Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My (Mostly) Lacto-Paleo, Cavity-healing Diet Update

For the past two and a half weeks, my dog and I have been on a mostly lacto-paleo diet to heal our cavities. It's a high-nutrient, high-fat, low-sugar diet that emulates what my northern European ancestors ate before the advent of farming. We've been eating meat, eggs, non-starchy vegetables (think salad ingredients), fish, olive oil, coconut oil, and a few nuts. That's the paleo part. We've also been eating cheese, sour cream, goat milk, cream and butter (the lacto part). We don't eat any grains or beans. However, I do eat a few chocolate candies a day, low-carb ice cream and a Zevia soda now and then. I also use a little bit of vinegar and xanthan gum, which aren't strictly paleo. I need a vice besides overdue library books.

Positive results so far:
  • We enjoy this food-especially Molly. She jumps for joy when I feed her.
  • I'm down a pound and Molly feels a little trimmer on our high-fat, high-nutrient, low-carb diet. Take that, Dr. Oz!
  • My third-day hair looks and feels clean. Usually, I need a shampoo by the end of day two.
  • No more chapped lips, even without Carmex.

Negative results so far:
  • I've been tired. Last weekend, I fell asleep during Hawaii 5-0 (the original show with Jack Lord--was there a cooler guy?) and took a four-hour nap Sunday night.
  • My skin has felt dry.
  • I've had some nasal congestion.
  • Irregularity.

Yesterday, after doing a bit of research, I started taking potassium and immediately felt better. My skin looks better, too. (Potassium helps regulate heartbeat, water retention and bowel movements. A lack of potassium can make you tired.) I may have to cut back on the dairy to decrease the congestion.

As for our teeth, they look about the same.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Cavity-healing Diet

Note: I'm reposting this with some edits. When I first wrote this article, I was under the impression that my dog had a tiny hole in her tooth that had healed (see photo). What looked like a pinhole may have been some crud on her tooth. I've also made another change in my diet. -Ed.

A week ago, I went on a cavity-healing diet and put my dog, Molly, on the same diet a few days later when I noticed she had a cavity in her lower-right canine.

As described in the highly researched book Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel, the experiments of Weston A. Price showed children's cavities healed when they were fed one highly nutritious meal a day of tomato or orange juice with cod liver oil or high-vitamin butter, meat/bone marrow/vegetable stew, cooked fruit, milk, and rolls made from freshly ground wheat. (Note that this experiment and others like it were done in the 1920s and 1930s when meat and milk were from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals, wheat was very different in its genetics and processing from what it is today, and cod liver oil was the real stuff, not processed with synthetic vitamins added.) On just one great meal a day (the other meals were the children's usual fare at home), at six weeks, the children's tooth decay stopped. What was special about the meal? It was high in vitamins A, D and K and the minerals calcium and phosphorus.

What are Molly and I eating? Eggs, liver, cream, a little goat's milk, meat, sardines, bone marrow, and vegetables. The meat, eggs and dairy almost all come from pastured animals. No dog food, no grains, no starchy vegetables, no fruit. I allow Molly to indulge in a few nuts, and I eat two or three small chocolates and a few cups of coffee a day. Our diet is mostly lacto-paleo.

I've had to stop drinking raw eggs. The eggnog gave me congestion and and my homemade ice cream made my acid reflux return. It wasn't the dairy; this morning, I quit the eggnog and had a chai tea with the same amount of cream and milk as the eggnog, and my sinuses and throat feel almost back to normal. (The little bit of raw egg in homemade mayonnaise doesn't bother me.) From what I gather, being allergic to raw eggs, but not cooked eggs, is unusual.

Despite Dr. Price's use of bread in his experiments to heal cavities, typical grains lead to cavities unless they're properly prepared, says Nagel. The antinutrients (phytic acid and lectins) in grains, seeds and nuts bind to minerals and keep you from absorbing them. I've read elsewhere (the Whole Health Source blog, I think) that freshly ground wheat contains more phytase, an enzyme that breaks down phytic acid.

The small groove I wrote about in an earlier post may or may not fill in. "If a tooth has a hole, pit or previous filling," says Nagel, "then that hole or pit will be strong and resilient, but it will not likely fill in."

Some people might guess that Molly and I have gained weight on this high-fat diet. Not so. A few days ago, I was down two pounds, and Molly feels firmer than she did a week ago. The idea that dietary fat makes you fat is one of those myths that just won't die--like the idea of those "healthy whole grains."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My New Diet: How it's Going

Saturday I started a new diet to heal my cavities. It involves eating mostly foods high in vitamins A, D and K (fat-soluble vitamins) and calcium and phosphorus. I'm eating zero grains, but still eating a few chocolate candies (as in, three or so dark chocolate kisses per day) at work.

To that end, on Saturday I bought a quart each of half-and-half and cream, two dozen eggs, liver, several tins of sardines on sale, and a bunch of salad ingredients. It's Monday and I'm already down to eight eggs and I've gone through half the cream and half-and-half. (I still have three-fourths of a pie dish of low-carb flan I made tonight with the dairy and eggs, and I fed a few of the eggs to my dog.) There's liver thawing in the refrigerator for tomorrow night and a can of sardines in my lunch (I already ate one can of sardines Saturday when I wanted a quick, easy snack). In other words, it's been incredibly easy to eat this food.

I also changed my toothpaste to Xyliwhite(TM). It's very mild; you might try it if you have a sensitive mouth.

Results so far: before, I had little plaque on my teeth; now, it's practically nil. There's almost nothing to floss away, but I still do it. The dairy might be giving me a little congestion, but it's not painful.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Can Teeth Heal?

Over the past several years, teeth whitening services and teeth whitening toothpastes have flooded the market. Could our collective crummy diet have something to do with our need for that? Can your diet--beyond just avoiding sugar--even heal cavities? Research from the 1920s and 1930s says yes. Who knew?

Two days ago, I had a dental cleaning. The dentist said I had some brown areas on my upper front teeth and a groove on a lower one that needed fillings. It was late in the day, so he said they'd take x-rays and look at them later.

I can see the spots and groove he was talking about; in fact, they've been there for a few years without growing or causing any pain. In the past year since radically changing my diet to low-carb and taking a bunch of vitamins and minerals every day, my teeth look a lot better. (They used to have a brown tinge and darker brown areas where the teeth touched. I'm not sure my old dentist believed me when I said I brushed twice a day and flossed every night.)

By pure coincidence, a few weeks ago I read a post by John Durant(1) at hunter-gatherer.com about his trip to the dentist. Like me, he had some tiny cavities. His dentist, like mine, was eager to drill and fill:

Well, you have a cavity. Shoot. Where is it? Upper row, left side, molar next to your canine. It's on the side in between that molar and the next molar. What did it look like on the X-ray? Well, it doesn't show up on the X-ray, that other spot was nothing. But it's early -- some of the enamel is gone and it sticks when I press it. What do you recommend? Put in a filling. How much does that cost? ~$350. [Editorial Note: I don't have dental insurance.] I'd like to try a dietary approach first. Hmm.... [long pause]...well, you know that the enamel doesn't grow back. What did you have in mind?

Then I explained about Mellanby and Price.

The dentist said I was free to wait and see, and said he'd be happy to see if that part of the tooth was still "sticky" in a few months, free of charge. Nice guy. Though I have to say, I've never completely trusted dentists. They have a financial incentive to recommend unnecessary procedures, after all.

So I went home and bought some Green Pastures High Vitamin Cod Liver Oil / Butter Oil Blend, already have a lot of Vitamin D, and we're going to run a little experiment of n = 1. And I shot an email to the dentist and bet him $20 that the tooth will heal. Gotta put your money with your mouth is, right? And whether it works or not, you'll hear about it from me.

The Mellanby and Price John refers to are Drs. Edward and May Mellanby, the husband and wife team who discovered vitamin D and identified the cause of rickets. Price is Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist, who studied the remarkably good teeth of people in remote areas. The doctors ran experiments on dogs and children to see if diet and vitamin supplements could cure cavities. Dr. Edward Mellanby wrote about their results in the book Nutrition and Disease(2) (text courtesy of Whole Health Source Blog):

Since the days of John Hunter it has been known that when the enamel and dentine are injured by attrition or caries, teeth do not remain passive but respond to the injury by producing a reaction of the odontoblasts in the dental pulp in an area generally corresponding to the damaged tissue and resulting in a laying down of what is known as secondary dentine. In 1922 M. Mellanby proceeded to investigate this phenomenon under varying nutritional conditions and found that she could control the secondary dentine laid down in the teeth of animals as a reaction to attrition both in quality and quantity, independently of the original structure of the tooth. Thus, when a diet of high calci­fying qualities, ie., one rich in vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus was given to the dogs during the period of attrition, the new secondary dentine laid down was abundant and well formed whether the original structure of the teeth was good or bad. On the other hand, a diet rich in cereals and poor in vitamin D resulted in the production of secondary dentine either small in amount or poorly calcified, and this happened even if the primary dentine was well formed.

So much for "enamel doesn't grow back."

Stephen Guyanet at the Whole Health Source blog wrote a couple of excellent posts on the subject of reversing tooth decay--see this and this. An excerpt from one of the posts(3):

Drs. Mellanby set out to see if they could use their dietary principles to cure tooth decay that was already established. They divided 62 children with cavities into three different diet groups for 6 months. Group 1 ate their normal diet plus oatmeal (rich in phytic acid). Group 2 ate their normal diet plus vitamin D. Group 3 ate a grain-free diet and took vitamin D.

In group 1, oatmeal prevented healing and encouraged new cavities, presumably due to its ability to prevent mineral absorption. In group 2, simply adding vitamin D to the diet caused most cavities to heal and fewer to form. The most striking effect was in group 3, the group eating a grain-free diet plus vitamin D, in which nearly all cavities healed and very few new cavities developed. Grains are the main source of phytic acid in the modern diet, although we can't rule out the possibility that grains were promoting tooth decay through another mechanism as well.

(Phytic acid is an antinutrient that gloms onto minerals and prevents us from absorbing them. It's present in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Read more about it here.)

The Mellanbys' research was written up in an article in the British Medical Journal called "Remarks on THE INFLUENCE OF A CEREAL-FREE DIET RICH IN VITAMIN D AND CALCIUM ON DENTAL CARIES IN CHILDREN."

Dr. Weston Price gave his subjects a slightly different diet, but it, too, cured most cavities says Stephen Guyanet(4):

Dr. Price provides before and after X-rays showing re-calcification of cavity-ridden teeth on this program. His intervention was not exactly the same as Drs. Mellanby, but it was similar in many ways. Both diets were high in minerals, rich in fat-soluble vitamins (including D), and low in phytic acid.

With the above in mind, I started a new diet today. It's not a mile off my old diet, I'm just making a few changes. I'm forsaking all grains, and similar to the children on the Mellanbys' diet, I'll eat more eggs, liver, cream (which is more versatile than butter) and sardines (my idea) for a diet with no phytic acid, but rich in vitamins A, D and K and calcium and phosphorus. There's already very little sugar in my diet. So, for example, I've given up my rice protein powder protein shakes for sugar-free, alcohol-free eggnog (with the usual vitamin and mineral pills thrown in). The recipe is from 500 Low-carb Recipes by Dana Carpender, and it's good enough to be a dessert. No sacrifice there. I'm now throwing in chicken bones when I make soup. It's tasty and I don't have to buy chicken stock anymore, so there's no sacrifice there, either. As for liver and sardines, my tastes have changed since I was eating a lot of carbs. These two foods go well with mayonnaise and cheese, respectively, and I don't find them unpleasant.

In addition, I've ordered the book Cure Tooth Decay and an at-home vitamin D test.

In six months, I'll return to the dentist to see what progress I've made. I'll also pay attention to the groove and spot to see whether they heal.

1. "After a Long Hiatus, John Goes to the Dentist" by John Durant at hunter-gatherer.com. March 2011.
2. Nutrition and Disease by Sir Edward Mellanby. Oliver and Boyd, 1934.
3. "Reversing Tooth Decay" by Stephen Guyanet at wholehealthsource.blogspot.com. April 1, 2009.
4. Ibid.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How would Dr. Oz Treat the DTs?

"You let me in your house with a hammer." -"Candy Shop" by Andrew Bird

Low-carb proponent Gary Taubes appeared on the Dr. Oz Show March 7. In one entertaining segment, Dr. Oz spent a day eating a low-carb diet and complained of the greasiness of the sausage, feeling tired, constipation and bad breath.

That's a drag, but when I stopped drinking Coke in 2007, I felt even worse: stomach ache, headache, tiredness, and mental fog. Should I have gone back to drinking Coke? If you quit a bad alcohol habit and start seeing snakes, do you need a drink? If my legs hurt from working out Monday night for the first time in two months (which they do), maybe I should resume my exercise hiatus indefinitely.

I respect Dr. Oz for having Gary Taubes on his show and letting him share his ideas. I'd respect Oz even more if he looked into low-carb diets more carefully. What he didn't seem to consider regarding his one-day low-carb diet was that he spent a day coming off a sugar habit and giving his body a fuel (fat) it wasn't accustomed to. All those "sacred" carbs (that's actually the word he used) like fruit and whole grains break down into sugar--a substance that's addictive for some people. Dana Carpender (see Hold the Toast! on the blog roll) wrote in one of her books that she had a sugar habit so bad as a teenager that she stole money from her parents to support it.

Time was when I didn't like the taste of greasy food or how it made me feel. The problem was that I ate little fat and didn't have sufficient enzymes to digest it, so a fatty meal gave me a stomach ache. But when you eat more fat more often, your body makes more fat digesting enzymes to cope with it. The first two weeks on a low-carb, high-fat diet left me unable to work out, yet mentally more energetic. After that, I regained my strength and my tastes changed without any effort. (Oddly, I developed a sudden love of coffee, a drink I'd always hated.) A magnesium supplement keeps me regular. As for bad breath, I haven't notice anyone backing away from me.

According to Dr. Oz, life wouldn't be worth living without the sacred fruits and grains. Maybe I exaggerate, but my mother pointed out that there are people who must live on such a diet. She's diabetic, and two bites of either of those foods would send her blood sugar over 200--a level more than high enough to lead to organ and tissue damage, and high enough to make her feel lousy for a whole day. I looked at the pile of fruit and grain and said, "Hello, bloating." The meat and eggs from the Taubes pile don't give me bloating or acid reflux or jack up Mom's blood sugar. Nor do they cause weight gain or heart disease.

Dr. Oz did acknowledge that for some people with hormonal problems, a controlled-carb diet was beneficial as long as they excluded saturated fats. Sigh. "Piece by piece, and nail by nail, it'll all come down someday before the fires of Hell."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Exercise Hiatus

What happens when you go two months without exercising? Conventional wisdom says you gain weight (unless you restrict calories). Does it work out that way in real life?

Around January 10 this year, I strained my neck and stopped lifting weights to let it heal and avoid injuring it further. Although it was completely healed after three weeks, I didn't do any resistance training for two months (and I stopped doing cardio workouts over a year ago). It was pure laziness. (As for the cardio, I decided last year it was just a waste of valuable dance time.)

How did this affect my health and fitness? At January 10, my weight was 118 pounds. Today, March 7, it was...118 pounds. My pants (all tailored, no elastic waists) fit just as they did in January. No, I'm not the type who can eat anything without gaining weight: last year at this time, I was in the middle of losing 20 pounds, going from a high-carb, low-fat diet to a low-carb, high-fat diet.

This bears out the research I've done on health and fitness: between diet and exercise, your weight and health are influenced 95% by diet and 5% by exercise. And unless you're going to extremes, calories don't matter.

That isn't to say exercise isn't worthwhile. My workout tonight (to the Ballet Conditioning DVD) was harder than I remembered it, got me out of the funk I'd been in for a few days, and it physically felt great.