Saturday, November 29, 2014

Probiotics as dental insurance

Our microscopic fellow travelers are all the rage today, rating their own study group known as the Human Microbiome Project.  I’ve long recommended intestinal probiotics for years to my patients as they’re treated for infections in an effort to avoid some of the intestinal upset associated with antibiotics.  I never gave a thought to probiotics for oral and dental health until I was invited to try this brand for review.

Probiotics means ‘for life’, referring to the beneficial relationship we’ve developed with the enormous numbers of bacteria living on our surfaces.  Latest research suggests that as many as 700 different varieties hang out in our mouth where the living is easy—warm, wet, with a frequent barrage of incoming nutrients.  Depending on which microbes set up shop in our mouths, we are more or less prone to bad breath, cavities, gingivitis, or upper respiratory infections.  Here’s the scoop on the bacterial blend in Pro-Dental:

Lactobacilli paracasei:   This germ is a gem.  Italian researchers added L paracasei to ‘an artichoke product’ (?!?), and volunteers ate 180 gm of the probiotic-chokes over 15 days while a control group ate the lactobacilli-less variety.  The bacteria survived the acid journey through the upper GI tract, colonized the colon, and ‘antagonized’ the e coli and colistridium bacterium already in residence there.  The latter is an increasingly common cause of serious colon infections after antibiotic therapy.  In addition, a sub-study of constipated study subjects found their symptoms much improved post-use of probiotic-spiked artichokes.  In a dental sense, daily use of L paracasei-containing toothpaste developed in Germany has proven effective in reducing by 50% the amount of streptococcus mutans in users’ mouths without affecting other useful bacterial communities living therein.  Strep mutans is known to form bio-films on oral surfaces—picture bacteria eating, working, playing in slimy sheets on your teeth and gums, then metabolizing sugars to acids that decay your teeth, inflame your gums, and confound your immune system!

Lactobacilli reuteri:  This amiable microbe also competes with Strep mutans, seriously disrupting its biofilm gangs. In a study population, significant decreases of s mutans populations were noted after 3 weeks of L reuteri supplements per day.  Note that probiotics must be ingested daily in order to avoid their elimination from the oral cavity or GI tract.

Streptococcus salivarius:  As opposed to Strep mutans (and group A strep—the cause of strep throat), this Strep salivarius is a good guy.  The K12 strain has been shown in various studies to decrease the incidence of strep throat, tonsillitis, and viral upper respiratory infections in small children and adults with medical histories of frequent infections of both varieties.  It also looks promising as a preventive measure against oral thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth common in the elderly and persons with immune deficiencies. The M18 strain was a stand-out in a study of kids prone to cavities and plaque—New Zealand researchers found that Strep mutans bacterial counts dropped most dramatically in those young subjects best colonized by Strep salivarius M18 after 3 months of probiotic use.

My hygienist informs me that I’m outliving my gums which seem to be receding down to my chin and up towards my cheeks.  The result, she promises, will be cavities along what formerly was known as my gum-line. Dental probiotics and an upscale sonic brush are, therefore, my teeth’s newest best buddies!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Matcha Green Tea Powder

This stuff is big-time polyphenols for big-time health benefits!

I’ll admit that I got my bag of KissMe Organics Matcha for free with a request for a review. I’ve been a one cup of green tea per day is plenty kind of believer, good for the health but, honestly, I prefer coffee.  Green tea’s not fun, green tea tastes odd.  But I had no idea just how odd green tea could taste until I tried a half teaspoon of this green Matcha powder which doesn’t even really dissolve when mixed in hot water.  Odd is not necessarily unpleasant, the flavor is like a slightly gritty, mild infusion of grass clippings.  But what a great way to get one’s green tea intake out of the way in one earthy serving  (yeah, I fact-checked; it really does have 137X the anti-oxidants of the brewed China Green Tips variety), and. oh my, check out the health benefits.

There’s a host of worthy molecules in green tea called polyphenols, the best and most plentiful of which is epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG.  A search for EGCG and cancer returns 1,299 articles on research studies wherein EGCG messes with the dastardly growth, reproduction, and metastasis of prostate, breast (including the triple negative scary kind), glioma, and colon cancers and T-cell leukemia.  And that’s just from the first page of results!  Clinical evidence suggests it has chemopreventive properties as well with respect to preventing or reversing the cellular changes that lead to malignancy.  Diabetic animals—both rats and humans—display improved cholesterol levels and glucose control when green tea is added to their diets, and some even lose weight in amounts that may or may not be significant depending on which study results you consult.  HDL-cholesterol (the good kind) rises while total cholesterol and LDL levels fall.

Well I’m sold on Matcha, and I’m ordering some for a friend recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  I probably won’t try green tea cupcakes because, honestly, I prefer the good old brown-from-chocolate variety.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Oil pulling revisited after five years and a lot of sesame oil!

While I don't remember where I came upon this Ayurvedic practice, I do know what I found immediately appealing about it.  Whiter teeth without a bleach tray, less plaque without scraping.  I have no way of knowing what the state of my oral health would be had I not swished and spit a tablespoonful of sesame oil more mornings than not for more than five years, but I am entirely satisfied with my current dental status and teeth so sparkly--despite daily coffee and green tea--that my dental hygienist asked me at my last visit what my secret was.

I took another pass through the medical literature on oil pulling recently, and discovered new information on how this pulling business works.  Given a busy life and hectic mornings, it's hard to carve out 15-20 minutes for an oral work-out around a mouthful of oil. As a result, I did the multi-tasking thing that we all do, making coffee and breakfast, packing lunch, reading a book or the paper, often holding that mouthful of oil with just an occasional swish.  Turns out, however, the magic is in the agitation.

Scientists conducted trials wherein they sampled the oil from the mouths of willing subjects at various intervals during the pulling process.  Heaven only knows how they did this without sending sesame oil and spit down the volunteers' chins.  Early samples revealed big globules of oil in saliva while later specimens showed that the washing machine action of hard-working jaws had broken the oil into tiny droplets upon which bacteria and old dead mouth cells clung. This did not occur until 15 minutes or more into the activity. Thus, indifferent, distracted oil pulling while dashing around the kitchen for 10 minutes just doesn't get your mouth that soap-like cleansing effect. Give it your all for 15 minutes, spit the thin, milky stuff out, rinse, and SMILE!

For more on oil-pulling, see Bacteria, bad breath, and oil pulling and Oil pulling testimonial