicuously absent. Although excess added sugar is now blamed as a contributor to major health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, that wasn’t much of a concern in the 1980s and 1990s.

In practice, that means that breakfast foods like Pop-Tarts and cereals, which are heavily processed and high in sugar — but also fortified with added nutrients — have an easier time passing the threshold as “healthy” than a one-ingredient, high-fat food like salmon filet.

So the Times surveyed consumers and nutritionists to get an idea of what they think “healthy” means. There were the usual discrepancies, to be sure – consumers think granola bars and frozen yogurt are a lot more healthy than nutritionists do – as well as the usual undecidedness on foods such as butter, cheese, and whole milk. Still, it’s kind of interesting to see how ideas come together and diverge on what kind of nutrition folks think our bodies need.

Yet to get caught up in the debate between “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods kind of misses the point.

After all, it’s the whole diet that matters. And food is just one factor that affects health. To reduce matters to “eat this and you’ll be healthy” or “avoid that and you’ll be healthy” is a major oversimplification.

But more, the foods that most often come with health claims slapped on them are not whole foods but food products. At best, they may be whole foods fortified or otherwise manipulated in some way as to merit some kind of health claim. At worst, they’re things like Pop-Tarts – engineered, fabricated products made with food derivatives and synthetic chemicals that our bodies were never designed to consume.

We don’t need products. We need food. Real food. That’s the foundation of a healthful diet, however else it might be configured.

Real food doesn’t need labels.

Of course, all of us turn to products from time to time. Some common foods take more time to make than we can give in the modern world – foods like bread or cheese. Sometimes, it’s just easier to rely on a product to impart extra flavor, say, or speed up preparation. That’s fine.

But if you’re eating for healthfulness, real food, not product, makes up the bulk of your diet.

Image by greggavedon.com, via Flickr

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Why Are Root Canal Teeth Toxic?

Thomas Levy explains…

To learn more about the systemic risks of root canal therapy and what to do about existing root canal teeth in your mouth, see our guide.

And for more videos on root canals and other oral barriers to optimal health, browse our newly updated video library.

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Peroxide + Mercury Amalgam? Not a Great Mix

mercury amalgam fillingAs long as we’re in this mode of updating past posts, we thought to take a look at the continuing research on how tooth bleaching may affect mercury amalgam fillings.

For there’s good reason for extra concern.

The most recent study, like many that came before, involved exposing amalgam samples to either peroxide or a neutral fluid and measuring mercury release. In this case, two types of amalgam disks were used for testing, one with a much higher silver content than the other. Both were exposed to the peroxide or control fluid for 48 hours. The amount of mercury dissolved in each test tube was then measured.

The results? Peroxide stimulated more mercury release. And the less silver, the more mercury released.

This is in line with the research we told you about before, as well as later research, such as the 2013 General Dentistry study, which showed that “exposing amalgam alloys to bleaching agents released greater amounts of [mercury] compared to exposing samples to deionized water.”

That said, there are some studies that have found no significant change in mercury release, but as a 2015 literature review noted, there may be good explanations for the discrepancies. For instance,

This controversy might be related to the variation in peroxide concentration and time period of application. An alternative hypothesis is that there is a positive correlation between the mercury release and peroxide concentration and the increased release of mercury is attribute to the age of the dental amalgam, the surface roughness of the amalgam surface and the acidity of the bleaching agent.

Of course, it helps when the research is sound. It isn’t always.

For instance, a 2014 study in the Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry concluded that

Bleaching treatments either office or home did not affect the amount of mercury released from amalgam fillings in blood, urine, and saliva and the antioxidant-enzyme activities in blood.

There are a number of problems with this study, however.

For one, it was a very small study with no control group.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that this is a one-time exposure, whereas folks who bleach tend to do so repeatedly in order to retain the degree of whiteness that made them turn to bleaching in the first place. We’re aware of no studies that show the potential effects of mercury release under repeated exposures over longer periods of time.

But we might also question whether mercury levels in blood, urine, or saliva are actually the best measure in this case.

tooth anatomyResearching caries (tooth decay) susceptibility and resistance back in the 1960s, Dr. Ralph Steinman of Loma Linda University found that peroxide appeared to reverse the flow of fluid through the miles of microscopic tubules that make up the middle layer of your teeth, the dentin. Normally, this fluid flows outward, repelling microbes and other threats to the health of the tooth. When the flow is reversed, these threats are pulled into the tooth. (You can read more about Steinman’s research here.)

So if Steinman’s work is correct, why would we be amazed that mercury isn’t released into saliva, blood, or urine? The mercury would be in the dentinal tubules.

And the dentinal odontoblasts – specialized cells that form new dentin and which extend into the pulp – would be bathed in mercury.

Suffice it to say, this is not a good situation to put your teeth in, considering the neurotoxic effects of mercury and the very short distance between your teeth and brain.

It is good reason to steer clear of peroxide if you still have amalgam fillings.

Tooth anatomy image by BruceBlaus, via Wikimedia Commons

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How Others’ Smoking Can Wreck YOUR Teeth & Gums

cigarette smokeOf course, smoking doesn’t affect just the smoker. Everyone around them is affected, too.

And secondhand smoke is more than just a stinky annoyance. It raises your risk of chronic conditions such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, of course. But did you know it may even affect your dental health?

Earlier studies have suggested that secondhand smoke may increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease in children. Now more recent studies suggest as much for adults, too.

Consider the research presented at last spring’s meeting of the International Association for Dental Research – a study involving 3255 lifetime nonsmokers. Each underwent a periodontal exam, and their blood was tested for the presence of continine, a metabolite of nicotine and, so, a sign of exposure to tobacco.

Overall, 57.4% tested positive for continine. Just over 30% had moderate to severe periodontitis.

In the fully adjusted analysis, non-smokers exposed to [secondhand tobacco smoke] had 1.45 times the odds of moderate/severe periodontitis as unexposed non-smokers…. [Secondhand smoke] exposure was significantly associated with greater odds of moderate/severe periodontitis among adult U.S non-smokers.

Other research has shown that exposure to secondhand smoke also appears to raise risk of tooth decay in adults, as well. For instance, one similarly sized study published earlier this year in the Korean Journal of Family Practice, found that higher continine levels were

significantly associated with permanent teeth decay…after adjusting for sex, daily frequency of tooth brushing, and perceived oral health status. This relationship persisted even after further adjusting for age, education, and household income levels….

The moral of the story? To keep your teeth and gums in good shape, steer clear of smoke, period – firsthand, secondhand, or otherwise.

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New Research, New Life for Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels?

graphic cigarette warning labelSo, long ago and far way – 5 years back, to be exact – the FDA proposed new, super-graphic warning labels on cigarettes. Unsurprisingly, the tobacco companies were against them. One promptly filed suit.

As you know, if you’ve seen a package of smokes lately, those warning labels never came to pass.

Writing about it back then, we supposed that while the labels might work as a deterrent for some, they might not have as much of an impact as you might hope, especially on hardcore, long-term smokers.

And just weeks later, a German study suggested that that might well be the case.

After an abstinence period of 12 hours, the brain’s fear center was mostly out of commission in addicts. The researchers assume that a campaign using images of smokers’ lungs as deterrents on cigarette packs – as both the US and EU are currently planning – will hardly have an effect on this group.

But that was quite a small study and sharply focused on brain activity. A new study, however – large, randomized, and controlled – focused on behavior and suggests that yes, graphic warnings may actually be effective, at least on the population studied.

As the New York Times recently reported,

In a four-week trial, 2,149 smokers were randomly assigned to use packs of cigarettes with either pictorial or text-only warnings. At the end of each week, researchers surveyed the participants about their smoking.

The two groups had the same baseline desire to quit and similar understanding of the harms of smoking. But by the end of the study, 40 percent of those in the pictorial warning group had quit for at least a day, and 5.7 percent were not smoking during the seven days before their final interview, compared with 34 percent and 3.8 percent respectively in the text-only group.

The pictorial warnings were more effective for both sexes and across races, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels.

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

So perhaps we might be seeing those graphic warnings after all.


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Recommended Reading: Tony Gwynn, Chew, Cancer

Tony Gwynn By all accounts, Tony Gwynn was a great baseball player and a genuinely good guy. He was also yet another athlete with a tobbacco habit.

Now, a little less than two years after his death, his family has filed a wrongful death suit.

The suit was filed in Superior Court in San Diego against Altria Group Inc., the tobacco giant formerly known as Philip Morris, and several other defendants who are accused of inducing Gwynn to begin using smokeless tobacco, or dip, at San Diego State University, which he attended from 1977 to 1981 and where he later coached after a 20-year career with the San Diego Padres.

For 31 years — 1977 to 2008 — Gwynn used one and a half to two cans of smokeless tobacco (usually Skoal) per day. It was the equivalent, the suit says, of four to five packs of cigarettes every day for 31 years.

Recently, Sports Illustrated published a long, sad yet fascinating read about the whole matter, including the tobacco companies’ “historically cozy relationship” with Major League Baseball and reforms that followed the death of “Mr. Padre.” We highly recommend you click over and read the whole thing for yourself.

One point especially jumped out at us.

Initially, in media reports at the time of Gwynn’s death, the link between Gwynn’s habit and his cancer was questioned by two of Gwynn’s San Diego-based doctors: Prabhakar Tripuraneni, the head of radiation oncology at Scripps Clinic; and Loren Mell, a consultant of the Gwynns who is the chief of head and neck radiation oncology service at the Moores Cancer Center. Even as they acknowledged that smokeless tobacco could lead to plenty of heath problems, “in the case of parotid cancers, there’s not a single, unified cause that’s identified,” Mell told the San Diego Union Tribune in 2014. “He may have chewed tobacco, but that’s not likely to be the cause.”

While the article goes on to say that “Mell is reconsidering that position,” there’s actually some truth here. For while there’s little doubt that tobacco use contributed to Gwynn’s death, cancer is, in fact, a multifactorial condition. While there may be major triggers, it’s the state of the extracellular matrix and a dynamic of many environmental and lifestyle factors that ultimately give rise to the cluster of symptoms we call cancer.

As we noted before, with respect to oral cancer,

It’s the way of much modern illness. It’s not just the smoking. It’s not just the heavy drinking. It’s not just the HPV. It’s not just stress. It’s not just the drugs. It’s not just any one choice or habit or happenstance at all.

It’s everything coming together into a dynamic that gives rise to disease. The body does its best to continue to self-regulate, but the more burdened it becomes, the less effectively and efficiently it can do this.

And here’s where we have a choice: Do we try to force it to work like a healthy body, manipulating it with drugs, surgery and other routine interventions and call it a success when symptoms are concealed?

Or do we work on repairing the body’s self-regulating mechanisms so they can restore and sustain health as they were designed to do?

Anyhow, the SI article is worth a read. Head on over and read the whole thing.

Image by Deejay, via Flickr

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True Healing Can ONLY Begin with Improving the State of the Terrain

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

Last December, I was in consultation with a patient who was trying to understand the concept of how a body gets so polluted that serious illness results. A 50ish woman, she was trying to grasp why we needed to improve the health of her biological terrain first, before removing her mercury amalgam fillings, root canals, and cavitations.

After about 20 minutes of my showing her pictures and explaining things like regulation and homeostasis, her eyes suddenly got big. So did her smile. She said, “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!” We both laughed.

If you’re not familiar with the classic musical My Fair Lady, that line comes right after the “ah-ha!” moment – when flower girl Eliza first speaks “proper” English without her usual Cockney accent.

There in my office, the patient’s “ah-ha!” was understanding the terrain – a concept she discovered that she could connect to her life in a very real way.

saltwater aquariumBack when she was in junior high, she told me, she had received an expensive Christmas gift from her parents: an aquarium that she dearly wanted. A few days later, they went to the fish store to choose her new pets. She selected some tropical, saltwater fish because she liked their vivid colors.

Two employees helped them find the equipment they’d need for keeping these particular fish and strongly recommended they buy a book on raising them. Her excitement swelled even more back at home when she introduced her new fish to the tank.

But a couple weeks later, she noticed two of them floating on top of the water. Why? What could the problem be? She went crying to her mother, saying that they should take the fish back to the store or to a vet who treats sick fish.

The problem, she learned, wasn’t with the fish. The fish suffered because the environment was wrong. Their death was a response to an improper environment. The equipment, the set-up, the condition of the water, the daily treatment – all these must be running near optimum for such fish to survive.

If conditions are wrong, no “fish doctor” will be able to help.

Mainstream Medicine’s Science Fictions

Any biological dentist worthy of the name should thoroughly understand the extracellular matrix and ground system regulation – the internal environment of the human body and its dynamics.

Simply, every function and process in the living body involves the matrix in one way or another. Every cell in your body is nourished through the matrix, and all waste products of cellular metabolism pass through it. The matrix is also where all immune responses and tissue repair processes take place.

Current Western thought holds that mainstream medical views are based on centuries of experience and scientific knowledge, resulting in in the best possible understanding of health. But the actual history of Western medicine is one riddled with animosity and jealousy between conflicting paradigms, beliefs, and opinions. Its knowledge base has been influenced by more than just hard science. Historical circumstances, events, opinions, and, yes, a lust for profits have also played a role, often resulting in disastrous health epidemics.

Ego and politics can also take over. For instance, credit for the germ theory of disease typically goes to Louis Pasteur. Yet the theory itself predates him by centuries. In fact, it was first proposed in the mid-1500s. Yet Pasteur, a skillful politician and chemist, was given the credit in the 1850s when he stated, “Le microbe c’est tout” – “The microbe is everything.”

Being held up as father of the germ theory of disease was Pasteur’s own popular fiction.

Claude BernardIt was French physiologist Claude Bernard who first declared Pasteur’s big mistake. Called “one of the greatest of all men of science” by Harvard historian I.B. Cohen, Bernard was one of the first to suggest the use of blind experiments to ensure objectivity.

He also proposed that the microbe is not everything. “Le microbe c’est rien,” he wrote, “le terrain c’est tout” – “The microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.” By “terrain,” he meant the milieu intérieur, the body’s internal environment. The body’s attempts to self-regulate this environment (maintain homeostasis) generate the symptoms that doctors then classify into diseases.

Yet Western medicine continues to act as if the germ theory were gospel, despite all evidence to the contrary. The condition of the biological terrain is completely disregarded. Most people consider their bodies to be hopeless victims at the full mercy of germs. Illness is believed to come only from the outside in – never as a product of a body’s foiled attempts to self-regulate.

Might this be the reason why mainstream medicine has been able to find neither the cause nor cure for even one major chronic disease in the 20th or 21st century?

The Microbe with a Thousand Faces (or at Least More than One)

Another wrong and limiting dogma is the concept of monomorphism articulated by the 19th century German biologist Ferdinand Julius Cohn. Monomorphism simply means that an organism only ever exists in a single form. The theory was supported by Pasteur, as well as Rudolf Virchow (who theorized that all disease starts in the cells) and Robert Koch (the founder of modern bacteriology).

But in the decades just after his death, pleomorphism – the fact that bacteria can (and do) change shape dramatically or exist in a number of forms – was shown to be a reality. Suffice it to say, it was a controversial claim.

Antoine BéchampOne of the first scientists doing work in this area was Pierre Jacques Antoine Béchamp, a chemist, biologist, and contemporary of Pasteur. Béchamp didn’t believe that bacteria could invade a healthy host and create disease on their own. Rather, he theorized that tiny molecular elements – microzymes, he called them – lived autonomously in the cells and body fluids of all living entities. He further theorized that these microzymes both build and recycle bacteria in response to host and environmental factors.

The work of German zoologist Günther Enderlein lent support to this theory. Using the new technology of darkfield microscopy, Enderlein showed that microbes don’t exist in just one form through their lifetimes but are constantly changing in response to changes in their environment. When the body’s internal environment is polluted – with both external toxins and metabolic waste – microbes transform from simple bacteria to complex fungi and viruses. These add to the pollution. The more compromised the environment, the more severe the illness.

What Béchamp was calling microzymes were not independent elements. Rather, they were microbes in various stages of transformation – pleomorphic forms.

If the matrix is in a healthy, uncompromised state, the microzymes will be of a harmonious valence and morphological form. They’re beneficial. They contribute to the overall health of the individual. If the matrix is in an “unphysiological” state, however, the health of the individual will become disturbed. The form, valence, and function of the microzymes become increasingly hostile to the human body.

The complex evolutionary forms of unfriendly bacteria, yeast, fungus, mold, and parasites that may evolve from an unfriendly terrain generate toxic wastes and homotoxins that produce a wide array of unwanted symptoms. For this reason, we call them symptomatic microforms.

But because of pleomorphism, they can also devolve, returning to their harmless microzyme state. This ability is a controlling mechanism of the terrain. When it’s in a state of biochemical balance, the microzymes are friendly, involving themselves with building a physiological ground substance.

A compromised terrain simply can’t be restored by the controlling mechanism if the microzymes are in an unphysiological, unfriendly state. Otherwise, you see the development of bacteria, yeasts, fungi, molds, and parasites that further disintegrate the ground substance. Tissues are destroyed. Organs and systems are destroyed.

Your body naturally has within itself all the controlling mechanisms and potential necessary to produce unfriendly microforms and all the symptoms that initiate. The unfriendly microforms simply evolve in our bodies because of an unfriendly, unphysiological compromised terrain.

This is why any true healing can only begin with improving the state of the terrain.

Béchamp Vindicated

microbial humanOver the past few years, advances in genetic technology have opened a window into the amazingly populous and powerful world of microbial life in and on the human body. Scientists now say that we’re not just human. There are countless other creatures living on and inside you, governing your health and happiness.

This science is challenging the very idea of what it means to be human.

“We tend to think that we are exclusively a product of our own cells, upwards of 10 trillion of them,” wrote Richard Conniff in a 2013 Smithsonian article on the microbiome. “But the microbes we harbor in our tissues and matrix add another 100 trillion cells into the mix.”

The creature we admire in the mirror every morning is thus about 10 percent human by cell count. By weight, the picture looks prettier: Altogether an average adult’s commensal microbes weigh about three pounds, roughly as much as the human brain. And while our 21,000 or so human genes help make us who we are, our resident microbes possess another 8 million or so genes many of which collaborate behind the scenes handling food, tinkering with the immune system, turning genes on and off, and otherwise helping us function.

More than 10,000 different species live in our bodies. There are an estimated 1000 alone that might live in your mouth. Another 150 species may live behind your ear, and 440 may live on the insides of your forearm, several thousand in your intestines. And talk about diversity! According to a 2010 study, even your left and right hands may have just 17% of their bacterial species in common.

What does this mean for us?

Think of Béchamp. Only recently has modern science admitted to the microbiome the same way Béchamp theorized 165 years ago.

Recent studies have linked changes in the microbiome to some of the most pressing medical problems of our time, including obesity, allergies, bowel disorders, and even psychiatric problems such as autism, schizophrenia, and depression.

Are these health concerns caused by the microbiome or merely occur as a consequence of those conditions? Are diseases caused by having the wrong parents who gave you faulty genes, or is it epigenetics (genetic changes caused by environmental triggers)?

Science continues to show that in both cases, it’s the latter. The terrain is everything.

Microbial human by Charls Tsevis, via Flickr

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