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Medical Science Proves It: Small Lifestyle Adjustments Can Save Your Health

I appreciate a lot of the medical research that goes on in this country. I don’t necessarily agree with what they decide to do with that information (namely, producing more chemicals to treat disease), but I am glad they are seeking out answers.

Sometimes, what they find is instructive for us to make lifestyle changes.

Linking Alzheimer’s Disease To Your Mouth

One such study of the causes of Alzheimer’s Disease made a significant discovery that was published in October 2018. They identified a link between dementia and periodontal disease, which is basically a form of inflammation in your gums.

Here’s a quote from the article:

Long-term exposure to periodontal disease bacteria causes inflammation and degeneration of brain neurons in mice that is similar to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in humans, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Other studies have demonstrated a close association between periodontitis and cognitive impairment, but this is the first study to show that exposure to the periodontal bacteria results in the formation of senile plaques that accelerate the development of neuropathology found in Alzheimer’s patients,” said Dr. Keiko Watanabe, professor of periodontics at the UIC College of Dentistry and corresponding author on the study.

“This was a big surprise,” Watanabe said. “We did not expect that the periodontal pathogen would have this much influence on the brain, or that the effects would so thoroughly resemble Alzheimer’s disease.”

It Proves What You And I Already Know

Do you know what I love about this information?

It’s actionable. I can do something about this.

And…it demonstrates what we have been saying all along: with small adjustments in your lifestyle, you can take back control of your wellness.

How is it saying that?

So often, researchers find causes for a disease that don’t seem to have any solutions other than aggressive chemical treatments. It’s refreshing to find a study that clearly demonstrates how a simple lifestyle change can have significant health benefits.

The Truth Is…

Actually, when you get down to the bottom line, every disease can be tied to a simple lifestyle dysfunction and, for the most part, can be treated with a simple lifestyle adjustment.

The problem I have with the medical community (and God bless them; they are doing hard work the best they know how to help people) is that they attack disease with chemicals instead of identifying how the disease started in the first place and addressing the root causes.

You’ve probably heard me say it 100 times and you’ll hear me say it 100 more: disease is a result of violating a principle of wellness:

  • Diabetes is the result of violating nutritional principles.
  • Heart disease is the result of violating nutritional and movement principles.
  • Low back pain is the result of violating movement principles.

If you can identify the principle being violated and correct the errant behavior, you enable the body to heal itself.

Instead, we attack the disease with a sledgehammer in the form of compounding medications, leading to a cascade of unintended consequences.

The Medical World Is Seeing The Bigger Picture

But even my friends in the medical community are starting to realize the larger problem. This story from a recent Blue Zones article gives us a better picture of the thinking we’re up against:

In the 1830s, British settlers in New Zealand imported European rabbits for food and sport. With no native predators, the rabbits soon took over. Accounts from the period describe thousands of hectares run through with burrows, and huge tracts of arable land destroyed by overgrazing.

In a desperate bid to stem the scourge, the New Zealanders brought in a natural predator of the rabbit – ferrets. Without native predators to pick them off, the new imports did well. But they also played a prominent role in the decline of several endangered bird species, including the kiwi, the weka, and the kakapo. It’s a familiar parable (Mark Twain even riffed on it) about unintended consequences, and the danger of applying reductionist logic to a world that is characterised by extraordinary interdependence and complexity.

As a physician, I can’t help but be reminded of ferrets in New Zealand as I write prescriptions for the drugs we use to manage chronic disease. Hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure.

Sulfonylureas, a class of medication used to treat Type 2 diabetes. Statins for heart disease.

Sulfonylureas have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease as well.

And statins, some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States, have been found to impair glucose tolerance and increase the risk of diabetes.

Don’t get me wrong, these drugs work. They absolutely save lives. But the human body is a precisely interdependent system, and these drugs are like sledgehammers. The ferrets did kill rabbits, but they were such an indelicate intervention that they wrought their own special havoc on the native ecosystem. The kakapo might never again be seen on the New Zealand mainland. How much collateral damage are we inflicting on the human ecosystem with our powerful medicines?

While there is no doubt that the collective benefit of these medications currently outweighs their adverse effects, it’s remarkable that many of the drugs we give to treat chronic disease can actually increase the risk of those selfsame diseases. It speaks to the intricacy of human biology, and to the crudity of even our most advanced pharmaceuticals. Twain would have loved the irony.

But rather than producing any outright cures for chronic disease, decades of basic science research seem to have yielded a different kind of truth – that the human body is an incredibly, devilishly complex system. The deeper we dig, the more convoluted becomes the pathophysiology of chronic disease. What has become clear is that these chronic diseases – high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease – are manifestations of aberrant metabolisms, rather than a lone faulty switch buried somewhere within our cells.

Here Are The Keys – You’re In Control Now

I’m sharing all this because I want you to understand that your wellness and longevity – literally, your ability to live a long, healthy life – is in your control. Much more than you have been led to think.

I talk to people all the time who think that having parts of their bodies malfunction and die is just part of the process of getting older. They think that sickness is their ultimate lot in life.

It’s not true.

My practice is built on the premise that you can improve your health and live a long, full life, simply by thinking right, moving right, eating right, and living right.

(Of course, I’ll always have that one reader who emails me, “if you never get sick, how are you supposed to die?” Eventually, your heart will stop pumping and your body will shut down. That doesn’t require disease. I can’t think of a better way to go than just to lie down for a nap and never wake up because you have fulfilled your purpose on Earth. But that’s a topic for another article.)

Here’s a simple action you can take to protect your health that goes right along with the research we read earlier.

Poor People, Great Teeth

Have you ever watched documentaries about traditional cultures around the world (in some areas they call them aboriginals)? Most of them are in Third World nations of Africa, Asia, and South America. These are typically hunter-gatherer communities or farming cultures where they don’t have access to modern technologies.

One thing I’ve noticed about them is that, unless they are starving due to famine, they are in excellent physical shape because they move naturally – the way our bodies were designed – they aren’t sedentary, and they don’t eat American food. Every time you see American food introduced to a traditional culture, the people start dying of diseases they have never experienced before.

But here’s the other thing I’ve picked up on: they have beautiful teeth. Why?

Because they (usually) eat a diet high in vegetables, healthy oils, and a little bit of meat. They have no sugars and few acidic foods that would break down their teeth. Compare that to typical Europeans and Americans. We have horrendous teeth, gum diseases, metal fillings, and dentures.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

The Problem: Periodontal Bacteria

Just like you don’t see a high incidence of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and digestive diseases among the traditional cultures, you don’t see Alzheimer’s Disease. What do traditional cultures know that we don’t know?

Because they eat right (assuming they get to eat, which is an entirely other problem), their teeth stay healthy and strong. Because we eat processed “food-like substances,” we are at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease.

The bacteria causing the periodontal disease then breaks through the gum tissue and moves through the bloodstream to the brain, where it gradually builds up and begins breaking down the brain tissue, leading to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Granted, there are several other factors at work, including stress, aluminum toxicity, fluoride toxicity, exposure to toxic aerosol chemicals in cleaning products, and so on. But it’s all the more interesting that none of those factors are at play in traditional cultures, and they don’t get Alzheimer’s Disease.

So, here’s my actionable tip for the day: oil pulling.

Oil Pulling

Some of my readers are going to cringe when they read this, but you are not one of them. You are mature and rational and you are more interested in getting results. Coconut oil is not only delicious and extremely good for your heart and other organs, but it is also antimicrobial and antibacterial. In short, it kills bad bacteria in a way that is respectful of good bacteria.

(SIDE NOTE: How is that possible? How can oil differentiate between good bacteria and bad bacteria? You may not like this answer, but I believe that if God created it, He formulated it to interact symbiotically with every other cell in creation. Man isn’t that smart; our solutions often make things worse (remember the ferret story above?). So, let’s just go with this.)

Since coconut oil is antibacterial and antimicrobial, take a spoonful of it and swish it around your teeth. Start with a  5-minute timer and gradually work your way up to 15 minutes. Do this at least three to four times each week. I prefer to do it first thing in the morning.

Important Tips For Oil Pulling:

  • Do not swallow it. It’s full of the bacteria you are trying to flush out.
  • When you finish swishing, spit it into the garbage, not the sink. You will eventually plug up your sink with coconut oil otherwise.
  • Rinse your mouth out well with water.
  • Keep doing your normal dental hygiene (and if you don’t do regular dental hygiene, start now).

Multiple Benefits

You will enjoy these health benefits:

  • You will protect your gums from periodontal disease better than brushing and flossing alone.
  • Your breath will smell better.
  • Your teeth may get whiter over time.
  • You will likely enjoy better visits to the dentist.
  • Not to mention the whole protecting your brain from dementia angle.

Simple lifestyle adjustments are the key to improving your health. Just identify the wellness principles you are violating and change the offending behavior. It’s usually something small. Like the old expression goes, “it’s the small foxes that spoil the vine.”

Continued Learning

If you missed our Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner with Dr. Jacqueline Romero on February 7, I’d encourage you to watch it here. I captured it as a Facebook Live so you could benefit from her great teaching, even if you don’t get to benefit from the great food we enjoyed together.

If you live in the Naples area, I’d encourage you to join us for these terrific dinners. We hold them the first Thursday night of each month, at my office behind the YMCA on the corner of Pine Ridge Road and Airport-Pulling Road. You don’t have to be one of my regular patients; I just want you to learn how to enjoy your best wellness.

“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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