Tag Archives: health tips

5 Facets of a Healthy Lifestyle

Repost

We all say we want to be “healthy,” but what does that mean? Is “health” just the absence of illness? If so, then there are a lot of unhealthy people here in the US, where almost half of all adults have at least one chronic disease. In fact, continues the CDC, 70% of all deaths each year are caused by such diseases, especially heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The picture isn’t much prettier globally. Noting that 36 million people died from these kinds of diseases in 2008, the UN predicts that number to rise to 52 million within two decades, eclipsing deaths from “communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional diseases.”

But here’s the most distressing thing: these diseases are largely preventable. What we put into our bodies and how we use them have a big impact on whether (and how) we get sick.

In this light, health is less a state of being than a way of being.

A while back, the American Heart Association ran a health views survey of young adults. According to the LA Times, most participants “said they felt they were living a healthy lifestyle.” The youngest (ages 18 to 24) “strongly claimed that living a long, healthy life was important to them. On average, they said they wanted to live until age 98.” Yet 1/3 said that “they don’t believe that doing healthy things now…will make any difference….”

Maybe one of the problems is that we don’t really know what we’re talking about when we talk about “health.” Just what is a “healthy lifestyle”? How could anyone ever achieve it if they don’t know what it is?

Tenniel drawing of Alice meeting the Cheshire Cat, with text

The Wholeness of Health

As a holistic dentist, I take a “whole-body” approach to dentistry, treating the teeth and gums in their relationship with the rest of the body. Simply put, oral health affects systemic (overall) health, and vice versa. Likewise, physical health can’t be treated as something severed from our mental life. What happens to us physically also affects “how we feel inside,” and mental states can manifest physically – for instance, a headache or stomachache when you’re anxious or stressed.

Everything is connected. So it’s not hard to see how “living healthy” both involves the whole person and benefits the whole person – body, mind and spirit.

Below are 5 key facets of a healthy lifestyle. While acting on them is no guarantee of perfect health, it can dramatically lower your overall disease risk.

5 Facets of a Healthy Lifestyle

  1. Good diet/nutrition – A good diet is based on whole foods, including lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It’s low in added sugars and other refined carbohydrates. Junk foods are a rare indulgence, if eaten at all.
  2. Physical activity – Though most of us lead sedentary lives, this inertia isn’t normal. We evolved to move. Regular exercise and physical activity are a must.
  3. Avoiding toxins – No tobacco. No drugs. Alcohol in moderation. Minimize exposure to toxic chemicals as you are able. (See EWG’s Healthy Home Tips to learn how.)
  4. Rest & sleep – Constant “busy-ness” is a surefire recipe for burnout. We need time off – for fun, for relaxation, for simply being. Getting enough quality sleep also matters, since that’s when our bodies do most of their repair work (e.g., rebuilding muscle, consolidating memory).
  5. Nurturing mental & spiritual well-being – Our overall sense of wellness is enhanced when we give time to ourselves, our loved ones and the things that interest us and give our lives meaning. We find emotional fulfillment. We keep our lives in balance. And this supports our physical well-being.

Modified from the original.

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Filed under General Health, Wellness

Persistent Pathogens : Dedicated Defense

These are our children. We’d do anything for them, right?

kids

Helping them grow up with healthy smiles takes a little wrangling with microbes, though. Consider the results of a study published in last December’s Journal of Oral Microbiology:

The Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry have determined that certain genetic strains of bacteria are dominant in children one year after treatment for microbial-caused plaque and tooth decay, and six new previously undetected minor strains were identified.

Some of these, they found, are resistant to xylitol, well-known for its ability to prevent cavities.

But while some kinds of oral flora can cause problems, we rely on others to maintain good health. Think of this: Bacteria make up more than 10 times the number of your body cells. In fact, our bodies are the host to more than 100 trillion microbes, many of which are not just beneficial but necessary.

Think of your body as an enclosed ecosystem. It is only when the ecosystem is out of balance that the populations shift and the pathogens (microbes that can make us sick) overpopulate and gain a foothold, contributing to illness.

Oral health is all about keeping the oral flora in proper balance.

Persistent or not, the mere presence of microbes doesn’t spell doom for your child’s teeth. Cavities are preventable.

Many factors can make the difference at dental check-up time. Frequent snacking and dry mouth are important to avoid. But the best route to a healthy mouth is based on good hygiene and diet.

And what makes hygiene “good”?

  • Waiting 20 to 30 minutes after eating to clean your teeth. (When you eat, oral conditions turn acidic for a while. This delay allows them to neutralize. Brushing right away can actually damage teeth and gums.)
  • Brushing with a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste containing no fluoride or sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Flossing and using a proxy brush to clean the areas your toothbrush can’t get to.

When it comes to diet, balanced, varied and nutrient-rich is the key, with many more whole foods – including fresh produce and whole grains – than processed. There are a couple kinds of foods, though, to be careful about: sugars and fermentable carbohydrates (carbs that are digested as sugar). These are the preferred foods of decay- and disease-causing microbes, and because they tend to stick to the teeth, they give the pathogens that much more time to feed. These include

  • Soft drinks of all kinds – soda, energy drinks, sports drinks. (And no, diet drinks aren’t the solution, for their acids can still damage tooth enamel, making teeth more decay-prone. More, research now suggests they may raise risk of diabetes, as well!)
  • Fruit juice. (Fresh whole fruit is great!)
  • Candy – especially chewy candies that easily stick to and get wedged between teeth. (If sweets are desired, chocolate is most tooth-friendly.)
  • Dried fruit (the stickiness factor again).
  • French fries and Tater Tots.
  • White bread and pasta.
  • Cake, pie and cookies.

Along similar lines, if your child uses an inhaler for asthma, it can leave an acidic residue. So whenever possible, do let them brush after using their inhalers.

The more dedicated you are to practicing and instilling healthy habits like these, the better your defense against persistent decay.

More tips for helping your little ones develop good oral health habits and healthy smiles

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Filed under Dental Health, Dental Hygiene

No Time to Eat Well? 8 Time-Making Tips

Regular readers here know about Dr. Weston Price and his important research on the relationship between diet and dental conditions. (Not familiar? I give a quick overview at the start of this video.) It was Dr. Price, of course, who showed that when people shifted from their traditional diets to a Western one, high in white flour and sugar, dental problems followed – problems such as cavities, narrowed arches and crooked, crowded teeth.

Archaeological and anthropological research has also suggested that the rise of agriculture and the accompanying shift to grain-based diets had a negative impact on health. Now a new study shows that this may be due to broader effects of this change. Based on her analysis of more than 300 skulls from 11 different populations, anthropologist Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel concluded that

the changes in human skulls are more likely driven by the decreasing bite forces required to chew the processed foods eaten once humans switch to growing different types of cereals, milking and herding animals about 10,000 years ago.

“As you are growing up… the amount that you are chewing, and the pressure that your chewing muscles and bone [are] under, will affect the way that the lower jaw is growing,” explained Dr von Cramon-Taubadel.

She thinks that the shorter jaws of farmers meant that they have less space for their teeth relative to hunter-gatherers, whose jaws are longer.

The study abstract is available here.

The problem with crowded teeth, of course, is more than just aesthetic. They can be harder to clean well, raising the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. They can throw off the bite and contribute to improper oral and facial function and/or habits that can lead to pain and other problems. They’re also more vulnerable to uneven tooth wear and breakage.

As ever, good dental health, like good physical health, depends on eating well. Yet for many, this isn’t always easy – especially with the economy still so bad and budgets tight. But “challenging” doesn’t mean “impossible,” as shown by projects such as 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget ($125 a week for a family of 4). More recently, a group of three bloggers – Sherrie Flick, Cory Van Horn and Hal B. Klein – did a variation on the Food Stamp Challenge, in which participants commit for a week of living on the average food stamp allotment of $4.50 per day. These bloggers challenged themselves to eat a healthy, varied meals on just $35 a week, supplemented by any food they grew themselves or bartered for.

One particularly striking aspect of their reflections was their observation that the food itself was just a small part of the challenge. As Flick writes,

The idea of bartering led to a discussion about the importance of community and friendship in food circles. It’s much easier to eat cheaply if you’re joining together with others.

We also talked about cooking skills—how knowing how to cook, how to garden and prepare food efficiently is one key to avoiding processed foods. We talked about time versus money. How, for me, having a non-traditional work schedule lends itself to, say, baking bread on a Monday morning.

For many of us, regardless of budget, the biggest obstacles are often time and energy. Affordable convenience wins out. Yet, as Edward Stanley wrote in The Conduct of Life, “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later find time for illness.”

So here are few tips for ensuring you eat well even if you have “no time” for it:

  1. Keep it simple
    Who says you have to cook fancy recipes for every meal? It only takes 15 to 20 minutes to put together a tasty dinner of pasta and green salad, or meat, steamed vegetables and salad. Baked or roasted foods can be put in the oven to cook while you take care of other chores.
  2. When you want something fancier, know where to look
    Lots of recipe websites have sections of nothing but “quick and easy” recipes and meal ideas, such as these at simplyrecipes.com and allrecipes.com.
  3. One word: crockpot
    It doesn’t get much easier than throwing ingredients into a crockpot and leaving it to cook. And don’t think it’s just about soups and stews either. Sites like Slow & Simple offer a wealth of ideas for delicious crockpot/slow cooker meals.
  4. Cook less by cooking more
    On the weekends or other off days, cook larger-than-usual meals and freeze the extra. Voila! Instant TV dinners! If you cook steaks or other meat, cook a little more than you need for your meal and use the rest for a quick and easy hash or stirfry on the next day.
  5. Plan and shop ahead
    Make a list, check it twice and keep a pantry well-stocked with basics. If you stock it with a lot of processed stuff “just in case” you don’t feel like cooking, you’re apt to not feel like cooking a lot more often. Clean, cut and store veggies as soon as you bring them home. It’s less work down the road (and handy for snacking, too!)
  6. Keep healthy snacks at hand
    When we’re on the go, it’s all too easy to default to vending machine and convenience store nosh – most of which is highly processed and loaded with sugars, salt and unhealthy fats. Keep things like fresh fruit, nuts and jerky at the ready.
  7. Eat out…of a brown paper bag
    Or any other device for carrying your homemade lunch with you. If you’re not a morning person, why not make lunch the night before – even while you’re cooking dinner? A sandwich takes just a few minutes to make. If you make a point of cooking more than you need, those extras/leftovers can make fine lunches, too.
  8. Commit
    Decide on your preferred mealtimes and stick to them, even setting an alarm if you need a reminder. Just as you make time for those activities that mean a lot to you, you can make time for eating well. Being the foundation for good health – dental and systemic – it’s certainly deserving of all the commitment you can give it.

Image by pha10019, via Flickr

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Filed under Diet & Nutrition, Oral Health

We All Say We Want to Be “Healthy”…

…but what does that mean? Is “health” just the absence of illness? If so, then there are a lot of unhealthy people here in the US, where almost half of all adults have at least one chronic disease. In fact, continues the CDC, 70% of all deaths each year are caused by such diseases, especially heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The picture isn’t much prettier globally. Noting that 36 million people died from these kinds of diseases in 2008, the UN predicts that number to rise to 52 million within two decades, eclipsing deaths from “communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional diseases.”

But here’s the most distressing thing: these diseases are largely preventable. What we put into our bodies and how we use them have a big impact on whether (and how) we get sick.

In this light, health is less a state of being than a way of being.

Earlier this year, the American Heart Association ran a health views survey of young adults. According to the LA Times, most participants “said they felt they were living a healthy lifestyle.” The youngest (ages 18 to 24) “strongly claimed that living a long, healthy life was important to them. On average, they said they wanted to live until age 98.” Yet 1/3 said that “they don’t believe that doing healthy things now…will make any difference….”

Maybe one of the problems is that we don’t really know what we’re talking about when we talk about “health.” Just what is a “healthy lifestyle”? How could anyone ever achieve it if they don’t know what it is?

Tenniel drawing of Alice meeting the Cheshire Cat, with text

The Wholeness of Health

As a holistic dentist, I take a “whole-body” approach to dentistry, treating the teeth and gums in their relationship with the rest of the body. Simply put, oral health affects systemic (overall) health, and vice versa. Likewise, physical health can’t be treated as something severed from our mental life. What happens to us physically also affects “how we feel inside,” and mental states can manifest physically – for instance, a headache or stomachache when you’re anxious or stressed.

Everything is connected. So it’s not hard to see how “living healthy” both involves the whole person and benefits the whole person – body, mind and spirit.

Below are 5 key facets of a healthy lifestyle. While acting on them is no guarantee of perfect health, it can dramatically lower your overall disease risk.

5 Facets of a Healthy Lifestyle

  1. Good diet/nutrition – A good diet is based on whole foods, including lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It’s low in added sugars and other refined carbohydrates. Junk foods are a rare indulgence, if eaten at all.
  2. Physical activity – Though most of us lead sedentary lives, this inertia isn’t normal. We evolved to move. Regular exercise and physical activity are a must.
  3. Avoiding toxins – No tobacco. No drugs. Alcohol in moderation. Minimize exposure to toxic chemicals as you are able. (See EWG’s Healthy Home Tips to learn how.)
  4. Rest & sleep – Constant “busy-ness” is a surefire recipe for burnout. We need time off – for fun, for relaxation, for simply being. Getting enough quality sleep also matters, since that’s when our bodies do most of their repair work (e.g., rebuilding muscle, consolidating memory).
  5. Nurturing mental & spiritual well-being – Our overall sense of wellness is enhanced when we give time to ourselves, our loved ones and the things that interest us and give our lives meaning. We find emotional fulfillment. We keep our lives in balance. And this supports our physical well-being.

For more frequent news & tips on dental & holistic health and wellness, “like” Dr. E’s practice on Facebook.

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How to Get Rid of Bad Breath Naturally

Urban legend has it that halitosis – bad breath – was “invented” by the makers of Listerine, but what they actually did was just popularize an obscure medical term and brilliantly exploit people’s fear of social rejection through ads like this:

Bad breath, of course, has been an issue for ages. In his 14th century Canterbury Tales, Chaucer described the Summoner as having boozy, garlicky breath, while the “mistress” of Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 has breath that’s said to “reek.” In Don Quixote, the hero rejects the flirtations of Altisadora because of, among other things, “a certain faded breath which will not let you near her for a moment.”

Far from inventing bad breath, Listerine ads and their imitators just made us worry enough about it to spend millions on mouthwashes, strips, sprays, mints, gum and other products to sweeten the breath.

But makes breath smell bad in the first place? Aside from the common culprit of pungent foods such as onions or garlic, there are a number of factors, including

  • Poor or spotty home hygiene.
  • Irregular cleaning of dentures, splints, retainers or other oral appliances.
  • Dental problems, including dry mouth, gum disease, mouth sores and abscessed teeth.
  • Diet – especially high-protein/low-carb, but likewise a diet dependent on processed foods containing sugars, white flour and other fermentable carbohydrates.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Zinc deficiency.
  • Antihistamine or prescription drug use.
  • Medical conditions, including gastrointestinal (stomach/gut] problems, sinus problems and cancer.

Looking at this list, you may already see a few simple things you can do to keep your breath from going bad in the first place:

  1. Practice good oral hygiene (at minimum, brushing and flossing regularly and well).
  2. Regularly clean any oral appliances you use.
  3. See your dentist regularly, both for cleanings and to catch and deal with any small problems before they become big ones.
  4. Eat a varied and balanced diet based on whole foods, low in processed carbs.
  5. Avoid tobacco products.
  6. Supplement with zinc if you’re not getting enough from diet alone.

Be aware that zinc deficiency can be caused by some medical conditions, in which case you should be treated by your physician, who can also oversee your diet and nutritional supplementation. If you’re in otherwise good health and thinking about taking supplements, be sure to consult a qualified health practitioner first to make sure you take the right dose and aren’t at risk for bad interactions with any medications you take (over-the-counter, prescription, homeopathic or otherwise).

If you already have bad breath, taking the steps above – especially those involving hygiene and diet – can help. Here are a few other home remedies:

  1. After eating, rinse your mouth with the juice of half a lemon mixed into a glass of water.
  2. Chew fennel or cardamom seeds after meals.
  3. Use baking soda instead of toothpaste.
  4. Add 1 to 3 drops of tea tree oil to your regular toothpaste.
  5. Take chlorophyll supplements.
  6. Use a mouth rinse that contains hydrogen peroxide (such as Peroxyl) or a solution of equal parts water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. To be safe, use the latter in the short-term only and rinse your mouth with plain water afterward to prevent dry mouth. With either rinse, if you experience any burning, tooth sensitivity or other problems, stop using the rinse and consult your dentist.
  7. Mix 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and use as a gargle.

If you have chronic bad breath you suspect may be due to dental problems, make an appointment with your dentist for an exam and cleaning. Likewise, if you suspect a medical issue, consult your physician about it – as you should if you suspect medications may be causing the odor. If they’re prescription meds, do not just quit taking them.

Have your own favorite home remedy for bad breath? Share it in the comments!

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Filed under Dental Health, Dental Hygiene