By Alvin Danenberg, DDS, contributing writer

January 9, 2019 -- Many people seem to want to switch to healthy eating. While many ideas are out there, it is a fact that nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory ways of eating have served societies the best throughout human evolution. These plant and animal sources were endemic to where these peoples thrived.

Nutrient-dense means that there are many nutrients per calorie of food. Anti-inflammatory means that these foods do not cause inflammation in the gut and into the blood system.

Talking with patients

Alvin Danenberg, DDS
Alvin Danenberg, DDS.

If my patients ask, I discuss with them the benefits of eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods. However, I have learned to keep the discussion on their level (not getting too complicated with my terminology) and that I need to be supportive and not condemning. If patients need to feel a need to change, they need to have an emotional reason for this to happen. They need to make this change their own.

This also means offering appropriate and appetizing food substitutions up front for patients to see better options. They need to know there are satisfying substitutes for bread and pasta and also snack replacements. If I can't offer appealing choices, I could turn them off right from the beginning (see Dr. Danenberg's website for recipe options).

Offending foods

Initially, I point out the major offending foods that are inflammatory and provide little nutrition:

  • Grains (especially gluten grains)
  • Free sugars (sugars added to foods)
  • Overprocessed seed and vegetable oils
  • Pasteurized milk products
  • Processed and packaged foods, which have added preservatives, emulsifiers, and chemicals

As I just noted, it is critical for me to offer delicious substitutions for these frequently consumed foods. If I were only to tell my patients to stop eating certain foods without giving suitable replacement choices, I would lose them at the start.

It is important for me to learn what my patients really are eating. Although many may tell me they already eat healthfully, it is amazing to see their real diet when we get down to the nitty-gritty. So, I give them a three-day food journal to fill out.

After they complete this journal, I sit down with them and figure out what foods are in the unhealthy category, and I make specific suggestions to replace these foods.

30-day reset

Then we work together on a 30-day reset, which summarizes the healthiest foods, the foods to eat in moderation, and those foods that must be eliminated entirely because they have few nutrients per calorie and are inflammatory to the body.

Follow-up is critical for success. After my patients work on their diet for at least 30 days, we get together for another appointment. They complete a new food journal, which we review. They usually have many questions, which I proceed to answer. We need to tweak some food choices and figure out solutions to the problems they have encountered.

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

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2019

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