To Freak Out or Not to Freak Out? Diet Soda Edition

There’s nothing quite like a Daily Mail headline to freak you out:

Daily Mail screenshot

Naturally, there were those who felt the need to respond.

Fortune screenshot

But while the article below it correctly points out the limitations of the study in question (more on this in a sec’), headlines like that can make it sound as if the research itself was bunk. And not a lot of people will read beyond that.

But we have to admit, that’s a sexier headline than “Study Shows Association Between Diet Soda Consumption, Stroke, and Dementia.”

And that’s all that the study in Stroke actually showed. Those who drank more diet soda showed a higher risk for the two conditions. It didn’t show that diet soda caused them. An observational study can’t show that.

There were other important limitations, too. For instance, the results came from an ethnically homogenous group. The researchers didn’t account for other sources of artificial sweeteners in the diet.

On top of that, the three-fold risk that the Mail shouted about? That was relative risk. The overall risk was still on the low side.

“Even if someone is three times as likely to develop stroke or dementia, it is by no means a certain fate,” [lead author Matthew] Pase said. “In our study, three percent of the people had a new stroke and five percent developed dementia, so we’re still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia.”

So go ahead and drink your diet soda?

Just as a single observational study can’t tell you that it’s harmful, it also can’t tell you that it’s perfectly benign.

soda aisleBut plenty of other research through the years suggests that it’s not something you want to drink a lot of. Some research has shown that regular consumption of diet soda reduces microbial diversity in the gut, which has significant implications for metabolic and mental health in particular. And we’ve known for years that it can damage teeth just as readily as the sugary stuff it’s meant to replace.

And then, of course, there are the familiar concerns with the artificial sweeteners themselves.

Interestingly, the authors published another paper recently that seems to have received much less attention, maybe because it confirms so much of what we already know.

This companion study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, looked at the possible relationship between drinking sugary beverages and developing early signs of Alzheimer’s.

The researchers looked at people who consumed more than two sugary drinks a day of any type – soda, fruit juice, and other soft drinks – or more than three per week of soda alone. Among that “high intake” group, they found multiple signs of accelerated brain aging, including smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory, and a shrunken hippocampus, all risk factors for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found that higher intake of diet soda – at least one per day – was associated with smaller brain volume.

Again, we have association, not causation. But considering the wealth of research to date, both of these studies suggest yet more reason to make soda a sometime or never thing, not a habit.

Image by Mike Mozart, via Flickr


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The Causes of Illness & Degenerative Diseases, Part 1: The Basis for Holistic Biological Medicine

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

Nearly all of the patients we see first come to our office because they’ve read online about certain dental materials and procedures that may be contributing to their medical symptoms or diagnosed conditions.

Here are some of the most common issues that lead them to our door:

table of health complaints

The National Cancer Institute Dictionary of Cancer Terms defines biomedicine as

a system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Also called allopathic medicine, conventional medicine, mainstream medicine, orthodox medicine, and Western medicine.

Doctors have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours, blood, sweat, and tears in learning, studying, and practicing their various specialties. I am convinced that each truly and dearly wants to help their patients heal.

physicianYet the medicine they rely on too often lands them short of their goal.

For instance, it’s a well-known fact that not all drugs are safe or effective. But the problem goes deeper. Larry Dossey has noted that much conventional medicine has never been evaluated by its own professed “gold standard,” the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. More recent research has confirmed this. Sanjaya Kumar and David B. Nash put the matter bluntly in their 2011 book Demand Better!:

We could accurately say, “Half of what physicians do is wrong,” or “Less than 20 percent of what physicians do has solid research to support it.” Although these claims sound absurd, they are solidly supported by research that is largely agreed upon by experts. Yet these claims are rarely discussed publicly. It would be political suicide for our public leaders to admit these truths and risk being branded as reactionary or radical. Most Americans wouldn’t believe them anyway. Dozens of stakeholders are continuously jockeying to promote their vested interests, making it difficult for anyone to summarize a complex and nuanced body of research in a way that cuts through the partisan fog and satisfies everyone’s agendas. That, too, is part of the problem.

* * *

The plain fact is that many clinical decisions made by physicians appear to be arbitrary, uncertain and variable. Reams of research point to the same finding: physicians looking at the same thing will disagree with each other, or even with themselves, from 10 percent to 50 percent of the time during virtually every aspect of the medical-care process—from taking a medical history to doing a physical examination, reading a laboratory test, performing a pathological diagnosis and recommending a treatment. Physician judgment is highly variable.

Of course, none of those treatments are risk-free.

The Nutrition Institute of America funded an independent review of “government-approved” medicine that was published in 2006. Professors Gary Null and Dorothy Smith, along with doctors Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman and Debora Rasio titled the report “Death by Medicine.”

The researchers found that America’s leading cause of death isn’t heart disease or cancer: its conventional medicine. They found that the iatrogenic death rate in the US (death caused by doctors and/or medical treatments) is 783,936 a year. That’s 84,059 more deaths than those caused by heart disease in 2001 and 230,865 more deaths than those caused by cancer.

drugsOver a decade, the scientists predict that iatrogenic deaths will total about 7.8 million, “more than all the casualties from all the wars fought by the US throughout its entire history,” a death rate equivalent to that caused by six jumbo jets falling out of the sky every day.

They also believe the numbers are actually much higher because most iatrogenic deaths aren’t reported as such: only 5 to 20% of iatrogenic deaths are reported for fear of lawsuits and because codes for reporting deaths due to drug side effects and other medical errors don’t even exist in many cases. The number of deaths due to conventional medicine may be 20 times higher than the numbers depicted here. [emphasis in the original]

The dominant paradigm in orthodox medicine has focused on the suppression of symptoms. If a patient has symptoms of inflammation, they’re prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug. If they have symptoms of depression or anxiety, they are given antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds.

Symptoms are thus mistaken for disease itself. In reality, they’re the natural consequence of the disease process. Meanwhile, all those drugs merely generate more illness. Instead of teaching patients a better way of living, doctors give drugs that suppress one constellation of symptoms and create another. This, of course, gets labeled as a different disease.

What has actually happened: The acute illness has been driven deeper.

Treating Clients, Not Patients

Read the Wikipedia entry on naturopathy, and you get a highly biased definition, full of allegations of “quackery.” The authors incorrectly and unfairly contrast naturopathic medicine with “evidence-based medicine” – a move you can only make by disregarding huge portions of the scientific literature.

Yet as Christine Fleetwood, ND, RPh, notes in an excellent recent article in the Townsend Letter (Feb/Mar 2017), “both conventional medicine and the public are catching on” to the virtues of naturopathic medicine.

The Mayo Clinic Staff says: Complementary and alternative medicine has never been more popular. Nearly 40 percent of adults report using complementary and alternative medicine, also called CAM for short. Doctors embracing, too, often combining them with mainstream medical therapies-spawning the term integrative medicine.

Fleetwood goes on to eloquently elaborate that this paradigm is constantly changing as treatments undergo further testing. It encompasses the best of orthodox medicine, as well as mind-body medicine, energy medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy and more, melding the modern with ancient healing systems.

Well now I really like the company Naturopathy has been placed. We’re with “ancient practices” – 3000 year old Ayurvedic medicine and possibly older Chinese medicine-both of which are heavily steeped in philosophy. The practitioner must understand the philosophy behind the medicine in order to implement the medicine. Conventional medicine on the other hand – despite being the dominant paradigm – has no philosophical backing or belief system.

Whether you call it CAM or integrative or functional or biological medicine, the approach is the same: You don’t address the disease; you address the underlying causes of disease. In doing so, both the individual seeking help and the practitioner engage in a team-oriented partnership.

This is why the individual is often referred to as a client rather than a patient. A patient is passive, wanting the practitioner to tell them what to do. The client is active, turning to the practitioner for information, advice, and treatment.

symbols of health and wellnessWhere a conventional medical appointment might last 10 minutes tops (the current average is around 8 minutes), a consultation with a biologically-based practitioner can last hours. The practitioner needs plenty of time to truly listen to a client’s concerns and respond to their questions in an open learning environment. The value they place on caring, helping relationships that promote a positive, caring atmosphere helps clients define their personal health and lifestyle objectives.

Putting the client at the center, practitioners can discuss the interrelationships of the client’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being – not to mention the interactions of lifestyle, genetics, and environmental influences and how these can influence long-term health and complex, chronic diseases.

But there’s another form of biological therapy that differs significantly from the other modalities mentioned above. My approach is called Bioregulatory Dental Medicine. And to grasp its basics, we’ll need to first take a journey through the basic principles of bodily regulation toward a steady state known as homeostasis.

And that’s a journey we will begin in the next installment of this series…

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Some Thoughts on Consumer Genetic Testing

human genomeEarlier this month, the FDA announced that 23andMe could go ahead and market its genetic testing for 10 health conditions. Naturally, the company’s CEO got right to celebrating in the media.”

“My hope is that 23andMe, by being less and less regulated, will enable more people to open their eyes to science,” said Wojcicki on Wednesday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in Laguna, Nigel. She added that providing her customers with information about their genes can empower them to take a more active role in making decisions about their health.

* * *

“People really thrive when they actually are empowered,” she said, adding that roughly 40% or 50% of 23andMe’s customers have been prompted to make changes to their lifestyle or health habits due to what they’ve learned about their genes.

Unfortunately for her, objective analysis suggests otherwise. As a literature review in the BMJ put it,

Expectations that communicating DNA based risk estimates changes behaviour is not supported by existing evidence. These results do not support use of genetic testing or the search for risk-conferring gene variants for common complex diseases on the basis that they motivate risk-reducing behaviour.


Beyond that, there’s a simple truth that – for once – did not seem completely lost in the hoopla: Genes are not destiny. They are potential. Whether and how they express is largely a matter of environmental factors and forces – epigenetics – and their impact on the extracellular matrix, or biological terrain. For instance, the LA Times reported,

“It is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle,” Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in the statement.

One of the major worries with direct-to-consumer testing is that customers could interpret results as definitive answers, said Brent Fogel, associate professor of neurology and human genetics and director of the UCLA Neurogenetics Clinic. In the clinical world, he said, genetic risk is used only occasionally as supportive evidence.

Similarly, over at Futurity,

ACMGG president and geneticist Michael Watson told Scientific American that the testing will confuse many consumers who won’t know how to quantitatively balance genetic risk against other factors such as environmental influences, lifestyle, and health status. He also argues that consumers will probably want follow-up testing in cases where doctors wouldn’t necessarily order it — and insurance companies won’t pay for it…

Anyhow, here’s something we consider far more empowering than the FDA’s news…

Image by Webridge, via Wikimedia Commons

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New & Improved Root Canals? Yeah, Right

removing infected pulpEven endodontists will tell you, if they’re being honest, that root canal disinfection isn’t always effective. They’ll tell you that about 25% of all root canals fail due to infection by pathogens left in the canal before it’s filled and sealed off.

Actually, latent infection is far more common than that, but let’s give them that “25%” for the moment – a number they seem to have high hopes of lowering with a new technology that was the subject of a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Dental Research.

The device seems somewhat similar to early caries and oral cancer detection tools in that it uses fluorescence to “detect minute amounts of residual live bacteria in the root canal space. Indeed, during trials the team were able to successfully detect bacterial cells after just three minutes of testing.”

So saith the press release.

“The resilient nature of bacteria, combined with often complex root canal structures, make disinfection challenging, leading to a considerable number of persistent infections. This is one of the main causes of root canal treatment failures”, explained Professor Francesco Mannocci, Professor of Endodontics from the Dental Institute at King’s College London.

“SafeRoot will reduce the time for root canal completion and will increase the success rate of treatments by letting the dentist know when it’s safe to proceed with filling the tooth. This should produce fewer acute ‘flair-ups’ [sic] and failed root treatments, as any residual infection in the root canal will be identified,” said Professor Tim Watson from the Dental Institute.

There’s just one problem. Bacteria and other pathogens don’t confine themselves – or their toxic waste products – to the root canals themselves, the physical structures that house the living pulp of a tooth. They’re free to venture into the microscopic tubules that make up the dentin, the layer of tissue between the pulp and enamel. It’s been estimated that there are up to three miles of these tubules in every tooth.

dentinal tubulesThose dentinal tubules are the perfect hiding place for pathogens. There’s no way to thoroughly and permanently disinfect them. Ozone can provide a temporary fix, but in general, the bacteria will become active again within a year or so. Protocols to keep the biological terrain healthy and robust become more important than ever.

Those pathogens that remain in the tubules are what make root canal teeth ultimately so problematic. Their highly toxic waste products wreak havoc with the mitochondria in your cells and, ultimately, the terrain. Research has shown systemic illness developing out of these conditions, including cancer.

To learn more about the reality of root canals, why we don’t recommend them, and what you can do if you suspect root canal teeth may be affecting your overall health, start here.

Root canal image by BruceBlaus, via Wikimedia Commons

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Dental Implants: Hype vs. Reality

dental implant with peri-implantitisYou often hear implant dentists brag about implant success rates as high as 98% – despite the fact that such numbers just don’t jibe with reality. The reality is much more modest (and non-industry funded).

And as we noted before, this is partly because implants are often placed into the diseased tissue. After all, tooth loss commonly results from deep, chronic decay or severe gum disease. The disease doesn’t just go away once a tooth has been pulled.

A 2015 study recapped in the latest issue of Evidence-Based Dentistry offers some perspective.

For the study, researchers reviewed two dozen studies on implant success with respect to periodontal health. Unsurprisingly, patients with healthy gums had better results with the implants than those who had been treated for periodontitis.

Implant success and survival were higher in periodontally healthy patients, whilst bone loss and incidence of peri-implantitis was increased in patients with history of treated periodontitis. There was a higher tendency for implant loss and biological complications in patients previously presenting with severe forms of periodontitis.

The reported survival rate for implants among the gum disease-free group ranged from 91.67 to 100%. For those with severe gum disease, it dropped as low as 79.22% over a 1.2 to 16 year follow-up.

Yet this is hardly the most significant reason to avoid dental implants, which we know place a variety of burdens on human health.

So all the better that, when given a choice, most folks opt against them – as shown in a new study in the BDJ. Given a choice between “saving” a tooth via root canal therapy or having the tooth extracted and replaced with an implant, more than three-quarters of respondents opted for the more conservative treatment.

Of course, root canals present their own problems that need to be addressed. You have to wonder how numbers might change if patients were given the facts about root canal risks and offered a third option: extraction and replacement with a bridge or partial. (Yes, one-tooth “pop-in” partials are a possibility.)

Even so, it’s interesting to note that the popular preference jibes with what earlier research has shown: at-risk teeth that are adequately treated last longer than implants, too. So why rush to implants?

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Power vs. Manual Toothbrushes: The Debate Continues

manual and power toothbrushesIn the ongoing debate over which toothbrush is better for you, power or manual, we ultimately come down on the side of “whichever you use regularly and effectively.” For some, that’s a power brush. For others, it’s manual. Some switch between both.

The main thing is brushing twice a day and, at minimum, flossing once. Using additional tools such as a Waterpik or proxy brushes is a plus – and something we recommend if you’re dealing with some degree of gum disease. (Most Americans are.)

Research has suggested at least a couple ways, though, in which power brushes may be better: reducing plaque and early stage gum disease (gingivitis). So maybe you should reach for that power brush after all?

Maybe. Maybe not. For a new study in PLoS ONE offers evidence that, under some circumstances, the action of a power toothbrush can actually harm teeth.

The research team investigated four different types of toothbrushes: a sonic brush, where the bristles move side to side; an oscillating brush, where the bristles rotate; a manual brush with a flat trim head; and a manual brush with a rippled head. For each of these, they simulated 8.5 years of twice-a-day brushing with a whitening toothpaste and looked at the impact on dentin. (Dentin is the layer of tissue between the enamel and pulp.)

What they found was that the action of the power brushes was much more abrasive than that of either manual brush. Where the dentin loss with the rippled head manual brush was just 2.5 micrometers, it was 21.03 with the sonic brush. As Dr. Bicuspid reported,

The results showed that a high stroke frequency with manual toothbrushes was less abrasive than the low stroke frequency of the power toothbrushes, according to the authors. The bristles of the sonic toothbrush traveled a longer distance compared with the oscillating-rotating toothbrush or the manual ones, which may have contributed to the greater dentin loss, they explained.

While these findings do go against a good amount of previous research, it can’t hurt to play it safe. So if you like using a power toothbrush, consider opting for a low abrasion toothpaste such as Oxyfresh. If you want to use a paste for amped up whitening, go for a manual brush instead.

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What’s Healthy Eating? 10 Guidelines

fresh produceIn recognition of National Nutrition Month, the faculty of the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University recently sent out a list of tips for maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet. It’s good stuff, reminding that nutrition isn’t just about what you eat but how you eat; your attitudes about food; your approach to eating; the priority you give to making healthy choices.

Check it out:

  1. Take time to eat.
    Humans require food to be nourished. It’s that simple! Think of all the things you schedule in a week. Feeding yourself must be at the top of the list in order for you to accomplish all those other things well. Plan ahead. Prioritize meals. Respond to your hunger. Take time to eat. It’s a basic human need!

  2. Enjoy your food.
    Savor the aroma and flavors of your food. Chew with intention and take delight in every mouthful. Eating is a pleasurable experience that engages all our senses, and the food on our plates deserves this careful attention. Sit. Slow down. Enjoy!

  3. Spice it up.
    Herbs and spices boost foods with calorie-free flavors to make food even more exciting and delicious. As a bonus, many contain bioactive compounds that enhance health by supporting immunity and suppressing inflammation.

  4. Create a feast for your eyes. Nature offers a rainbow of colors as fruits and vegetables that provide your body with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds that have positive health benefits. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower blood pressure, decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, and lower risk for some cancers.

  5. Feed your flora.
    Did you know that the human body has more bacteria cells than human cells? These bacteria help support good digestion, a strong immune system and healthy metabolism. Here are two simple ways you can keep your inner residents happy and healthy. First, eat a variety of fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, legumes (beans), fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Secondly, eat fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles, olives, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, fermented vegetables and kefir. Food that add good bacteria into the diet support the resident colonies.

  6. Boost your brain. Mend your mind. The verdict is in! We know what nutrients the human brain needs to stay sharp! That list includes carbohydrates, B vitamins such as folate, and omega 3-fatty acids. To sharpen your brain power, think salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and folate-rich leafy greens and legumes. Choose your foods wisely for a brain that is wise!

  7. Get back to your roots.
    Good food grows both above the ground and below, so don’t forget about those that grow in the dark! Root vegetables are packed with nutrition, and they store well for relatively long periods of time. All root vegetables, such as parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, beets, and fennel are filled with nutrients and can be prepared super easily.

  8. Commune at the table.
    Eating together enhances the enjoyment of any meal. Turn off those distractions from all screens and cell phones and make it a practice to eat with others. Studies show that communing together solidifies family bonds and encourages communication. Plus, eating meals at home can be conducive to consuming more fruits and vegetables.

  9. Raise a glass!
    We all know that staying hydrated is important. In addition to tipping back a glass of water, try herbal teas. The options are endless – green, black ginger, hibiscus, mint, and even some exotic ones like rooibos and roasted dandelion root. Tea is high in plant compounds called phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties and are linked with heart health, brain health and a reduced risk of cancer. So raise that glass, or that tea cup! A well-hydrated you is a nourished you!

  10. Nourish the “whole you.”
    There are countless ways you can nourish the whole you. Nourish your body and brain by getting 7-8 hours most nights of restful, high-quality sleep so you feel rejuvenated and resilient enough to deal with whatever comes your way. Nourish your body and soul by getting outside into nature where you can feel the sun (or mist) on your face, walk in the park, smell the roses, hike the trails, cycle on the paths, or just play and have fun. Nourish your spirit by connecting with other people, including those you love. Hug your child, hug your mom or dad, hug your partner or spouse, hug your grandma. And laugh a lot. Because we all know that laughter is the best medicine to nourish all of you!

Image by Olearys, via Flickr

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