KTH Flashback: A Closer Look at the Biological Terrain (a/k/a the Extracellular Matrix)

Originally posted March 28, 2018; updated

Health and illness are driven by the condition of the body’s internal environment or biological terrain. But what is the terrain, exactly? What is it made of? What happens there? How can we support its optimal function – and thus our optimal health?

In the webinar below, naturopath Dr. Stefan Kuprowsky covers the essentials of this essential aspect of your physiology.

Do note, though, that when it comes to detoxifying the matrix, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The particular remedies used may be different for each patient, depending on their unique health history and current toxic burdens or challenges. This is why a complete biological assessment is crucial before starting any detox process, particularly if you have any long-standing chronic illness.

Learn more about how the terrain/matrix affects your health: Explore Dr. V’s Biodental Library.

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Becoming Sugar Savvy

white sugar cubesToo much sugar is bad for teeth, gums, and body alike, and the easiest way to avoid getting too much of the stuff is to avoid processed foods all together and minimize the amount you use in the cooking you do for yourself.

Of course, for many, that’s easier said than done.

Recently, we received an email with some helpful tips for parents to help them reduce the amount of added sugars in their families’ diets. They come courtesy of a program called Dr. Yum, which aims to transform the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life.

We thought it worth a share (with a few notes of our own in brackets throughout the article):

5 Ways for Parents to Become Savvy About Hidden Added Sugars

Ask 10 parents how much added sugar their child consumes each day and there’s a good chance that at least 9 of them will have no clue or will underestimate it. In fact, research published in the International Journal of Obesity reported that 92 percent of the parents surveyed in the study underestimated the added sugar content in foods and beverages. The study also showed that kids are more likely to be overweight when their parents are misinformed about sugar in their kids’ diet. Since sugar intake is associated with an increased risk of being overweight [not to mention a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease – KTH] and parents are a child’s nutritional gatekeeper, it essential that they know the ins and outs of sugar.

“Added sugars have infiltrated our lives in a pervasive way, making it crucial that parents know how to identify it and how much is too much,” says Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. “Without solid information regarding sugar intake, we may be setting our children up for possible health problems later.”

According to the American Heart Association, children should consume less than 25 grams of added sugar per day, which is equivalent to 6 teaspoons, and that children under the age of 2 should not have any sugar-added foods or beverages. [Even at this amount, though, they still run a higher risk of tooth decay. To prevent caries/cavities, research suggests you aim for no more than 3% of the child’s daily caloric intake – about 12 grams a day for a moderately active 4- to 8-year old. That’s less than half a serving of Yoplait strawberry yogurt, for instance, and a little more than half a serving of raisin bran cereal. – KTH] They report that eating foods high in added sugar throughout childhood is linked to a higher risk of developing such diseases in adulthood as heart disease. It’s also linked to obesity and elevated blood pressure in both children and adults.

Childhood obesity has become a hot-button issue in recent years, as the number of children considered overweight and obese continues to rise, particularly among children age 2-5. According to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, 57 percent of today’s children are predicted to be obese by age 35.

Parents are often confused when it comes to sugar intake with their children. Sugar that comes in the form of whole fruit is generally good, while added sugar is what parents need to really watch. Added sugars are those sugars that have been used by the food industry to enhance a food’s flavor. While a piece of fruit is a good choice, “fruit snacks” (the kind that come look like soft candy, for example) may not be, because of the added sugars. Even some foods that seem healthy may contain “hidden” added sugars, making it important for parents to get to know the terms and become label readers.

Here are 5 ways for parents to become savvy about the sneaky ways food companies add sugar to foods:

  1. Confusing food labels. Figuring out how many added teaspoons are in a recipe is not straightforward. First, food labels report sugar in grams. So remember this equation the next time you look at a label: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. To further complicate things, food labels historically did not break down added sugar with naturally occurring sugar. So when we look at a label on a sweetened fruit yogurt, it’s often unclear how much of the sugar comes from natural milk sugars and fruit versus how much extra sugar the food company has added. Luckily, by the end of 2018 most food labels will be updated to break down total vs added sugar which will make reading a label more straightforward.

  2. Small portion sizes. A favorite food may not look like it has much sugar per serving, but if you look closely you may notice that the serving size is much smaller than what you may actually eat. Take the example of cereal. A typical serving size for cereal may be a half a cup or less than a cup per serving, which is much smaller than most people will actually eat (especially if it’s really sweet, because you are likely to eat more). If there are two teaspoons of sugar in a serving, but you can eat three servings, that 2 teaspoons quickly multiplies to 6 teaspoons, the recommended daily limit for a child.

  3. Sweetening with “healthier” sugars. Sweeteners like honey, agave and maple syrup may make a food appear healthier, but that doesn’t mean they actually are. While they may be more natural than refined sugar, manufacturers are still adding sugar to a food that may not need extra sweetness. Don’t be fooled by healthier sounding added sweetener ingredients.

  4. Using sneaky names for sugar. Sometimes it can be hard to spot sugar in an ingredient list because there are so many code names. One nutrition source reports that sugar can be spotted with as many as 61 different names. Sugar’s many code names include: rice syrup, dextrose, maltose and barley malt, and high-fructose corn syrup. This is a great tactic, as companies are required to list foods by weight in decreasing order. By listing sugar with more than one name, companies may be able to bury sugar further down on the list, making it seem like there is less.

  5. Know the sneakiest foods. There are some foods that seem to have hidden sugars in them more often than others. Be aware of and read the labels carefully on such foods as granola bars, breakfast cereals, yogurt, fruit snacks, and juice. Juice is trickier because technically the sugar in juice is considered naturally occurring. However, it’s more like a processed food. There is nothing natural about a child drinking the equivalent of 5 apples worth of sugar. And when we drink apple juice, there is no fiber to help slow down the absorption the way there is when we eat an apple. Skip the juice and stick with water for hydration and whole fruit for fiber and nutrients instead.

“Childhood is where many of our food habits are formed, making it that much more important that we help our children learn to sensibly navigate the nutritional landscape,” added Heidi DiEugenio, director of the Doctor Yum Project. “The more we can help them learn better and healthier food habits now, the more they will benefit from those choices and habits into the future.”

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Why Communication Is Absolutely Critical to Good Healthcare

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

Let your dreams be bigger than your fears and your actions louder than your words. – M. Scott Peck

We are living in chaotic times. The linear world humanity trusted in for centuries is being upended by something wilder and less predictable. Change brings challenge. Has humanity exhausted its ego and now doesn’t know what to do?

man holding head in handsRates of anxiety and depression are at all-time highs. Substance abuse and suicide rates are rising. More people seem to prefer a life of digital distraction instead of investing themselves in work or study, let alone critical thinking about the world around them. Our mobile devices deliver virtual life whenever we want it and constant amusement or outrage as we choose.

Meanwhile, our physical bodies, our emotions, our psychological and spiritual health too often get shoved down to the bottom of our priority list, buried under the pursuit of money, material items, romantic partners, or other external desires we believe will bring us happiness and fulfillment.

I see this in more than a few of the patients who come to me for help with restoring their health. I hear them living in the past or future, seemingly oblivious to what is going on right now.

Yet none of it matters without our health. It’s the first thing given to us when we come into life, and it’s the last thing taken from us.

“We Are Far from Achieving Patient-Centered Care”

Physicians and dentists are taught to categorize each patient by finding a diagnosis. The practitioner tries to find something wrong, while the patient, for the most part, wants support in staying well.

But this method of diagnosis relies on the mistaken belief that every patient is exactly the same – just like every Prius or Camry is the same as every other. Problem-solving is approached as one-size-fits-all.

doctor and patientVirtually every new patient we see these days tells us about how it always felt like their previous dentist or physician was always in a rush to get them out the door. They’re not just imagining things. According to a recent study out of the University of Florida, two-thirds of physicians fail to give their patients enough time to even explain why they’re there.

On average, patients get just 11 seconds to state the reason for their visit before their doctor interrupts them.

“Our results suggest that we are far from achieving patient-centered care,” study co-author Naykky Singh Ospina told the media, which is putting it most mildly, to say the least.

As for reasons behind being in such a hurry, the authors suggest burnout that many doctors experience could prevent them from adequately serving their patient’s needs. Other factors include time constraints dictated by the pencil pushers directing the clinics or simply not receiving strong enough training on how to communicate properly with patients.

I would offer that there may be other factors in play, as well.

What Patients Care About

One of the biggest problems is that, like our current president, many physicians and dentists think they’re the smartest people in the room – even as our culture now tends to devalue the expertise of professionals. Threatened, they assert their ego and intellect all the more. They tend to quickly dismiss the opinions of others and try to dominate decision-making, even when additional input and a broader perspective could bring about better outcomes.

concerned looking womanThey see the doctor as the boss. The patient who doesn’t obey is labeled “difficult” and “non-compliant.”

And where obedient patients tend to care more about what their insurance covers and how quickly their symptoms can be quashed, holistically and biologically inclined patients tend to care most about how their practitioners care.

Our goal is thus not to move patients through our office as quickly as possible so we can move on to the next. Rather, we listen and only then offer possible solutions to the concerns that patients bring to us.

“True listening,” wrote Virginia dentist Paul Henny in a recent essay in a newsletter called Thought Experiments, “requires a setting aside of ourself.” It means listening without a preset agenda in mind or trying to steer conversations toward our own goals or satisfaction.

The goal is to create a safe psychological space where the patient senses acceptance, and therefore feels less vulnerable and thus more inclined to open up and share their fears and concerns regarding dental issues.

Here, trust can develop and knowledge be shared as doctor and patient work together on a plan of action toward the patient’s desired health outcomes.

This takes another important skill: emotional intelligence. Two of the pioneering psychologists in this field, Peter Salovey and John Mayer, have described this as

the capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions, to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

Without emotional intelligence, it is impossible to truly understand a patient’s needs, let alone have much inkling of what their experiences of health or illness are like. It is impossible to see them as a whole, complex person.

“Always Show People You Care”

On our office home page, we list some of the things that our patients have told us they value about the care we provide. I’d like to draw your attention to two of them in particular:

  • The value we place on caring, helping relationships that promote a positive, caring atmosphere in our office and help you define your personal health and lifestyle objectives.

  • Our commitment to go beyond mere competence to find meaning and direction in a highly personalized, health-centered, graceful and creative environment, with an emphasis on long-term health planning.

We also “follow three rules,” in the words of famed football coach Lou Holtz: “Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.”

In a world that promotes disconnectedness through the illusion of connectivity, we think this is especially important. So many people make themselves so busy, they’re not even aware of their needs or even their health – until something goes wrong.

If there isn’t clear, open, non-judgmental communication, it’s all too easy for the practitioner and patient to start working at cross-purposes. The practitioner provides what they think the patient needs. The patient can’t understand why they’re not being heard.

Good decision-making is impossible within the paradigm of medicine-as-usual, where the focus is on maximizing productivity and profitability for corporations. Instead of physicians, dentists, and other healthcare professionals, pencil-pushers run the show.

Any real discussion of health is easily muted. Doctors are reduced to repair workers laboring under a remedial philosophy with patients who are often dissatisfied with both their outcome and experience.

And the dysfunction deepens.

Here’s my question: Do people want dental and medical care to deal with actual issues that are bothering them or do they want corporate dentistry and medicine to go hunting for something wrong with them, regardless of what they’re actually experiencing?

I would hope that, even in this day and age, most people would choose the former.

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The Trouble with Root Canal Treatment

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.

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It’s Mercury-Free Dentistry Week, 2018 Edition

Our office has been mercury-free for decades now. We began the transition in the mid-1970s and were completely mercury-free by the early 1980s.

Not only are we mercury-free, but we’re also mercury-safe, meaning we take great precautions to protect the health of our patients, our team, and our planet whenever a patient chooses or needs to have amalgam fillings removed.

It’s great to see ever more dentists doing the right thing by ending their use of this toxic, antiquated material. We look forward to a truly mercury-free future for all of us.

As we’re in the middle of this year’s Mercury-Free Dentistry Week – a joint campaign by Dr. Mercola and Consumers for Dental Choice, we thought we’d share this little blast from the past – though truth be told, it might be a little more appropriate for Halloween.

So without further ado, we present The Mercury Amalgam Horror Show!

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

(Seriously, this is NOT for the squeamish.)

The “monster cavity” is just the beginning.

That filling in it? “Silver” only by color and name. Dental amalgam is actually about 50% mercury. And it’s being removed unsafely.

Then there’s all the additional trauma that tooth will be subject to down the road, starting with the proposed root canal.

The dentist assures us that the patient is “willing to take the risk,” but we can’t help but wonder: Does she fully understand the risks? They go far beyond breakdown of the tooth and future decay…


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Less Evidence, More Pills?

scattered pillsSome folks like to say that the difference between conventional medicine and holistic, regulative, or other unorthodox therapies is that the former is “proven,” the latter is not.

Yet as we’ve seen before, this isn’t exactly true.

Research has shown that only about 20% of orthodox medical practices are based on “gold standard evidence,” randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. The rest, note Sanjaya Kumar and David Nash in their book Demand Better!, is “based upon a combination of less reliable studies, unsystematic observation, informed guesswork and conformity to prevailing treatments and procedures used by most other clinicians in a local community.”

New research in JAMA offers another view of just how weak the evidence for FDA-approved medicine can be.

This Yale-based study evaluated the evidence backing the approval of the 46 “breakthrough” drugs approved since the implementation of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Safety and Innovation Act of 2012. This act was designed to speed the availability of drugs and biologics intended to treat serious or life-threatening conditions.

All told, the authors analyzed 89 trials. More than half the drugs – 54% – were approved without any double-blind testing. Nearly half were approved without a randomized trial or comparison to a placebo. Only 22% of all trials measured actual improvement.

And more than half of all approvals were based on a single pivotal trial.

Considering how many drugs which went through the usual approval process have turned out later to cause harmful, even life-threatening “side effects” – nearly 1/3 of all drugs approved between 2001 and 2010, according to one study – one can only guess how many of these fast-tracked drugs will turn out to be more problematic than assumed.

But these are for life-threatening conditions, some may object. The risks are worth it.

We respectfully disagree. What is needed, in our opinion, is the radically different approach of regulative, biological medicine, where the goal is more than just to stop symptoms, creating the illusion of health. The goal is to give the body what it needs to restore proper self-regulation, detoxify, and heal. Symptom-focused pharmaceuticals only interfere with this process.

But if one chooses to go the route of conventional medicine, we think they at least deserve therapies that have some robust evidence supporting them and their safety.

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From Holistic Dentistry to Biological

Google Alerts occasionally delivers articles that make us smile – like this recent piece on “one of the latest fads in dentistry.”

The “fad” in question? Holistic dentistry.

In fact, holistic dentistry has been around since at least the early 1970s – a time when more dentists began to question things like the wisdom of filling decayed teeth with mercury amalgam; when they began to study and incorporate aspects of Eastern and energetic medicine with Western clinical practice; when they began to understand the mouth in relationship to other structures, organs, and systems in the human body.

If it’s a “fad,” it’s a fad that’s now lasted nearly 50 years.

But the good doctor – an orthodontist – who wrote the article did touch on one critical truth: Holistic dentistry isn’t a recognized dental specialty such as periodontics or prosthodontics. Truly, anyone can call their practice “holistic” if they want to. There’s no regulation of the term.

The same trouble dogs the phrase “biological dentistry,” though as we’ve noted before, despite the rivaling definitions you can find online, the phrase actually does indicate a very specific approach to oral health care.

biological dentistry symbolBiological dentistry is far more than just “a philosophy” or “attitude.” It is rooted in what’s known as regulative medicine, where dental situations are viewed in the context of a person’s total toxic burden. Healing from dental problems such as infected root canal teeth, cavitations, or mercury toxicity first involves addressing dysfunction in the body’s biological terrain – its internal environment, also known as the extracellular matrix or milieu.

The terrain is what drives health or illness, resilience or vulnerability. It determines how effectively – or not – the body can keep itself in physiological balance, or self-regulate.

If your regulative system is out of whack – due to toxicities, injuries, and environmental and lifestyle factors – just treating the dental situation may be of little help. It certainly isn’t “addressing the root cause,” to use one of the favorite marketing phrases. It’s merely addressing one burden while the rest of the body’s needs go effectively ignored.

In fact, it’s called “biological dentistry” because it adapted the principles of German Biological Medicine, which focuses on supporting the body’s ability to self-regulate and heal itself. The term was suggested by Dr. Walter Sturm, an important mentor to Dr. Verigin and his colleague Dr. Ed Arana as they formed the organization now known as the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine back in 1985.

“Biological dentistry” was born with that group of dentists seeking a more comprehensive way to care for their patients, to support their oral and systemic health alike.

It’s a shame that there are so many rivaling definitions out there. It’s confusing to patients, as well as dentists who are just learning about the approach. Biological dentistry is so much more than just concern with mercury or fluoride or “treating the whole person.” It’s a completely different paradigm focused on removing and preventing barriers to healing – physical, mental, spiritual – while nurturing the body’s own healing mechanisms.

And the terrain is the key. The terrain, in the famous words of French physiologist Claude Bernard, is everything.


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