What is it about the modern industrial diet that makes it so harmful to oral health, as well as systemic health?
The modern industrial diet (Standard American Diet) includes specific foods and high amounts of processed foods, all of which create inflammation in the gut. All grains and their products, legumes, processed seed and vegetable oils, casein from milk products, and added sugars are the principal food culprits. Phytates from grains as well as lectins and oxalates from various plant foods can damage the gut microbiome and the epithelial barrier of the gut. In addition, preservatives, emulsifiers, residues of agrichemicals, dyes, and other chemicals in processed foods will cause damage to the gut and its garden of healthy bacteria. The immune system is activated from damage to the gut microbiome, and the gut barrier can break down. Inflammatory elements then can leak into the bloodstream causing systemic chronic inflammation that will affect all other organ systems.
It is interesting to note that the epithelial barrier in the gut is one of the most regenerative tissues in the body. The cells replace themselves every 5-7 days.1 And the bacteria in the gut can acclimate to dietary changes within 24 hours.2 Therefore, if all the irritants to the gut are discontinued, there will be an entirely new epithelial barrier in about a week. That is why a change in diet can have quick and positive changes in the mouth and other areas of the body.
You see a lot of different diets said to restore health: paleo, Wise Traditions, keto, Mediterranean, and so on. While all these shun the sugars and processed, refined food products that are the hallmark of the modern industrial diet, how are they different? Do you recommend one over the other?
Today, I eat an animal-based diet also known as the Carnivore Diet. I ate a Paleo diet from 2013 until 2018, at which time I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer (multiple myeloma). I then modified my diet to exclude all nightshades. On 1/1/20, I changed my diet to the Carnivore Diet because of the potential benefits for cancer patients.
There are many other “diets” that have been studied and have demonstrated healthy outcomes. Here are a few:
Mediterranean Diet: This type of diet3 consists of eating: a) high levels of vegetables, fruits, cereals (mostly whole grains), nuts, and legumes; b) low levels of saturated fat, sweets, and meat; c) high levels of unsaturated fat (mainly olive oil); d) medium-high levels of fish; e) moderate levels of wine; and f) medium-low levels of dairy products (mainly yogurt and cheese). Eating this way is associated with reduced inflammation and increased levels of small chain fatty acids (SCFAs) production.
Wise Traditions Diet: This is very similar to the Mediterranean diet except that it encourages the consumption of wild-caught and pastured animals, including their saturated fats and organ meats.
Low-carbohydrate Diet: This requires restricting processed carbohydrates and sugars. This diet avoids hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia, and improves the diversity of beneficial gut bacteria.4, 5 When processed carbohydrates are replaced with resistant starch (e.g, oats, raw potato starch, cooked and cooled rice, green bananas), the microbial profile is altered to promote the growth of anti-inflammatory microorganisms and decrease the pro-inflammatory ones.6
Paleolithic Diet: A Paleolithic (Paleo) diet today mimics the diet of our ancestors during the Old Stone Age. This style of eating was prevalent during the course of human existence.7 The Paleo diet today consists of: 1) high consumption of fruits, vegetables, and various herbs and spices; 2) moderate-to-high consumption of meats, organs, fish, and eggs; 3) moderate consumption of nuts and seeds; and 4) exclusion of all processed foods, legumes, grains, dairy products, and processed vegetable and seed oils (except olive and coconut oil). The paleo diet has been shown to be superior to other forms of eating styles.8, 9 Most importantly, the elimination of grains, processed sugars, and legumes has been critical to the success of the paleo diet since these substances have been shown to damage the intestinal barrier epithelium and to promote autoimmune and inflammatory chronic diseases.10, 11, 12 The paleo diet also provides the fibers that are beneficial for the microbiome to function and improve diversity.13
It is important to note that the loss of diversity in the gut microbiome with resulting dysbiosis in Western societies who consume large quantities of over-processed grain products, legumes, processed sugars, and processed seed and vegetable oils can be reversed by returning to a modern paleolithic diet composed of unprocessed foods.14
Ketogenic Diet: Ketogenic (keto) diets represent an extremely low-carbohydrate diet. A keto diet reduces carbohydrate intake to less than 50 g/day. At this level, insulin is kept to low levels and cortisol levels are slightly elevated. This will induce the production of ketone bodies in the liver. A keto diet will promote metabolic health and protect against cancer and other non-communicable chronic diseases.
The mechanism of action appears to be: 1) lowering insulin levels; 2) enhancing mitochondrial function; and 3) specific anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.15 A high intake of healthy saturated, monounsaturated, and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). as well as non-starchy vegetables. would be beneficial for promoting gut health. Ketogenic diets have been shown to inhibit cancer cell glycolysis and proliferation.16, 17
Recent medical research has shown that a keto diet would improve the gut microbiome and reverse dysbiosis in patients with autism, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.18, 19, 20
Carnivore (Animal-based) Diet: Researchers determined from fossil remains that both Neanderthals21 and Homo Sapiens22 300,000 years ago were mainly animal eaters. So, the carnivore diet is not a fad diet. As a matter of fact, a paper was published in 1979 titled, “The Importance of Animal Products in the Human Diet.”23
The carnivore diet is similar to a ketogenic diet but with all fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds removed. A ketogenic diet reduces carbohydrates and increases healthy fats to a level where the body’s metabolism shifts away from burning carbs to burning fat and ketones for energy.
The carnivore diet requires eating only wild-caught and pastured animals from nose-to-tail. Since the carnivore diet completely eliminates all plants, it importantly avoids the abundance of antinutrients (i.e. lectins, oxalates, and phytates) found in plants.
However, you could modify the Carnivore Diet and still benefit from it if you eat at least 70% animal-based foods and up to 30% fruits and vegetables which are low in phytates, oxalates, and lectins (e.g., bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, Romaine lettuce, mushrooms, onions, pickles, sauerkraut, mustard greens, pineapple, citrus, papaya).
So, is the kind of eating you recommend enough to reverse gum disease and support good oral health all on its own? If not, what more is required and why?
Yes, several well-designed studies have shown that a diet low in refined carbohydrates, containing minimal added sugars, and eliminating processed vegetable and seed oils will decrease gingival inflammation and improve the balance of bacteria in the mouth.24, 25, 26
You devised something called the G.U.M. Protocol. Will you describe what this is and how it has helped your patients and clients improve their oral health?
G.U.M. is an acronym meaning
Give yourself nutrient-dense nourishment. By providing your body with anti-inflammatory foods and necessary nutrients, you’re providing it with the tools necessary to grow and remain healthy.
Undo the damage. This refers to removing bad food choices, toxic substances, irritants, and unhealthy stresses from your life.
Master the methods of maintenance. This includes incorporating healthy lifestyle changes such as effective oral hygiene techniques, efficient exercise, daily non-exercise movement, restorative sleep, and stress reduction.
These lifestyle and dietary choices can begin to heal the gut microbiome and the gut epithelial barrier. As a result, the immune system will be enhanced to function at its peak level. A healthy gut and immune system will provide the proper environment for a healthy mouth.
What are one or two small things a person could do right now to improve their gum health?
- Stop eating grains.
- Stop eating added sugars.