Category Archives: dental health

How to help your teeth remineralize

Did you know that your teeth are a vibrant, living part of your body that reflect the state of your general health?  What is exciting about this is that it means you can do something to improve the state of your dental health – and I’m not referring to brushing two or three times a day.  Teeth can heal – remineralize – when given the opportunity.

Recently I shared about ds5’s many cavities.  I also wrote about my plan to give the kids xylitol water to drink five times a day, after every time they eat, to alkalinize their mouth bacteria.  (By the way, since then ds4 and ds11 have had dental check ups – no cavities for either one.  Ds5 is our outlier!)  Too much oral acid is the cause of all cavities, regardless of any other factors – brushing really isn’t a critical factor in preventing tooth decay.  Bacteria can’t survive in an alkaline environment, so this is the first step – kill the bad bacteria.  Also, teeth can’t remineralize in an acidic mouth, so the ph needs to be changed to alkaline so that your teeth can absorb all the good nutrients you’re eating.

Next I’ll share about some other things that can be done to help teeth heal naturally.

The first thing is some information that was totally new to me!  If you’re familiar with Dr. Weston Price’s work,  Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (post with link to free online copy is here), you know that Activator X is the powerful factor that he identified as being responsible for dental health in traditional societies, and this is what we need to have for dental healing. Usually high vitamin butter oil combined with fermented cod liver oil is recommended for your Activator X fix.  But guess what I just learned?  That Activator X has been identified as Vitamin K2 – Mk4, which is available as a vitamin supplement.  Now, doing a little more research showed that although this is the best form to get in your Activator X from food, it’s not the best form to get it from supplements.  As far as supplements go, K2 – mk7 seems to be a better choice.  (There’s a disagreement on this but I prefer the position found here and you can read up on it if it interests you.)  This is something I can order online and have mailed directly to me in Israel, something I can’t do with the fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, so this is a much more doable option for me.

That doesn’t mean that your child won’t still benefit from cod liver oil and butter oil  – they will!  They both are beneficial in many ways, and if you can afford this, then go for it!  Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D, among other things, which is important for strengthening teeth.

The next thing I’d like to do is cut down on our bread intake.  Since the kids took sandwiches to school every day, bread has become an integral part of their daily diet, and I don’t mean homemade sourdough from freshly ground organic wheat kernels!  Far, far from it. For quite some time I’ve been thinking how nice it will be nutritionally once the kids aren’t in school because they can have a higher quality diet than they do now. That begins with dramatically cutting down on bread.  The reason for this is that nutrients are absorbed directly through your teeth, so you want to cut out foods that are high in phytic acid at the same time that you increase your intake of high quality foods.  (For general guidelines on beneficial nutritional changes to make to benefit your teeth, see my post about how to improve dental health.)

Cutting down on other grains isn’t too hard, since we don’t use that many.  We occasionally have pasta, kasha and most often, rice.  But we can use more potatoes and squash in place of these starches.  My goal isn’t to totally go grain free, just to have a better ration of higher nutrient foods. Although it’s recommended to totally cut out all foods with phytic acid, that basically leaves organic vegetables, meat and eggs  and I don’t think that’s financially realistic for most people – definitely not for us at this time.

There are some good nutritional habits that I had for years that I slowly got out of the habit of.  It’s so easy to get out of good habits!  But to be very fair, not just to myself but to all you moms out there, these are things that take head space and conscious thought as well as time, and often none of those factors are in overabundance.  I’ve had way more things that I’ve wanted to do than the physical ability to do them!   Not only that, once we moved overseas everything got harder – I spent years finding sources for all the different foods I used, and suddenly was back to square one, with a different language, no car and different product availability to boot!  But some of the good habits are just as easy to integrate here as in the US, it’s just a matter of making the effort again.

One of these habits to get back to is regularly fermenting vegetables.  I stopped since I don’t have a food processor and when I make a big batch (2 – 4 gallons) of kimchi, it’s a serious time investment.  The easy ferments like pickles stopped turning out well (a couple of weeks ago week they turned out too salty, before that they were too mushy) and until recently I didn’t consider it a priority to take the time to figure out what factors had changed and experiment – the time and energy issue again! This is very important for your digestive health, since pathogenic gut bacteria will affect your mouth bacteria and probiotic foods and supplements are a critical part of building up your healthy gut bacteria.  (Edited to add: a blog reader emailed me to share that K2 is present in lactofermented sauerkraut, and that adequate K2 lessens the need for supplemental calcium – thanks, Iris!)

Another habit is making bone broth.  I stopped with that pretty recently when the weather got hot, but that’s an easy thing to reinstate.  It doesn’t take much time or effort to prepare, but it’s filled with minerals and then you can use the broth in anything you cook that calls for liquid to boost the nutritional value.

Something else I’d like to do is give ds5 specific homeopathic cell salts for dental health.  Though I purchased these while living in the US and they made the move along with us, giving it to the kids never became part of our daily routine.  (Anything that requires me to do something 3 – 5 times a day, and can’t be done at the same time as meals is very challenging to integrate into my daily routine.)  The dosage is two pellets, four times a day.  As with all homeopathics it’s important not to touch the pellets.  Just shake how many you need into the lid and pop them in your mouth.  Here are the  cell salts that are most beneficial for strengthening teeth:

Calcium Phos 6X – bone health, gives solidity to bones and assists in building strong teeth.

Calcium Fluor 6X – assists with improving enamel of teeth and strengthening bones.

Magnesium Phos 6X – bone development & quick pain relief associated with toothaches.

Silica 6X – assists in building strong connective tissue to support deficient assimilation.

For now I’m not making any appointments to have ds5’s cavities filled (I was told he’ll probably need at least six appointments to take care of them all).  It’s possible that it may eventually be necessary to have them filled – I already point blank refused to use amalgam when the dentist brought it up (why in the world are they still using toxic metals to fill cavities when we know so much about how problematic it is???) but there are other reasons that I’d like to avoid fillings if possible.  Fortunately with school over I’ll have much more control over what kind of foods everyone is eating.

My goal is to to alkalanize the saliva in ds5’s mouth so that the cavities can heal while at the same time changing the oral conditions that have previously led to cavities for him.  The main challenge isn’t knowing what to do, but being able to consistently apply what I know!  My life is always very full, but I’m hopeful that I can apply enough of these strategies frequently enough to see positive changes.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)


Using xylitol water to change oral ph

Back in Feb. 2008, I wrote about tips for improving dental health.  Many of these were from Rami Nagiel, before he wrote his book Cure Tooth Decay and became widely known in the traditional foods camp.  My problem with Rami’s approach is that I don’t feel it’s doable on a budget and that it’s somewhat extreme.  Rami’s approach is very absolute and doesn’t leave room for sometimes having grains or sweets.  That’s very tough and not realistic for many people, even those dedicated to their children’s health.  Since it’s based on high quality organic meats and vegetables, it’s also financially very daunting.  It was thinking of this that made me feel hopeless yesterday, since I know we don’t have the funds for his protocol no matter how frugal I am and I also know that I can’t follow his guidelines 100%.   What did encourage me was remembering about Dr. Ellie Phillips approach.

Dr. Ellie is a dentist who has worked with pediatric patients and others for many years.  She’s written a book called Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye (I haven’t read it) and is now writing another book that will have information about the importance of diet to your teeth.  I’m guessing this will be along the lines of the traditional foods approach.  What is very encouraging about Dr. Ellie’s protocol for kids is that it’s so doable, and she doesn’t tell you to stop having all foods with phytic acids or anything else.  Her approach is highly effective, affordable and doable.

The main issue with her protocol is consistency.  For kids, she says that giving them xylitol five or six times a day after any food that isn’t dairy or vegetables will reset their mouth bacteria from acidic to alkaline.  She recommends giving it in the form of xylitol water to drink.  The recommended amount of daily xylitol intake for maximum dental benefits is between 6.5 – 10 grams a day; I think that’s about two teaspoons a day.  No benefits have been demonstrated by giving more than that.

We were regularly brushing their teeth with xylitol for a while and then we got inconsistent and tapered off.  In any case, it seems that drinking xylitol water is better and having it a few times a day rather than just at night before bed is much better.  It’s also best to drink it throughout the day, ideally after each snack and meal to reset the ph balance of the mouth.  Here’s a great article about mouth bacteria that is a must read to understand why people get cavities – if you’re someone who brushes and is careful about diet but you still have issues with cavities, this will explain what is going on and you’ll understand how important it is to systematically reset the ph balance and how xylitol works to benefit that.  Reading this explanantion gave me a lot of hope since I already was convinced the issue was something about his acidic mouth fluids and I’m very optimistic based on her many years of experience that this can be the answer to helping ds5 reverse his dental caries issue.

Yesterday I started giving xylitol water to the younger boys (including Yirmiyahu even though he has no teeth, because he was in my lap when I was giving them drinks and he wanted some, too!) and they were very receptive.  They loved it!  So getting them to drink it won’t be the issue; the real concern is me keeping it in mind on a daily basis and making it into a family habit.  Since there’s always so much going on this is a challenge for me but I’m going to do my best!

To make xylitol water, all you do is mix a couple of teaspoons of xylitol in hot water to dissolve the crystals, mix it and then add cooler water.  This amount will be for one child for one day.  I tripled the amount and put it all in a mason jar that I’m leaving on the counter so I could give all three younger boys some during the day .

Today I’m going to make some of the xylitol water into ice cubes for them to snack on after meals as a ‘popsicle’ dessert.  Since I don’t want to mix them up with our regular ice cubes, I’m going to save some of the cooking water from the beets I’ll be boiling this morning and will add a little bit to the mixture to give it some color.  This won’t affect the effectiveness of the xylitol.

You can also make xylitol candies by mixing it with plain gelatin and juice, a project I once bought ingredients to undertake and never got around to.

By the way, Dr. Ellie’s website and blog are packed with useful information and she consistently comes across as an incredibly knowledgeable, nice, sincere and caring person.  She has produced xylitol candies that can be eaten after meals, but never does she give the impression that you must buy her products to have good dental health.  She has developed a protocol for tweens and up for reversing decay and eliminating pockets that is a must read, so check that out after you read the article about mouth bacteria that I linked above.


Dental woes for ds5

Today I took the kids to the dentist for the first time since we moved to Israel almost two years ago.  It’s embarrassing to me that I haven’t done this sooner but I’m so busy taking care of so many things, that everything takes longer than I want to get done.  I didn’t understand how the dental aspect of the health insurance here worked, and the person at the office I spoke to about it quite some time ago also didn’t.

Well.  Today’s news wasn’t good.  The kids I took were ds7 and ds5, and it was ds5 that I was particularly worried about.  I briefly wrote about this two years ago in the midst of our aliyah preparations, that when I took him for a routine dental check, I was shocked to find that he had a lot of cavities.  A lot.

This was very surprising to me since he wasn’t yet 4 years old, was homeschooled and therefore had very limited access to sugary treats.  We had a very good diet that included lots of healthy fats, raw milk, pastured eggs, broth, fermented vegetables, and no white sugar or white flour at all.  Of course we did have baked goods with organic sucanat and nut flours or freshly ground whole grain flour, but not the amounts you could attribute his level of cavities to.  And his cavities were totally disproportionate to all of the other kids’ state of dental health although they all have the same diet and similar toothbrushing habits.

I asked the dentist at the time what she attributed this to, and she said it’s possible he has highly acidic saliva.  I debated with myself about how to handle all of those cavities, knowing it’s possible to heal cavities, but decided to go ahead with traditional fillings since it was such a short time before we moved.  Knowing what I did about dental health, I was afraid we wouldn’t have the necessary factors in place for healing to take place, and so he had all of the cavities filled traditionally (20 – between almost all of his teeth).

Fast forward to today.  We’ve been a lot more careful with brushing with him as a result of his history, though his diet is worse than it used to be.  Firstly, our family diet isn’t nearly as good as it was for so many years due to cost and accessibility issues though most people would still call it very  healthy, and secondly, he’s at kindergarten daily and they get plenty of sugary snacks – it seems there’s always a party of some sort going on.

Ds7 was checked first, not much to be concerned about there despite all the sugary garbage he also eats regularly.  As I expected.  Before ds5 climbed into the chair, I warned the dentist he might find a very different situation.  And he did.  15 cavities, between most of his teeth.

I asked the dentist for his advice on prevention of this kind of thing, and he told me regular brushing and flossing.  I told him that we do regularly brush and that doesn’t seem to do much to help this particular child.  I told him I felt that ds5’s mouth ph was very acidic and causing this problem, and he dismissively shook his head and repeated that we need to brush and floss more.  I wasn’t hurt or surprised at this response; I’ve gotten used to very limited help from the professionals who are supposed to be experts since their learning is from an educational model that looks at the body as components rather than a holistic whole.

I felt kind of hopeless about this child’s dental health when I walked out of the office.  I absolutely don’t believe that this is an issue of inadequate brushing and know that this is going to be a constant issue with him unless we can figure out how to change his oral ph.  I know a number of things that can be done for healing cavities but just can’t afford all the traditional foods necessary.

Fortunately my discouragement was short-lived and I decided it was time for more research to see what else we could do.  I’ll share some of those things in my next post!


How to get kids to take fish oil

A couple of years ago, I did extensive research to find cod liver oil that had kosher supervision.  But I didn’t succeed.

I very much wanted the dental benefits of cod liver oil, but thought that since our diet was rich in bone broths, lots of butter, free range eggs, raw milk, kefir, and fermented vegetables, the emerging teeth of the littles would probably be fine.  I was overly optimistic, and I’m frustrated with myself for not giving them the cod liver oil, since you have until the age of three to improve their facial bone structure.  So it’s too late for ds4, who has very closely spaced teeth (and as a result, had cavities between most of them – brushing wouldn’t have helped), and ds2 has crowding on his lower jar (I saw this when his baby teeth emerged, but hoped there would be improvement – there wasn’t).

From my experience, a good diet is only enough to maintain health, not to significantly improve underlying issues.  (I keep meaning to write about my anecdotal observations on dental structure based on our nine children, and our diet at the time.  Remind me if I forget, okay?)  So we’ll now be using cod liver oil, which I just bought for the first time last week, and I just hope it’s not too late to help ds2 with his dental spacing.

Regardless of the benefits to dental health, there are lots of benefits to taking cod liver oil (or other fish oils, as well).  But getting it down is the hard part.  You know all those stories from a couple of generations ago, about kids running away and hiding when they were sick to avoid their mother dosing them with cod liver oil?  I’m sure it wasn’t much of an exaggeration.

None of our kids are picky eaters, but every one of them grimaced (ds2 tried repeatedly to wipe his mouth out) and told me how bad it was.  But it’s so good for their health, so how to get it down?  Here’s my strategy so far, for unflavored cod liver oil (I decided against the flavored oils for a couple of reasons):

I give them each a shot glass with a teaspoon of cod liver oil in it. For some, I immediately give them a chaser of thick, sweet nectar from the peach compote I recently made.  Ds4 surreptitiously tried to pour his shot glass into the sink while I was giving the others their glasses, and b) what worked for him was to mix the nectar with his cod liver oil.  c) I take mine immediately followed by a teaspoon of lemon juice – it cuts the flavor immediately.  d) Dd16 told me she mixed hers with rice and spices, and it was very tasty.  :)

Ds18 went back to Jerusalem today, and asked if he could take one of the bottles of cod liver oil with him.  If he has a different strategy, I’ll add in his suggestion to this post at a later time.  :)

How do you get your children to take supplements or medicine that they find unpleasant?  What kind of supplements do you think are worth the effort, and why?

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)


Dental woes

Last night I received an email, and this was part of the message:

>>I read one of the articles on your blog about teeth brushing, or lack thereof of doing it frequently.  I was very thrilled by this, as I am so bad at getting them to brush.<<

I don’t want people to think that not brushing kids teeth is recommended, and in the absence of an exellent diet and regular check-ups, issues are likely to crop up.  Let me update you on my own very recent experience.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been taking different kids to the dentist to get everyone checked before we go to Israel.  I figured that there would be more than enough things to do close to our moving date this summer, so I’m trying to do as much as I can in advance.  I am SO glad that I did this. Because our dental situation is a disaster and it would have been impossible to fit in all the appointments in the last few weeks. 

First I took ds12, who broke a front tooth when playing last year.  We had it repaired, and when playing (with the same friend) several months ago, he broke it again.  We got it taken care of again, but were told that the root had been badly damaged.  So I started off this recent round of dental visits with dd12 getting a root canal.  And he has three cavities.  Since our kids have hardly ever had cavities, this shocked me.  We’ve gotten the cavities on one side of his mouth taken care of, so I have just one more appointment for him until he’s finished (4 appointments total).  

Then I took ds8.  Nine cavities.  No, that’s not a typo.  Two appointments left for him.  Oh, and he needs palette expansion (which wasn’t a surprise), but after a trip to the orthodontist, I was told I should wait until moving to Israel to begin that.   Then dd16 (who brushes and flosses regularly) – 3 cavities and a broken tooth.  Oh, and she needs to have her wisdom teeth removed.  I juggled around the appointments I had already scheduled for the younger kids to fit her in before she leaves, since there were no open slots before her departure date.  So she had two visits her first day home (fun, fun!), and one more this week.  Then ds5 – thank G-d, two teeny tiny dark spots that I’d usually just keep an eye on and wait for them to fall out, but because of the upcoming move I want to get them taken care of.  Ds17 – can’t remember the details, but I do know that I scheduled one follow-up for him. 

And lastly (not all the kids had appointments yet) is ds3.  I could see there was some decay between his two front teeth. His teeth are very closely spaced and food gets stuck there. But I really didn’t expect anything more.  Oh boy. The dentist took a look in his mouth, then looked at me and said, “He’s got a lot going on in there for such a young child. At least four cavities.”  He recommended taking him to a pediatric dentist where they practice sedation dentistry.  So I took him to a pediatric dentist.  (Did I mention that all of these appointments were taking place in the two weeks immediately prior to Pesach?)

The pediatric dentist took xrays and before telling me the results, asked me a series of questions like these:  Does he drink juice?  No, only water.  Does he drink milk before bed?  No, only for breakfast.  Did he ever use a bottle at night?  No, he never had a bottle at all.  Does he eat a lot of sugary foods?  Aside from some snacks (from older sibling), I don’t use sugar and minimize other sweeteners.  When she finished, she  told me that he has 15 cavities in his 20 teeth.  Since his eating and brushing habits are just like ds5, this was hard for me to understand.  She attributed it to his teeth being so close together – the cavities are almost all between his teeth, not on the surface, and even if I had been more regular about brushing, it wouldn’t have helped; flossing would have made the difference.  She also said some children have bacteria in their mouths that are different than other children, and this can be a big contributing factor as well.

She explained that it will take 6 visits to take care of this , and told me what was involved in sedation dentistry.  Basically that it doesn’t always take, sometimes it partially takes, and sometimes it fully takes – but there’s no way to know.  (It made me think of an epidural.)  And so she recommended that because of his age and the amount of work he needs done, the likelihood of trauma is high, so it might be better to have it taken care of under general anesthesia at the hospital.  After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to go with this suggestion.  I have an appointment scheduled for him in June, with a pre-op physical scheduled at his pediatrician a few weeks before that.   (Lately I have been on the phone a LOT making appointments!)  Update just a few hours after writing this: I just learned that our insurance company refused coverage for ds3’s dental work.  I can’t tell from the wording of the letter if they’re refusing the hospital part or something else, so now I need to do some more research and decide what the best options from this point on will be.  We might end up doing the sedation option after all.

Though I continually have felt grateful for our dental insurance that minimizes the cost in dollars of all of this to us, I was really struggling with feeling guilty. Guilty, irresponsible, inadequate -I felt embarrassed for my children to have cavities like this, and along with that was the guilt that I know so much about diet and how it relates to dental health, that I should have done all the things I know are important to do.  You know how a mother’s brain has a hard time shutting off once the guilt button gets pushed?  That was me.  My consolation was that our dentist sent us to the same pediatric dentist that he sends his children to.  😛  It reminded me that all parents do their best, and regardless of their knowledge or convictions, sometimes things fall through the cracks. 

Practically speaking, after so many kids and so many years of very few cavities, what do I attribute this big change to?  A few things.  1) This year I really haven’t been as on top of our diet as I usually am.  This wouldn’t matter as much (since our not so great diet is still pretty good) if not for one older child who regularly started bringing home snacks and treats to share with younger siblings.  As a result, snacking has become much less controlled and more frequent.  You can’t compensate for this with a decent diet alone.

2) This dentist is new to us, and because his approach is more aggressive than our past dentist, I suspect that he may define cavities more stringently than she did.  Whether that’s the case or not, there definitely are issues that we need to address, so I’m not complaining or pointing fingers.  Just saying that I wonder if we’d have been told there are as many as there are. 

3) A very big factor, I think, is that it’s been over 2 years since I took the kids to the dentist, since our beloved dentist stopped accepting our insurance, and I procrastinated about finding someone to replace her.  If we were doing our checkups every six months, we would have found signs of decay when it was beginning, and for most of the kids (not ds3), it wouldn’t have reached this point. 

4) Lastly, I think brushing your teeth is valuable even if you have a good diet, but definitely if you have a lousy or even so-so diet (taking into account the added snacks the kids were given, it would downgrade our diet to so-so).  I don’t think brushing will prevent cavities if you structurally weaken them with a lousy diet (dd16 attributes her cavities to the junk she was eating at the beginning of the year when she first was away), but I definitely think it’s a good thing to do.  So please don’t stop brushing your childrens’ teeth because of me!


The advantages of xylitol

I first heard about xylitol about three years ago when I was researching tooth health, but because it ends in ‘ol’, that indicated to me a chemically created processed sweetener and I had no interest in learning more at that point.

But now ds4 and ds3 (almost) have exactly the same problem that none of the older 6 kids had – they each have one top front tooth that is grayish.  Exactly the same tooth.  (Edited in Jan. 2011 to add – it turns out that this isn’t a result of decay, but because the tooth was injured by being hit during a fall – the dentist said it was very common in young children.  If a tooth is rotting, it will be brown, not gray.)  So clearly I need to do something more than what I’m doing, and in addition to beginning homeopathic cell salts for them (something else I learned about back then but didn’t do!), I decided it was time to do some more research into xylitol instead of responding with a mental knee jerk to the thought of something that didn’t seem very traditional.

So I started doing some reading and it was really, really interesting!  I was fascinated at how many benefits a sweetener could have. I learned a lot and since I don’t particularly enjoy writing reports on my blog with lots of technical details, I’ll just share with you what I find to be the most salient points.

First, what is it? Xylitol is a sweetener that was originally made from birch bark when discovered during World War II in Finland; it is actually a substance that is naturally occurring in the human body and in many fruits and vegetables.  Xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks almost the same as white sugar, and can be effectively used to replace sugar in most foods in the same ratios (ie 1 cup for 1 cup), though I prefer to use a little less.

The biggest complaint that I read about was intestinal discomfort.  A person can take 15 -20 grams daily with no side effects. More than this acts like fiber and cleans your system out, which can cause intestinal discomfort until the body gets used to consuming these quantities.  As a person who is comfortable with the concept that good foods sometimes can lead to cleansing reactions, the possibility doesn’t really bother me.  But it seems like the easiest thing to do is just start with small amounts and avoid the problem altogether.

Because it is chemically a different structure than most sweeteners, it doesn’t lead to food cravings and doesn’t feed candida (and therefore can’t be used in baking yeast breads, because it won’t feed the yeast for it to rise).  To me those are two very incredible features, but additionally, it’s been found to be beneficial to your health in other ways.

It can prevent colds, ear infections, runny noses, and head colds in children.  It aids in stronger bones because it allows the calcium in your body to be absorbed better.  It metabolizes in the body without using insulin, which makes it a great option for diabetics. It doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar and actually helps reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings.  It benefits your teeth by changing the acidity in your mouth, making your mouth less hospitable to the bacteria that cause decay – this is my main motivation in using it.

Does xylitol fit with a natural foods way of eating?  The answer is that I don’t know.  It seems the WAP foundation has come out against it, but just saying something is processed and wasn’t eaten by our ancestors isn’t in and of itself compelling enough for me to disregard all the positive benefits of using it.  I’ve been eating according to traditional foods guidelines for about five years, but learning all that I have in addition to doing some initial experimenting with xylitol has pushed it to the top of my list in terms of preferred sweeteners.  So call me a rebel, but I’m just not willing to be a purist about food for the sake of dogma.

My kids like the taste – they think it tastes like sweet snow – it has an almost minty feeling in the mouth that isn’t mint – it’s a refreshing feeling.  I plan to use it actively to combat tooth decay by giving the littles some after dinner, and ideally after every meal (1.5 teaspoons daily is the recommended amount for this purpose).  Some people use mints or gum that are xylitol based, and eventually I’d like to make my own ‘candies’ with xylitol to give the kids, but for now, I’m planning to give it either directly on the spoon or dissolved in water, in addition to using it directly to brush their teeth with.  It will take me some time to make it part of our regular daily routine, though.

Tonight after I gave ds3 his cell salts, which are lactose based, I gave him a spoon of xylitol to eat before bed so the lactose wasn’t the last thing in his mouth for the night.  It seems outrageous that a mother could do something like this and be responsible at the same time!  So easy!

In addition to the benefits I listed above, I like that it’s white – we’ve been using organic sucanat as our primary sweetener for baking, and dd15 (our primary baker) finds it frustrating that all cakes turn a brownish color as a result.   However, though she initially liked the idea of using xylitol, as well as the taste, so far two cakes that had cocoa in them flopped (her words, not mine), and  she believes xylitol doesn’t react well with cocoa and caused the problem.  I think we have to try it a few more times to see if that’s regularly the case or not.

Since I don’t eat anything with flour in it, I can’t say what the flopped cakes tasted like – the other kids liked it – but I can say that the few times I’ve had xylitol it’s been very tasty and whatever I made turned out well.  I used it just this morning with my chia seed/coconut milk drink, and have had it with nut butter dessert recipes and it was excellent.

My general approach is to minimize the use of sweeteners, and this continues to be my approach.  Too much of anything isn’t good for anyone, and I’m not about to start adding lots of sweetener to our diets, no matter what it is (the exception being the very small amount for the littles for their teeth).  Having said that…..

Good for the body, good for the teeth, fights infection, doesn’t cause cravings, low in carbs, tastes great, and substitutes well for sugar in most dishes – xylitol has a lot of advantages.  With my purchase in bulk of 55 lb (I bought Xylosweet), it made it affordable enough to be a full-fledged addition to my pantry.  Move over sucanat, here comes something better! :)))

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.)


Eating beef liver to improve bone structure

I do a lot of reading about nutrition. A lot.  I find it fascinating to continually discover the unbelievable complexity of our bodies, and a core value in how well your body functions depends on the quality of your nutrition.  It’s simply mind-boggling, and I keep learning more and more that leaves me almost shocked at how critical good nutrition is to so many aspects of development.  And I’m a person who has already known for years that nutrition is really important!  (Sometimes I sit my older kids down and have them read some of what I read; other times I explain to them the science behind what I’m learning about – which leaves them wishing I knew more about nutrition when they were little so they could have all of the benefits!)

I have so many things I want to share with you here, but I often don’t because I don’t want to be seen as an expert who can answer detailed and specific questions – I can’t, and I don’t want to!  Despite reading many, many details in numerous books and articles, I’m not a person who enjoys writing about them; I prefer to share what I’m doing in response to what I learn.

I’ve been noticing that despite all of the good things we eat and the traditional ways that I prepare our foods (for about four years now), my ds2 and ds4 (almost) both have a couple of teeth that are a little close together, which I’m concerned may become crowded as they get older. It’s a little frustrating to me that it’s so darn hard in this day and age to help our kids reach their genetic potential, that we have to work so hard and so consciously to help our children develop in the way that generations pretty much naturally developed for centuries (specifically in this case I’m referring to the wide mouth palates of the past vs the narrow palates of the present).  But fortunately bone is elastic to a degree, particularly in very young children and good nutrition can actually help improve existing bone structure.  Though this is gets harder to do the older a child is, until the permanent teeth erupt there’s still a likelihood that it can be improved, and I’m hopeful that ramping up their nutrition can still benefit their jaw structure at this time.  Spending a bit more on high quality foods now could be a pretty big savings in orthodontia down the road!

I’ve repeatedly seen cod liver oil recommended as being valuable in contributing to good health (including tooth strength and jaw development), in part because it’s high in vitamins A and D, but I’ve been unable to find a single company in the world that sells kosher certified cod liver oil, so I needed to find another option.  Though I learned about the importance of cod liver oil at least two or three years ago, I’ve thought that it was enough to basically eat decent quality foods mostly prepared properly, and since I couldn’t find a source of cod liver oil I could use, I wasn’t concerned.  But now I believe that living in the toxic world we live in, we have so many strikes against us that it really takes more than ‘basically’ or ‘mostly’ to counter that.  When I once again came back to think about this issue in the last couple of months, I finally determined that we needed to add something more nutrient dense to our diets, and that beef liver is the best option for us, in terms of providing us with some similar benefits as cod liver oil (as well as benefits of its own).

Beef liver is high in iron and vitamin A (not so much D), lots of B vitamins (including the important B12), as well as Omega 3 fatty acids (most of us are deficient in Omega 3s and consume too many Omega 6s – the ration should be 1:1).  I like how Amanda says that eating liver is pretty close to taking a multi-purpose vitamin!   As such, it has many different benefits for people of all ages (I’m trying to convince a friend suffering extreme nausea during pregnancy – in her third trimester now! – with a history of severe postnatal depression to eat some liver to help address some underlying deficiencies, but she said it would make her too nauseous to eat it).

It’s taken a few weeks to actually be able to get the liver, but we finally have it!  Last night we prepared liver for the first time.  For my kosher readers, some of you are probably already wondering about this since you know it isn’t so simple!  I’ll prepare a more detailed post about the concerns for kosher consumers in the next week or so, and how to properly prepare it (including an important fact that most people are unaware of).

All of my kids but one liked it, but I told her she would only need to eat a small amount, and I’ll probably mix it into different foods, like with ground meat – so that was fine with her.  I’m planning to regularly include it in our meals, which is why I bought over 20 lb yesterday (as you know by now, I don’t know how to buy small quantities! :lol:).  We’ll see how long it lasts!

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)


Alternatives to toothpaste

Several weeks ago I wrote about the problems with toothpaste, and now I’ll share with you some options to toothpaste. What you eat and what you brush your teeth with are critical to your dental health, since teeth are mineralized through absorption of saliva.  That means that changing the quality of your diet will change the quality of your saliva (among other things), and if your teeth are properly cleaned (ie no glycerin coating from commercial toothpaste), they will be able to absorb minerals from your saliva.

There are lots of good options to toothpaste, most of which are very affordable.  I’ll start with some of what I’ve used:

Toothsoap – this is what I started using four years ago.  It’s a natural soap with added flavors, shredded and comes in a jar.  It was convenient since each child could use one shred, so I didn’t have to be concerned about all of them dipping their toothbrushes in.  It was effective, but very, very expensive.  So much so that I couldn’t justify the price, which is why I went on to look for other frugal choices.

Coconut oil – coconut oil is a primary ingredient in tooth soap, so it made sense to me that it could be used on its own.  However, since it solidifies at temperatures below 72 degrees, in the winter it’s not a great choice for us.  Plus, I couldn’t find a good way to dispense it for multiple children.  But dh and I use it in the summer.

Baking soda- this has an alkalinizing and odor reducing quality.  I like using plain baking soda, and the only caveat is that you have to use a very tiny amount.  I generally dip the tip of my brush in, and then rinse it slightly with water before brushing.  It’s an abrasive and if you were to use generous amounts on your teeth daily, it could affect your tooth enamel.  I’m used to the flavor and really like the sparkling clean feeling my mouth has after brushing.

Bar soap – This is a cheap option to toothsoap and works just as well.  Bar soap rinses off with two rinses, unlike the glycerin in commercial toothpastes that takes 27 rinses to come off, and allows the nutrients in your diet to be absorbed by your teeth.  It seemed unsanitary to have all the kids share one bar of soap for their teeth and I considered cutting a bar of soap into chunks so each child could have their own.  But practically speaking I didn’t see how they could each keep track of their chunk.  It’s hard enough for them to keep track of their toothbrushes (younger siblings have a way of walking off with them.:)).

My most recent experiment for them has been to buy a 2 oz bottle of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap – it comes in many flavors and isn’t expensive at all (though you do have to place a minimum order – but I got just enough for the minimum order and the half gallon of peppermint soap will provide us with enough refills for toothsoap for many years- and I can use it as a multi purpose cleaner, too).  This has worked really, really well for the kids. They are fine with the flavor (we got peppermint) and it’s easy to dispense.  So far this is by far my favorite option for children.

Homemade tooth powder – it’s very easy to make your own tooth powder.  Most of the ingredients can be found in your pantry. I made some for dh and I just because I was curious to try it.  Here are the basic categories that your ingredients will fit into:

Use any food grade clay – I used bentonite clay since that’s what I had in the house, but you can use red, yellow, green, or white clay as well.  Bentonite clay absorbs impurities, which is exactly what your mouth is filled with while brushing.

Then add an abrasive – you can use baking soda or salt.  If you use a high quality mineral salt like Real Salt, then you’re increasing the nutritional value of your tooth powder.

For flavoring, there are lots of options.  You can use any essential oils that appeals to you; I chose cinnamon because of the antiseptic properties of cinnamon, but most people would probably prefer peppermint.  As long as you like the flavor, I don’t think it matters that much.  Alternatively or in addition, you can use a powdered herb like cinnamon.

Nutritional boosters – now you can have some fun with this.  Basically you can throw in any powdered herb or real food that you like.  Spirulina, powdered ginger, powdered cloves – I decided to blend up some orange peels that I dehydrated a while back for the vitamin C content.  You can also leave these out completely.

Honestly, I don’t think that percentages matter much, because pretty much however you mix up whatever you use, it will be good.  I’ll share what I did, but it was my only version and I pretty much was trying to put in as many ingredients as possible so I didn’t have to choose between them.  😆  I’ll share suggestions to improve it at the end.

  • 4 T. stevia leaves (not processed stevia)
  • 1 T. orange zest
  • 1 T. bentonite clay
  • 1 T. Real Salt
  • 2 T. baking soda
  • a couple of drops of cinnamon oil

I powdered the stevia leaves and orange zest – be sure to sift them unless you want to end up with my version, which has tiny pieces.  (I could still sift it now, but it’s not a priority.)  Next, mix the powdered and sifted stevia leaves and orange zest together with the other dry ingredients.  Then add just a couple of drops of essential oil – since these are so powerful, you only need a tiny bit.  Mix it up and store it in a covered container in your bathroom.  Dip your moist toothbrush in it when you’re ready to brush your teeth.

What I’m happy with is the pleasant taste of the stevia and cinnamon oil.  What I would change for the next time is to make a choice – baking soda or salt – not both.  If you take my suggestion and use one or the other, you can double the amount of whichever you use, and totally eliminate the ingredient you don’t use, and the final proportions will stay the same.  Hope that makes sense!

As I said, this is what I had on hand so this is what I played around with. But I saw so many other possibilities just using the herbs and spices I had right in my kitchen cabinets.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Works for Me Wednesdays.)


The problem with toothpaste

It’s been two years since I wrote about how to use your diet to improve your dental health.  I also wrote about my thoughts on toothbrushing not being a critical factor to healthy teeth and cavity prevention.  And when I wrote about the many uses of baking soda as well as about the uses of coconut oil, I mentioned that I use baking soda and coconut oil as toothpaste alternatives.  Though I haven’t been using commercial toothpastes for over four years, I’ve never shared my reasons here.

I have several concerns about toothpaste.  One is fluoride, which is a commercial waste product and toxin that despite all the hype hasn’t been proven to prevent tooth decay. (If you’re interested in learning more fluoride, you can start at this site).  It’s baffled me for years that there are warnings on the tube of toothpaste like “Do not swallow” and “In case of accidental ingestion, contact the poison control center” since swallowing a pea sized amount of toothpaste can poison a young child – but while we lock up chemical cleansers so they don’t get into it, we don’t even consider the free access our kids have to toothpaste.  Not only do we not keep them away from it, we lovingly open their tiny mouths and rub it all over their teeth.

Then there’s the another thing that puzzles me.  Dentists tell you to brush well after eating sweets, and then the paste you use to brush your teeth is filled with sweeteners.  Doesn’t that seem….well, contradictory?  You dip your brush in something sweet to rub away the residues of sweet food?

There are ingredients like the detergent sodium lauryl sulfate that may cause irritation to sensitive gums (linked to canker sores for many people).  And then there’s a very problematic ingredient called glycerin.  A good diet can substantially increase the strength of your teeth, and even remineralize them when decay has occurred (yes, that means you can heal your teeth through high quality nutrition).  Your teeth can only remineralize if they are clean, but glycerin coats your teeth with a film that prevents them from being able to absorb nutrients (and it takes 27 rinses to wash off the glycerin).  You can see how this is working against your efforts to build stronger teeth!

These are some of the reasons we don’t use toothpaste.  I’ll write about what what you can use as toothpaste alternatives as well as share about my kids’ dental history in another post.

(This post is part of Fight Back Friday.)


Tips for improving dental health

Since I know that other moms are probably also interested in how to improve their children’s dental health, I thought I would share some information that I’ve found valuable.  First of all, improving dental health is integrally linked with improving the overall state of the body’s health. The state of your teeth is a reflection of what’s going on in your body.  This contradicts the typical way of looking at the teeth as only cosmetic and independent from the rest of the body, but is a very important distinction. 

The following is what I’ve gleaned from various sources, and made notes on for myself – I’m far from an expert on nutrition.  From what I understand, improving your dental health is a two pronged approach: 1) eliminating/minimizing low quality foods that deplete the nutrients from your body, and 2) adding high quality food that build up the body to your diet. 

What are foods that should be minimize, and ideally eliminated?  There are reasons that each of the following are problematic, but I’ll just share the list of what to work on for now:
– sugars/sweeteners
– hydrogenated fats, margarine
-iodized salt
– processed foods
– pasteurized milk products
– soy foods
– unsoaked grains (even whole grains)

Of this list, I still sometimes use unsoaked whole grains and flour (but I’ve made big improvements in that area!), but otherwise I pretty much have eliminated everything else.

The body needs both calcium and phosphorus, and a lack of it seems to be the cause of tooth decay. Whole grains and soy foods are high in phytic acid, which bind with the phosphorus and escort a significant amount of the nutrients in those foods right out of your body. Soaking them neutralizes the phytic acid so that your body can benefit from the nutrients in your food.

Increasing foods that build the body up:
– bone broths
– cod liver oil
– butter oil

These are the three things I’ve seen most highly recommended to build up teeth. Of these three, I’ve so far only done the bone broths. I use broth quite a bit so that it’s part of our regular diet, even when the kids don’t see it (like to cook rice in). 

Other good things for general health that also positively effect the teeth and should be included as much as possible in the diet are:

– raw milk
– raw butter
– raw honey
– sea salt
– lacto fermented veggies (they strengthen digestion and assimilation)
– soaked/sprouted/fermented grains and flours
– pastured eggs
– saturated fats (animal fats and coconut oil)
– high quality animal protein (meat, chicken, fish)
– lots of veggies

 Of this list, I do most of them most of the time.  Sometimes I use supermarket eggs or regular store butter, but otherwise I’ve integrated all of the other suggestions into our diet.  You’ll notice that some of these are replacements for the list of things to eliminate, raw milk for pasteurized milk, sea salt for iodized salt, soaked grains for unsoaked grains, etc.  So it’s more like you’re substituting one thing for another than actually adding new strange things to your diet.

By the way, as a substitute for margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oil, I use coconut oil.  It perfectly substitutes for shortening.  I also occasionally use extra virgin cold pressed olive oil.  I also render beef/lamb fat and use that to add nutritional value to dishes.  (This is a great irony to me, since this is the kind of thing I used to very much avoid eating, thinking it was bad healthwise.)

Herbs for strengthening teeth:
– horsetail, lemon grass, red raspberry, nettle, lemon balm – I’m guessing these are good because of the vitamin c, but I can’t say for sure.