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By Sarah Nichols, Contributing Writer
It has been 3 years since I started my real food journey. In that time I have come to the deep and profound understanding that our bodies really are affected by what we eat. When we feed our bodies nutrient-dense, nourishing foods, we feed our health. When we just consume empty calories and man-made food-like items, our bodies cannot function at their prime and something is going to give. Tooth decay is one sign that our body is not getting the nourishment it needs.
Dental Health and Diet
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Six months ago I noticed some decay in the molar of my almost three-year old. It was that discovery that sent me into the depths of research on dental health and diet. One of the most informed and well-respected authors in the field of alternative dental health is Ramiel Nagel. He is the author of Cure Tooth Decay: Heal And Prevent Cavities With Nutrition.
I rented the book from my local library and read it in a matter of days. Nagel really did a great job of explaining how the Standard American Diet affects our dental health and what we can do about it. One thing that really stuck out to me was a passing comment he made about children eating refined flours having less tooth decay than children eating whole grains. What?! I thought I was benefiting my children by serving them whole grains, not setting them up for a future of dental caries and decay.
Phytic Acid and Phosphorus
It’s true. When we consume whole grains we are consuming the bran and the germ. The bran is the nutritious part of the grain, but it contains phytic acid. Phytic acid is bad for us because it binds with all those important minerals and our body is unable to absorb them. Most significantly, the phytic acid binds up phosphorous. Nagel stresses the importance of phosphorous in our diet for optimal dental health. He even goes so far as to say that phosphorous is more important than calcium when it comes to bone growth. (p. 78)
In order for us to be able to absorb the phosphorous and other minerals from the bran in whole grains, they have to be properly prepared through either soaking, sprouting, or fermenting. I realized this was an area of weakness for me. Although I did have a sourdough starter and used it for lots of things, I was not very disciplined with soaking my other grains such as brown rice and oats. While I’m sure this is not the only reason my son had signs of tooth decay, it sure was a contributing factor.
What Foods Should We Eat?
In his book, Nagel includes a great compilation of foods that are important for healing our teeth and nourishing our bodies. He stresses the importance of phosphorus, calcium, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins. Some of the best foods to eat for optimal dental health are:
Bone Broth - Bone broth is especially healing to our teeth because it is rich in minerals. Our bodies are strongly lacking in minerals today because of our depleted soils and aggressive agricultural practices. Be sure to include marrow bones in your broth. You can also scoop the marrow out of the bones and eat it. Bone marrow is rich in minerals and a source of healthy fat. I even made a bone marrow custard for my boys to get more minerals into their little bodies.
Raw Milk – Raw milk and other raw dairy products are a great source of calcium and phosphorus which are crucial to dental health. Among the numerous health benefits raw dairy offers, it contains more bio-available calcium than pasteurized dairy products. (source) We live in Arizona and raw milk here is very expensive ($8 for half a gallon). We were only able to afford one-half gallon a week, but I still believe it made a dramatic difference for my son. In order to find a raw milk source near you, check out realmilk.com.
Organ Meats - Organ meats are some of the most nutrient-dense parts of an animal. Traditional cultures would go to great lengths to make sure they were consuming enough organ meats. They are important for dental health because of their high vitamin and mineral content including phosphorous. However, you want to make sure you are getting your organ meats from pastured animals since the liver is the organ that processes toxins. If you are turned off by the taste or texture of organ meats, you can dehydrate them and make your own pills, or you can grind them up and add a small amount to your ground beef dishes without a noticeable difference to the taste. Nagel even suggests supplementing with fermented cod liver oil when trying to heal tooth decay.
Butter from Grass-fed Cows- When I first heard that butter was good for us, I was shocked. I thought butter made us fat and gave us heart disease. I was wrong. Butter from the cream of grass-fed cows has been highly prized in traditional diets. Our bodies need this healthy source of fat in order to assimilate the fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K. Grass-fed butter is an excellent source of vitamin k and the “Wulzen factor”. The “Wulzen factor” can only be found in raw butter and cream and basically assists the body in getting calcium to the bones instead of the joints. It’s also called the “anti stiffness factor” because of its ability to help prevent arthritis. For these reasons, Nagel suggests supplementing with a High Vitamin Butter Oil when trying to heal our teeth.
After making these foods a priority in our diet, along with properly preparing our grains, I have already noticed an improvement in my son’s tooth. The area of decay used to be sticky when I would poke it with a dental pick, and now it is no longer sticky. The discoloration is still there, but Nagel said that might remain. We will be taking him to the dentist soon and I am curious what they will have to say about it. I am nearly positive the decay, at least, has stopped.
If you are struggling with tooth decay in your household, I would highly recommend getting a copy of the book for yourself. He also includes protocols for people who are sensitive to dairy and for vegetarians.