But sugar may be the initial insult setting us up for more damage from other insults.
Alvin Danenberg, DDS.
I talk about sugar with my patients and colleagues all the time. Although sugar is sweet, and many people may crave its sweetness, sugar can be a poison. It could be a poison that affects every epithelial cell in the lining of our mucosal tissues.
As dentists, we know from our clinical experience that sugar is the "No. 1 enemy" feeding the bacteria causing tooth decay, and this is backed by a 2015 study in the Journal of Dental Research (October 2015, Vol. 94:10, pp. 1341-1347). But, sugar is more than a decay starter. A study published on March 23, 2018, in Science showed how sugar may be the primary insult to the gut. While the researchers used mice in their study, they also suggested how these changes could occur in all mucosal tissues in humans.
The authors of the Science study showed blood sugar can break down the gut lining and allow junk to leak into the circulatory system. They also explained that sugar increases gut dysbiosis. Most important, this study helps disprove a long-held conclusion that fats were the real problem causing a break down in the gut lining.
“Sugar is a controllable insult to the gut.”
Once toxic elements leak into the circulatory system, chronic inflammation occurs that can cause a compromised immune system and various forms of chronic disease. Some of these chronic diseases include obesity, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, neurodegeneration, and dental diseases.
While those researchers studied blood sugar as an insult to the gut, they also suggested that sugars in foods could cause similar problems. In addition, the investigators showed that sugar could change the expression of more than 1,000 genes in epithelial cells throughout the body. These changes included several genes that involved various metabolic pathways.
When my patients ask (and even sometimes when they don't), I tell them to keep these seven essentials in mind:
- Tooth decay and periodontal disease are chronic diseases.
- An unhealthy gut can be a major factor leading to an unhealthy mouth.
- Based on this study, sugar is a major insult to the gut.
- Sugar may also affect the epithelial lining of all mucosal tissues.
- Blood sugar must be monitored and regulated, and dietary sugar must be reduced significantly to avoid a major insult to the gut and mucosal tissues.
- To successfully treat tooth decay and periodontal disease, the gut must be made healthy.
- The gut must be treated at the same time the mouth is treated.
Then the patients can take it from there. I remind them to be careful with the sugars they eat and that they can stay around in the blood system. Sugar is a controllable insult to the gut.
Alvin Danenberg, DDS, practices at the Bluffton Center for Dentistry in Bluffton, SC. He is also on the faculty of the College of Integrative Medicine and created its integrative periodontal teaching module. He also spent two years as chief of periodontics at Charleston Air Force Base earlier in his career. His website is drdanenberg.com.
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