If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you are well aware that I am a big proponent of gut health. I have made it a primary focus in my practice to help my patients with gastrointestinal issues and digestive disorders. But in this article, I’d like to think about where it all starts, the mouth.
Yes, it’s important to have a healthy gut microbiome, but what about the importance of having a healthy oral microbiome? My guess is that you probably haven’t thought much about it, unless of course you are a geek like me! Some of my patients don’t even want to think about the bacteria in their mouth, but hey, they are there whether we realize it or not. In fact, I read one source that indicated there were approximately 700 species of organisms that live in your mouth.
So first question…is a healthy oral microbiome important? Forgive me as I switch to all caps for a second – YES, ABSOLUTELY! It has been called the gateway to total body wellness! The US Surgeon General said it best in 2000, that the mouth is the “mirror” of health and disease in the body. If we think of the gastrointestinal tract as a river, then the mouth is the headwater, the source of that river. It sets the stage for everything that comes after in the gastrointestinal tract and in the whole body.
There are literally thousands of studies linking oral disease to systemic disease like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and Alzheimer’s. It really is shocking once your realize this. In fact, advanced periodontal or gum disease increases your risk of a fatal heart attack by up to ten times! There is also a 700 percent higher incidence of type two diabetes in those people with gum disease. Are you beginning to feel a bit “down in the mouth”? Ha! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.
If you have an imbalance in your mouth and the bad bacteria are dominate, they will produce toxins that are constantly draining down into your circulatory system. So it’s like getting toxins and poisons on a slow drip into your body. Not fun to think about!
It’s pretty clear that an unhealthy mouth equals an unhealthy body. But what are the benefits of a robust oral microbiome? Well basically, it can be your first line of defence against a number of bad guys. It has a protective component that helps shield you from deadly bacteria and viruses. It also is the beginning of digestion as it is where food is broken down into smaller pieces and mixed with saliva.
Here is a fact you will find interesting (and possibly disturbing). You swallow approximately 1 trillion bacteria every day. So you are continuously seeding your gut with bacteria. Are you seeding it with good or bad bacteria? A mouth that is sick could also be introducing unhealthy bacteria into the bloodstream every day! Are you beginning to see how critical a healthy oral microbiome is?
It is critical to pay attention to your oral health but some of what we think is good can actually be detrimental. Using antimicrobial agents and alcohol mouthwashes designed to “kill bad bacteria” can actually do far more harm than good as they wipe out everything – the good and the bad. Not really a good strategy as the goal is not to kill, kill, kill all the germs in your mouth.
Some general advice I can give you to “chew on” in this short article would be to:
• Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits. Crisp veggies and fruits contain large amounts of water and are useful in scraping away debris.
• Oil pulling. I recommend using coconut oil to clean your teeth and gums and help whiten the teeth. Do some research on your own for coconut oil pulling and you will see all the wonderful benefits.
• Make sure your overall diet is healthy and nutritious. Avoid a constant diet of carbs, junk food, and sugar. It should be an alkalizing, antioxidant-rich, and anti-inflammatory diet protocol.
• Vitamin C is beneficial for gum health
• CoQ10 is critical for healthy gums. Bleeding gums are a possible symptom of a deficiency in CoQ10
• If you do have amalgam (mercury) fillings in your teeth, consider getting them removed by a qualified dentist.
If you would like more info on how to better manage your gut health then please contact my office for an appointment.
Dr. Shah, MD