Nutrition: The second Pillar of Total Health Dentistry
Ep. 4 : Total Health Dentistry with Dr. Ali
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Nutrition: The Second Pillar
Nutrition – how could something so basic be so apparently complex?
In the first of its kind dentists-to-patient podcast, you’ll gain incredibly valuable insight into the mouth-body connection. You won’t hear any fluffy filler here. You’ll actually be able to connect the dots. Join us for a worthy jolt of insight on the Total Health Dentistry podcast with Dr. Ali.
Hey, everyone. It’s Dr. Ali. In this episode, you’ll gain a worthy jolted of insight about nutrition, the second pillar of Total Health Dentistry. In the last episode, we discussed airway, the first of the three pillars of Total Health Dentistry. If you missed it, make sure you go back and check it out as it will give this episode and future ones greater context. The three pillars again are airway, nutrition and structure. So this episode is dedicated to nutrition. I’m sure you’ve heard a podcast or two about nutrition, so we’ll really try and have a different take on it and apply it to Total Health Dentistry.
In this episode, we will discuss the following topics such as going into pregnancy with stocked shelves, restocking your shelves between and after childbearing, vital nutrition, the school years, early adulthood, study-work, work-study, oh yeah, eat well. The middle years, career-family, family-career, maybe some travel, and, oh yeah, eat well. Then the senior years, which is kind of retired, grandchildren, travel, oh yeah, eat very well.
Nutrition, how could something so basic be so apparently complex? In episode two we discussed how good nutrition is like the ace of spades in the poker hand of the dicey environment we live in. It’s really the great equalizer. Meaning, if I could do one thing well in my life, sleep, exercise, or eat well, I would choose to eat well. In my two decades of clinical practice, I’ve seen tens of thousands of patients. I’ve practiced in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and Northwest territories. I would look at one patient with poor nutrition and one abscess tooth or some other health challenge and that would make them really ill. Then I would look at another patient with terrific nutrition and they would have many dental abscesses or many structural issues and I would see that they’re actually quite resilient. So airway is king, we know that, but that aside in every stage of life, I would choose nutrition as a priority.
I wanted to share with you the concept of going into pregnancy with “stocked shelves”. Ask just about any mother and they’ll say, “My teeth were fine until I had babies.” Another reason I’m doing this podcast is to do my best to stop this from happening. I love analogies. So here’s one that works. The baby in the womb is like a ravaging shopper at the grocery store. It’s lunchtime and the shopper is starving. It’s going to take whatever nutrients it needs, calcium, vitamins, micro-nutrients. If you’re going into pregnancy with your store shelves, say half empty, then baby will take and still take as much as it needs and mom will be left with a deficit. So her teeth will suffer, more cavities, potentially bone loss around the teeth, loss of teeth, etc.. With the loss of teeth comes loss of jaw bone if the not replaced by implants and a sunken or collapsed jaw akin ensue.
So the idea is to go into pregnancy with your shelves sort of overflowing or fully stocked as possible. It also speaks to replenishing your body between pregnancies, restocking your shelves between pregnancies. The consensus seems to be that two years between each child is about ideal to allow mom to restock her shelves. So in future episodes we’ll have some amazing holistic nutritionists join us on this podcast to give us their insights on moms stocking your shelves and restocking your shelves before and between pregnancies. If you need that kind of advice right now, go ahead and ask around the health community for a recommendation or two for holistic nutritionists.
Blissful nutrition, the school years. Well, if you’re like me and you went to public school in the ’80s then your lunchbox probably had this new “healthy snack” called Fruit Roll-Ups, granola bars, good old white bread, mayo and deli meat. While our awareness of nutrition has come a long way since then, I’m still seeing a ton of unblissful snacks in kids’ lunches. Whatever your nutritional path is, try and get them a strong meal for breakfast if possible, protein, fat, and a bit of fruit would be fantastic. This will sustain them through the morning, yet have them hungry enough for lunch.
For morning snack if needed, it’s not always needed, but if it’s needed, try and stay away from something that comes pre-packaged. It can be as simple as a child’s favorite fruit, an apple, a banana, pear, etc.. A glorious lunch can be as easy as trail mix with sweet raisins to help keep the troops happy, add some natural summer sausage or cured meats for some extra animal protein if that suits. Afternoon snacks, if needed, could look like carrots, sweet red peppers, perhaps celery or even broccoli, and a healthy dip with only a few ingredients if needed to make it all palatable.
All right, one note of caution, and this is really applicable at any age. Even healthy snacks like raisins, dates, apricots, have the longevity factor. So they are beautiful, complex sugars and we would die without glucose. More on that in later episodes. But they break down slowly, which is good in one sense, but that also leads to prolonged acid production in between the crevices of the teeth. I’ve seen many vibrant snacksters come for checkups with cavities between their teeth and everyone is distraught. How could that be? We take such good care of our teeth, we eat so well. Well, these whole food snacks can be the culprit.
So what do we do about it? I’m going to cover this in greater detail in future episodes, but for right now, what do we do about these lovely, chewy, sticky, healthy foods with a great longevity factor? You want to eat them with a meal when your saliva is at its highest volume, tons of saliva washes away the sugar the best. Of course, getting in there and flossing and brushing them out right away would be ideal. But in any case, eating these types of meals around another meal where our saliva’s at its highest level, that’s the solution.
Okay, so let’s switch focuses to the next stage of life, early adulthood. When I look back at my nutrition during my university days, boy, it wasn’t pretty. I had a cafeteria meal plan. So at 17 years old, I smashed down two to three bowls of sugary cereals and pasteurized milk plus sugary juices and coffee for breakfast. Had some heavy gluten, grainy lunch, needed a mid afternoon nap just to survive until supper time. Supper was more gluten, conventionally raised meats, sugary desserts, you name it. Of course a late nights studying was what else? Pizza and donairs. This is confessions corner. So in the university years I was quite fit and athletic. So I distinctly remember my stomach enlarging like a balloon minute by minute after a meal and I couldn’t understand why.
So I went to my family doctor, I went for a GI scope to see what was going on in there, what a terribly memorable experience. In the end they found nothing. What they couldn’t have seen was that I was sensitive to gluten and that the intestinal inflammation I was experiencing was subclinical. In other words, it would take another two decades of gluten before the changes would be detectable. Thanks to the late Dr. Kidd, myself and my family were diagnosed as gluten intolerant and I didn’t suffer huge health consequences.
But back to early adulthood. If you’re in university, college or early on in your work career, it’s tough and I’ve been there. Work-study, study-work, and oh yeah, vibrant nutrition. If you’re achieving vibrant nutrition right now, bravo. If not, I’m not going to preach about ideals. My advice for survival nutrition at this stage of life is simply avoid gluten absolutely and heavily restrict your carbs. I know a large portion of your meals are out and about. So by avoiding gluten you’ll necessarily, you’re going to skip Subway, you’re gonna skip McDonald’s, you’re gonna skip Pizza Hut. Eating out gluten-free will mean lots of Thai, sushi, by the way, ask for gluten free soy sauce and the good sushi places will have that. You’ll be eating Indian, Jamaican, Middle Eastern, etc.. Again, as a survival guide.
So moving onto the middle years. Work life is well underway. You may have a family, you’re paying off debts, maybe a mortgage. So family-career, career-family, travel, oh yeah, eat well. So I’m at the stage right now, it makes the busy student days seem like a holiday sometimes. Vibrant nutrition is often a team approach now. You may be sharing your life with a partner, children and others. While there will be many exceptions for many households, nutrition looks like a matriarchy. These matriarchies are usually not authoritarian. Rather they are household citizens longing for some leadership. So in my household, we turn to my wife as the CHO, the chief home officer. We’d take her directions with great joy and the resulting vibrant nutrition is a great blessing.
Again, I have no sermons to give. Vital nutrition can take many forms. Strategy and intent is very important. By that I mean I’ve seen much success come out of prep day, so typically these households will choose a Sunday or some other day and make all their meal preps on that day. So once the busy week starts, nutrition is already proactive, not reactive. I’ve got one heartfelt recommendation which is to make the acquaintance of a farmers market, community supported agriculture, CSA, or straight to a farmer if possible. You’re not paying the middleman, you will save on groceries, so that’s great. Start somewhere. Getting 10% of your household nutrition from one of these sources is mathematically infinitely better than getting all of your food from a grocery chain store.
Then as human nature unfolds, 10% becomes 20% and 30% and so on. As circumstances allow, perhaps growing some of your own food may begin to make sense. Those who already do this are usually deeply satisfied and this is another form of nutrition. One current idea I’ve thought about is to consider replacing one night per week, usually dedicated to say, hockey, soccer, piano, where the activity is leaving the house and consider using that night to make a meal as a household altogether and bring the activity into the house. I’m not saying hockey, soccer, piano are bad, I’m just suggesting that you might want to substitute one night and bring that activity into the house and make it a meal preparation.
Moving into the senior years, grandchildren, maybe retirement in some way, shape or form, travel if that’s your thing, and the, oh yeah, eat very, very well. So here I cannot speak from personal experience, but through my patients I hear that many seniors are busier now than when they worked, and happy and vibrant enough to be so. Across the board, I see many of my senior patients enjoying the most vital nutrition of their lives. Many grow their fair share of food and tender their gardens as a form of exercise. My single biggest advice by far at this stage is to protect your mental health by nurturing your gut health. Hands down, this is the most critical advice I can give you at this age.
The gut-brain connection is gaining more and more attention in medicine today, and in the next decade, I predict we will see psychiatric and mental health departments having a significant gut nutrition focus. Dinner rolls, toast, crackers, et cetera, will all but disappear from the hospital menu for patients. How would I suggest you eat by and large in the senior years? Well, simple. Eat like your parents and grandparents ate. To coin a Loreena McKennitt song, The Old Ways, consider going back to eating like the old ways, a heavy dose of bone broth and stews. This will actually heal the leaky gut that many seniors will undoubtedly have from past antibiotics, past mishmash of diet fads and the ever increasing indigestible grains that made their way into the common North American diet. Less leaky gut will keep everything in the gut where it should be and not leak into the bloodstream and into the brain preventing further mental distress.
Other gut friendly recommendations would be a heavy dose of fermented vegetables for pickles. Honestly, my tongue, I’m salivating just thinking about this. It’s one of my favorite foods and snacks, but this will help restore the healthy ecosystem in your intestines, which will in turn reduce your body inflammation, which is would be coming from your guide at this point, and of course your brain will appreciate the relief from this inflammation. Some other quick recommendations is to soak and drain rice. Okay. Rice should be soaked and drained before cooked. This will remove the phytic acid, which prevents the good absorption of minerals within our gut. Another quick recommendation is to soak the nuts overnight. Now, this is not just for seniors, it’s of course for all ages, but soaking your nuts overnight. Soaking them in warm and salt water will allow these to be digested properly. Without them, the nuts have a natural protection mechanism to prevent them from being properly broken down in our guts.
So depending on your background, did you see your grandmother making stews? Did you see her saving the bones and making broths? I’m Persian and I remember once a year we would eat a stew from the head of sheep or head of a goat. Let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite, but looking back now I can understand why this stew endured over 2,000 years of Persian history. It’s full of essential organ fat from the brain, which is so protective of mental health. It would be full of gelatin to literally fill in the gaps in the intestinal wall. More on the gaps protocol and future episodes.
All right, so that’s an initial foray into nutrition, which is the second pillar of Total Health Dentistry. In this episode, we started with pre-pregnancy stocking the shelves, working our way through the childbearing years, the public school years, early busy adulthood, the often manic middle years, and finally the senior years. I’ve tried to share with you some key points at each stage to help you with your nutrition goals wherever you may be along this journey. The next episode will be on the dark horse and my personal darling of the three pillars of Total Health Dentistry, namely structure.
Thank you again for listening to this episode on the second pillar of Total Health Dentistry about nutrition. We covered a wide spectrum of topics and in fact age groups starting from nutritional considerations from when before you’re pregnant, going into pregnancy with stocked shelves, during pregnancy, the vital school years, early adulthood, middle years, and senior years. Please join us next time as we move on to the third pillar of Total Health Dentistry, which is structure. Stay tuned.
Please note that Dr. Ali Farahani is a general dentist and that Total Health Dentistry is not a specialty of dentistry. While we make every effort to broadcast correct information, dentistry is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor may have a different way of doing things from another. Dr. Ali Farahani is simply presenting his views and opinions that will be as evidenced based as possible. We welcome any comments, suggestions, or corrections of error.
Dr. Ali Farahani takes no money from drug or device companies. By listening to this podcast or reading this blog you agree not to use this podcast or blog as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others, including, but not limited to patients that you are treating. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast or blog. Under no circumstances shall Sante Family Dental, Dr. A. Farahani Dentistry Professional Corporation or Dr. Ali Farahani, or any of their employees, associates, or affiliates, any of the guests or contributors to the podcast or blog, be responsible for damages arising from use of this podcast or blog.