As a functional medicine practitioner, I know that the root cause of many diseases occurs due to imbalance of the microbiome of the gut. The gut however is not simply a part of the belly – the “gut” refers to the entire gastrointestinal tract, which begins in the oral cavity, the mouth.
The Mouth is the Window to the Gut
The overall state of your health is determined by the level of functioning in each cell of your body. The gastrointestinal tract is the most important physical component as it is the source of nutrient uptake into our bodies from the foods that we eat. The cells and other inhabitants that make up the gastrointestinal tract, also exist in the mouth so a healthy mouth is a window to a healthy person. A great way to measure the health of an area is to check the microbiome – specifically the balance of healthy bacteria and other organisms (microbes) which normally live in our gut. We actually have 10 times more microbes living in our body than we have cells in our body.
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Unfortunately, many of the foods that we eat and procedures that we undergo, do not help the balance of our microbiome. Much recent research has shown that a balanced microbiome is essential in determining health status. So how can we ensure that we have a balanced microbiome in our mouths and the rest of our gut?
1. Use Toothpaste that is unsweetened
Many of the current toothpastes in the market contain a very high amount of sugar and other sweeteners to make them more palatable for kids and people in general. Sugar and other sweeteners promote yeast and unhealthy bacteria growth which leads to an imbalanced microbiome. Over time, this high proportion of bad bacteria can lead to tooth decay, and issues of gut health including leaky gut syndrome. If you can’t find an unsweetened toothpaste option, try making your own (Link to: http://www.amymyersmd.com/2015/10/toxin-free-toothpaste/)
2. Brush and floss daily
Good and bad bacteria can build up around and between teeth and on your tongue overnight and throughout the day. Brushing your teeth and flossing (or using a waterpik) helps to eliminate plaque buildup around teeth and the tongue. Bacteria tends to build up in areas where plaque is present. Brushing and flossing physically remove the plaque from these areas in your mouth.
3. Ensure you have enough Vitamin D3
As a society, we are chronically low in Vitamin D3 levels in our bodies. It is imperative that we have a safe level of Vitamin D3 as it has properties that assist good bacteria in thriving in our bodies and helps to eliminate the inflammation caused by bad bacteria. Get your vitamin D3 levels checked and ask your doctor about supplementing if your levels are lower than they should be.
4. Cut down the amount of sugar in your diet
Sugar and sweet foods promote inflammation as they are fuel for bad, inflammatory bacteria and yeast. Cut down, and even eliminate from your diet any soda pop, breakfast cereals, candy, pastries, fruit juices, and even fruits that are high in sugar content.
5. Eat more nutrient-dense foods
Foods that are high in minerals and vitamins include dark, green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and swiss chard, other vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower and broccoli, foods high in essential fatty acids like wild fish and fish oils.
6. Consider Oil Pulling instead of using mouthwash
Alcohol based mouthwashes are processed and can kill almost all of the bacteria in your mouth, including the good bacteria. Oil pulling has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine in India as a natural therapy for oral health. Using sesame, coconut or sunflower oil, take 2 teaspoons in your mouth and swish it around between your teeth for 10-20 minutes in the morning before brushing your teeth. Then simply spit it out and brush your teeth as you normally would.
The state of your gut (including your mouth) is a strong determinant in the state of your health. Oral health is an essential component in your overall health. Treat your mouth well and you will be healthier.
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