The Latest To-Do Over Coconut Oil

coconut oilAccording to USA Today and other mainstream outlets now, coconut oil is just terrible for you. So saith the American Heart Association.

Except that they didn’t really.

What they said was what they’ve been saying for decades: the same old bad advice about lowering your risk of heart disease by replacing saturated fats with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. More, they now insist that doing so “lowers cardiovascular disease risk as much as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.”

Well, that’s a bit of a leap.

Anyhow, since news of the current advisory ran, there’s been a lot of great commentary – from conventional and holistic quarters alike – on just how flawed and problem-riddled it is. Rather than rehash, we thought it better to just point you to the top five critiques we’ve seen so far.

  1. Please Calm Down: Coconut Oil Is Fine (Gizmodo)

  2. In Defense of Coconut Oil: Rebuttal to USA Today (GreenMedInfo)

  3. Vegetable Oils, (Francis) Bacon, Bing Crosby, and the AHA (MedPage Today)

  4. Why Coconut Oil Won’t Kill You, But Listening to the American Heart Association Might (Sustainable Dish)

  5. Is Coconut Oil Deadly? (The Drs Wolfson)

If you only have time for one of these, we recommend #3 – a searing essay by an expert in the fat and diet-heart hypothesis wars, Gary Taubes.

Have you read other critiques of the AHA paper that you think should be included here? Share the links in the comments!

About coconut oil & oral health (and more)

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“Holistic” and “Biological” Are NOT Interchangeable Terms

Over the past decade or so, conventional dentistry has finally begun to appreciate the relationship between oral and systemic health. It’s a welcome change. Just the other day, we ran across an article on dentistry’s “paradigm shift.”

The dental field is experiencing a paradigm shift in which the mouth is no longer viewed as an independent entity, but intricately connected to the rest of the body. Thus, whilst poor oral health negatively impacts on appetite, nutrition, self-esteem and quality of life, it has additional consequences that can affect general health.

Of course, this shift is only partial, largely restricted to the well-documented links between gum disease and other inflammatory health conditions. Still, it raises an important question: If dentistry in general now accepts the fact that the teeth and mouth are always connected to a body, how is this so different from holistic or biological dentistry, as the two terms are commonly defined?

You may have noticed how those two terms are often used interchangeably. In fact, just minutes after we ran across the above article, we encountered this:

Holistic and biological dentists are basically interchangeable in their practice philosophies. The difference between a holistic and a traditional dentist stems mostly from a philosophical approach.

Actually, they aren’t. But more on this in a moment.

Holistic or biological dentists operate according to the belief system that teeth are an integral part of the body and the patient’s overall health, while recognizing that the oral and dental health can have a major influence on other disease processes in the body.

The good doctor does go on to acknowledge that “most, if not all, dentists believe this to be true and operate daily with the well-being of the patient in mind.” So how is holistic dentistry actually different?

The holistic or biologic dentist takes this treatment idea further and tries to resolve dental issues while working in harmony with the rest of the body.

Oh. Okay.

But that’s still not biological dentistry.

We’ve blogged before about what biological dentistry is and why it’s called that. We won’t rehash it. Rather, we’ll distill it to a single point: Biological dentistry is rooted in regulative medicine that is focused on dental barriers to optimal health.

Dental situations are viewed in the context of a person’s total toxic burden. The state of the patient’s biological terrain must be addressed. After all, the terrain – the extracellular matrix – is what guides the body’s self-regulating abilities.

This is a fundamental concept. A dental practice that neglects this cannot, in the strict sense, be considered biological. It may be holistic, concerned with body, mind, and spirit alike. It may be integrative, combining the best modern clinical practice with traditional healing wisdom.

But biological dentistry, by definition, rests on supporting the body’s self-regulating abilities so treatment of problem dental situations – mercury, root canals, cavitations – can be most effective.

One of the reasons focal infection theory fell out of favor was that, in the wake of Weston Price’s landmark research, dentists began taking out root canal teeth left and right, claiming it would cure systemic illnesses. After so many people experienced no improvement, the theory was blamed.

But what subsequent science has suggested is that just extracting the root canal teeth wasn’t enough; deeper physiological disturbances need to be addressed, as well.

There are many good dentists out there who describe their practice as “holistic” or “biological” who do very good work. They safely remove mercury fillings. They remove infected root canal teeth or clean out cavitations. They support detox. They have patients who sing their praises, who feel their lives have been restored thanks to them.

worried manBut we’ve lost count of the number of patients who have come to us after seeing other integrative dentists. They’ve had their mercury or root canals removed, yet remained burdened by difficult symptoms. No one had connected all the dots. Their underlying regulative issues remained unaddressed.

To just take out the mercury or root canals or treat cavitations while neglecting the terrain is not much better than treating the symptom rather than the cause.

To put it another way: If the terrain is healthy and the immune system robust, a person can generally handle those dental issues for a long time without seeing chronic, systemic illness develop. It’s when the terrain is disordered and polluted that dental burdens can do their greatest damage to a person’s health.

So first, you’ve got to address the terrain.

To learn more about regulative biological dentistry, explore Dr. V’s Biodental Library – particularly his articles in our quarterly newsletter Biosis, as well as those on our biological dentistry resource pages. There, he goes in depth on the concepts he wants his patients to understand so they can take charge of their health in a real, profound way, with lots of case histories to illustrate.

And if you have questions about how biological dentistry may help in your own health journey, please don’t hesitate to give us a call: 209-838-3522. We’d be pleased to talk with you.

Image by B Rosen, via Flickr

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Is It Stress That’s Making You Grind Your Teeth – or Something More?

“Stress sheared off my front teeth,” Demi Moore recently told Jimmy Fallon. And she isn’t alone.

For months, my jaw and teeth have been in a constant state of clenching and grinding. Now, a molar had broken in half, pushed over the edge by one bite of a salted caramel cookie and a steady diet of political news-induced stress.

Indeed, as we’ve noted before, stress is a common cause habitual clenching or grinding, often during sleep – a habit known as “bruxing.”

teeth showing effects of bruxismBut it’s not the only cause.

Quite often, bruxism is a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition in which you periodically stop breathing during sleep. Each episode may last for several seconds to minutes, and there may be dozens of episodes each night. Each time, your brain is deprived of the oxygen it needs. Naturally, the body reacts as though it’s at risk of death, doing all it can to get you to start breathing again.

Bruxing is one of those things. Dentist Dr. Louis Malcmacher describes the process well:

The brain needs to open the airway and get the muscles of mastication [chewing] to start working hard and fast, a process we know as bruxism. The masticatory muscles move the jaw forward, the airway opens, and the patient takes in a deep rescue breath. The patient falls back asleep, the airway gets blocked, and the process repeats many times during the night.

So how does the airway get blocked?

One way is by your own tissues, for when you sleep, your tongue and the muscles around the top of your throat relax and can fall back, partly blocking the airway. (“Snoring” is the sound made when air forcefully pushes past the blockage, and it, too, can be a sign of apnea.) Or the whole mandible may be retruded – pulled backward – or fall back during sleep. Or the tongue may simply not have enough room to rest comfortably, due to an underdeveloped jaw and narrow dental arches.

In the short term, splint therapy can be helpful for cushioning the force of biting and protecting the teeth. But in the long-term, you want to address the cause of bruxing. If it’s stress-induced, then you want to pursue stress management or relaxation strategies. If it’s due to your bite, then you want to address the bite.

And if it’s apnea, then you address the apnea. (And it’s important you do: Obstructive sleep apnea has been linked with a wide range of health problems, from high blood pressure to dementia. It can even be deadly.) One oft-cited study found “a complete eradication of the tooth grinding events” after CPAP was used to ensure steady breathing through the night.

But not everyone can tolerate CPAP. Fortunately, there are other good options, at least in the case of mild to moderate apnea. Myofunctional therapy has been shown to be helpful, and an ever increasing array of sleep appliances are available to help keep the airway open and even to widen it.

The main thing is, there are options for saving your teeth from the ravages of bruxing.

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Removing Mercury Amalgam Fillings – an Important Step but Just One Step

open mouth with amalgam fillingsImagine you’re locked in a room where low levels of carbon monoxide are constantly being piped in. Eventually, you start to get a headache. You feel queasy, dizzy, weak. But before you get to feeling any worse, someone comes to let you out.

A feeling of relief comes quick.

So you might expect similar relief after getting mercury amalgam “silver” fillings removed from your mouth. You’re no longer subject to their 24/7 release of neurotoxic mercury vapor.

And research continues to suggest this – such as the study published earlier this year in Acta Odontological Scandinavica. Evaluating data from a small group of patients, the authors found that

Removal of amalgam restorations was followed by a long term reduction of general health complaints, which was associated with mercury concentration in urine before amalgam removal.

This similar to what one of the author’s 2016 doctoral thesis showed: a significan reduction in health complaints at three years after amalgam removal.

But here’s the thing to note: Being mercury-free didn’t mean being symptom-free. Patients reported feeling better yet still experienced a considerably high “symptom load.”

This simple fact offers another important reminder that just getting your amalgams out is seldom enough. Because at least some of the mercury released from amalgam fillings gets stored – and methylated – in the body, proper detox is needed to clear the metal from the body. And proper detox usually requires proper “pretox” – that is, getting the body ready to excrete toxins, opening the channels of elimination.

Mercury alone is seldom the problem in the patients we see. There are typically other toxic exposures. There are dietary and other lifestyle issues. There’s usually a history of other illnesses and injuries that have compromised the body’s ability to self-regulate as it was designed to do. There are often cognitive, emotional, and spiritual issues impeding the body’s ability to thrive.

Only by evaluating and addressing all factors that are compromising health – and doing so in a sensible, healthy, and logical manner – can real, long-term healing occur.

Image by Traci Lawson, via Flickr

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Mind/Body Unity & the Need for Authenticity

A wonderful, thought-provoking talk by Canadian physician, Dr. Gabor Maté:

Learn more about Dr. Maté and his work.

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Tooth Loss, Dementia, & the Biological Terrain

missing teethIt wasn’t so long ago that most dentists scoffed at the notion that oral and systemic health are related. After all, they were trained – and still are largely trained – to be mouth mechanics, specialists at repairing problems in isolation, with little consideration for how that might affect the rest of the body.

Now, a week doesn’t go by without new research shedding even more light on the oral-systemic connection, particularly the link between gum disease and other inflammatory conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Consider a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Analyzing data from more than 1500 Japanese seniors, the authors found that

Tooth loss is associated with an increased risk of all-cause dementia and [Alzheimer’s disease] in the Japanese population.

Though you might think of tooth loss as something that goes right along with old age, it isn’t inevitable. Most tooth loss is the result of disease. And periodontal disease is extremely common among seniors. More than 70% of Americans age 65 or older have it – and nearly half of all adults over 30.

As gum disease progresses, it destroys both the soft tissues and the underlying bone that support the teeth. With bone loss, the teeth loosen in their sockets. Eventually, they fall out (if they’re not extracted first).

So it’s not that missing teeth cause problems like dementia. Rather, its the underlying disease process.

And that infection does not stay confined to the mouth. Pathogens travel through the circulation and can wreak havoc at sites far away from the mouth. (Oral bacteria have been found in the heart, for instance, and in knees.)

And if the biological terrain is polluted and disordered, related health problems become more likely.

This is why a preventive approach – not just against gum disease but all illness and dysfunction – is so crucial. A healthy, well-ordered terrain is your best insurance against chronic illness.

After all, it’s what dictates how illness develops or how health is sustained.

Learn more about the biological terrain

Image via NOttingham University Hospitals

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The Illusion of “Side Effects”

Some news items say so much all on their own.

pills in shape of USA

Almost one-third of new drugs approved by U.S. regulators over a decade ended up years later with warnings about unexpected, sometimes life-threatening side effects or complications, a new analysis found.

The results covered all 222 prescription drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 2001 through 2010. The researchers looked at potential problems that cropped up during routine monitoring that’s done once a medicine is on the market. The 71 flagged drugs included top-sellers for treating depression, arthritis, infections and blood clots. Safety issues included risks for serious skin reactions, liver damage, cancer and even death.

“The large percentage of problems was a surprise,” and they included side effects not seen during the review process, said Dr. Joseph Ross, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of medicine and public health at Yale University.

Actually, we think the surprise would be drugs that had no unintended consequences.

As Dr. V sees it, the whole concept of “side effects” is a kind of illusion. Drugs have effects, full stop. Some of those effects are desirable; others, not so much. All of them are a result of the action of the drug.

Each year, thousands of Americans die from pharmaceutical drugs – and more than a million are “injured.” Some of cases are from abusing the drugs; some are from error; and a great many are, in fact, from taking medications exactly as prescribed.

While most safety concerns were not serious enough to prompt recalls, the findings raise questions about how thoroughly drugs are tested before approval, said drug safety expert Thomas Moore. But Ross said the results suggest that the FDA “is kind of doing a great job” at scrutinizing drugs after approval.

Oh, well, that’s a relief!

polypharmacy cartoonAnd if it doesn’t make you feel better, no doubt, they have a pill for that.

And that points to another problem with throwing drugs at disease: You easily wind up throwing yet more drugs at their unwelcome “side effects,” which have their own “side effects,” which can be treated with more drugs, ad infinitum.

According to the CDC, nearly 22% of Americans take 3 or more prescription drugs in the last month. Nearly 11% take 5 or more. Roughly three-quarters of all doctor visits involve drug therapy.

But while those drugs may do wonders at silencing painful or disturbing symptoms, they do absolutely nothing to treat what’s causing them. Meanwhile, their actions further pollute and disorder the biological terrain, deepening illness and giving rise to even more symptoms and new diagnoses. Oh, and more drugs.

And we wonder why health outcomes are so much worse here in the US than in other industrialized nations.

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