Introducing...Toraji

[This is Toraji's story, in her own words, compiled by me (Sarabeth) from
various articles and posts from multiple sources. Her diet has not been specifically GAPS, but is similar enough to be relevant for many people on this path. I am most appreciative for the permission to post her work here; to protect her privacy, Toraji is not her real name.]

Healing Tooth Decay and Remineralizing Teeth
by Toraji

I came into veganism believing all the propaganda saying that animal products were unhealthy, unnecessary and environmentally unfriendly. And for about five years, it seemed to be true...until we were faced with undeniable proof that something was wrong. My oldest daughter's teeth began decaying rapidly at age 17 months, and she presented with a classic case of "baby bottle mouth" even though she'd never had a bottle in her life. I knew enough about nutrition to understand that tooth decay was related to the nutritional status of the body, and thus began my journey into nutrition, health and healing.

People can survive in denial for a long time. As a vegan, I did. Even though I had had gas/bloating and a host of other issues for years, they were all within the range of "normal" and seemingly unrelated until I changed my diet again and they “magically” resolved themselves. These problems included major brain fog and fatigue, severe depression, poor circulation and poor healing (wounds, recovery from sickness or physical exertion, etc). We are all trained to believe, "Just eat the four food groups, five veggies a day, low fat, and margarine instead of butter"--and you'll be fine. Bull pucky! It is poor diet that is killing us all! Even environmental toxins can be mitigated when a person has been nourished properly and all of their detox pathways are open.

When I realized the extent of my family's physical deterioration that had occurred during my stint as an idealistic vegan, I was angry. We had been extremely strict in consuming only whole foods, eating nothing that came in a package, including no chocolate, alcohol, caffeine or sugar. We grew and/or made everything, even tofu and tempeh, from scratch. How had this "perfect" diet failed me, and especially my child? I was extremely humbled by the experience, and began to understand that perhaps I really didn't know much about diet at all. It's been a long journey since then, and I have learned a whole bunch the hard way about the connection between nutrition and postpartum depression, gut health, allergies, heavy metal toxicity, baby and adult tooth decay, and yeast overgrowth.

It's funny now to look back on my dietary “transition” phase...it took me a long time to recover from my anger about “failing” on my pure vegan diet, plus I had to deal with the skepticism of others (“Oh, she probably was a junk food vegan,” etc). So I have a lot of sympathy for others going through the transition now.

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It was my daughter's baby tooth decay that finally pushed us over the edge to question our vegan ideology (which was a horribly traumatic experience for all involved). She suddenly started developing white spots on one of her upper front teeth, and from that tooth it spread across to the four top front teeth very quickly. The white spots quickly grew into chalky big spots. Needless to say, we freaked out.

After a lot of research, we switched to a modified Nourishing Traditions'-style diet, including _huge_ amounts of fresh vegetables prepared in every manner possible. We had blended salads at least once a day. Organ meats and bone broths. Organic pastured butter. Cod liver oil. A full-spectrum mineral supplement. We were already eating minimal amounts of soaked/fermented grains, and we continued eating small quantities of these, along with a very small amount of sugar (from veggies and occasional fruits only), which was similar to our previous diet.

And ta dah...the scary progression of decay stopped at the four front teeth. It took a few weeks from the diet change to get to this point. We celebrated and thought everything was OK.

Fast forward to about ten months later...when the previously decaying teeth started chipping. I now attribute this to the teeth becoming brittle due to the decay. I didn't know what it was back then, but started to worry. Then the decay started getting darker. More worry. (I have since learned that decay turning darker is a sign of the cavity dying, and when the decay is black, then the cavity is dead. I didn't know that back then, so we went to see the dentist.)

The first dentist blamed it on night nursing and wanted us to night-wean before he would put my daughter under general anesthesia to fix the teeth (which he recommended we have done ASAP). He recommended crowns. We ran away to another dentist, fearing putting our daughter under.

The next dentist didn't say anything about night nursing, but also felt that work was necessary and imperative, and was willing to do the work with just a local anesthetic. Meaning: the parents (us) would need to restrain the child. We did this since we were scared of general anesthesia, but it was one of the worst mistakes I've ever made. If you decide to get dental work done on a young child, please do not use restraint. We paid for it dearly with trust issues, night terrors, and tantrums afterward. The dentist fixed two teeth, with the other two saved for another appointment. Needless to say, we decided not to go back, and opted next for general anesthesia.

The third dentist we found was wonderful and gentle, and worked with our daughter in overcoming her fear of dentists. Our daughter went from crying at the mere sight of a white coat, to willingly letting him look at her teeth, in about four visits. After our first visit, the dentist told me about the color of cavity signaling the speed of decay, and told us that we had a good chance of killing the cavities using topical fluoride treatments because the decay was progressing so slowly. Faced with the prospect of fluoride or general anesthesia, we chose to do the fluoride treatments.

And that was the last step we needed to completely kill the decay! Hooray! They turned black very quickly after that.

Now I know that fluoride is very controversial, and I would have liked to not use it at all. Had I had a better diet while pregnant, we probably would not have had any tooth problems, and thus would not have had to use it. I am completely opposed to internal consumption of fluoride, but have to say that it worked when applied topically. In addition to the office treatments, we used a fluoride toothpaste at home, applied in tiny amounts often during the day (grain of rice size, about 7x a day either brushed or by finger).

I do feel that tooth health can be supported through whole-body-health, and I attribute dietary changes for providing the main push to slow down my daughter's decay. However, I think that due to modern soil deficiencies and environmental pollution, we are having a harder go of it than during Dr. Weston Price's time. Even Dr. Price sought out butter oil, as well as the wheat he used, from the most high-mineral soils in the country, which was then to be found in Hereford Texas--also known as 'The Town Without a Toothache'. (See more information later in this article) That is probably why some people do not get the same results today when treating tooth decay with dietary changes: our soils are just not what they used to be. This is why we chose to stress fresh veggies and the mineral supplement. We absolutely need high levels of minerals to have remineralizing saliva, and we need other nutrients (like fat-soluble vitamin D) in balance.

Now, when my daughter goes in to the dentist....she has absolutely no new cavities, and perfect gums. The dentist ooohs and ahs over how nice her mouth is, and says, "Whatever you're doing, keep it up, because it's working great."

If I had a chance to do it over again with the knowledge I have now, I would have done the fluoride in addition to the radical diet change, right from the start. (As far as I have learned, flouride does not work by killing off the bacteria in the mouth/teeth, but rather it strengthens the enamel which makes it more resistant to acid attacks. Since my daughter had such a poor start in life with poor enamel, we felt that we needed that advantage to fully beat the decay.) And I would have smiled instead of shaking with fear when the decay turned darker. I had the misconception that dark decay meant it was progressing faster instead of more slowly, and we made so many mistakes because of this. Now I also wonder if I would have been able to completely kill the decay without the aid of fluoride...but who wants their child to be the first guinea pig?

To any parents struggling with decisions concerning decay in their child's teeth, I would say: if the decay is not very deep and not hurting the child, make strict dietary changes and use the fluoride toothpaste treatment. No more sugar and candy. Also cut out fruit juice and dried fruit, because it's generally too concentrated and high in natural sugars. Drink herbal teas instead, especially ones high in minerals. Eat _loads_ of veggies--I am convinced that our success was largely due to placing a _very high_ emphasis on vegetables (some raw at every meal), and then animal foods/organ meats/fats, along with a very low fruit and grain intake (all grains must be properly soaked/fermented). Keep the diet high in protein, and use lots of bone broths. Take a mineral supplement (not vitamins) and cod liver oil, along with organic butter (if you are not dairy-intolerant, otherwise, eat more organ meats/shellfish). Basically, I would advise a Nourishing Traditions diet with these emphases.

Let me repeat: fresh veggies are a must. In my opinion, you can't properly remineralize without heavy intake of them. If you need help in this arena, the “Garden of Eating Diet” is a great book to read. You need a lot of free minerals in your saliva in order to replenish your enamel. It's not just about taking some cod liver oil and butter oil. You need all sorts of nutrients, all together, and there is no magic bullet to cure it all.

If you are worried about specific mineral deficiencies and heavy metal toxicities impacting your nutrient intake, then get a hair test done. Direct Labs is the one I used (Hair Elements, not the Hair Toxic Element Exposure): http://www.directlabs.com/testtypes.php#hair

You can determine mercury toxicity using these counting rules (it doesn't always show up as high levels in hair, but instead skews your mineral transport): http://home.earthlink.net/~moriam/HOW_TO_hair_test.html

And also, while you are trying to remineralize, good dental hygiene is very helpful. This site is great, called Dental Self-Sufficiency: http://mizar5.com/ . (I don't believe in their theory of cavities/gum disease being a communicable disease, but they have very good info on tooth irrigation. You need to flush out those pockets if you have loose gums so that your gums can reattach.)

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Have you noticed that most references to the wonders of the Weston A. Price Foundation/Nourishing Traditions diet are referencing Price's work from “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration,” and _not_ generally people speaking from personal experience? Why are some people not having the same great results doing the same things that Price did in his time? Why are people moving to a nutrient-dense nourishing traditions diet, and still having remineralization problems?

This is my theory: soil health.

During Price's time, he took the utmost care to procure the highest-mineral-level butter oil in order to achieve his fabulous results. (You can read about Hereford, Texas at the Soil and Health nutrition library http://soilandhealth.org , in "Man vs. Toothache", by Dr. George W. Herd.) The residents of "The Town Without a Toothache" had magnificent teeth _only as long as they ate locally grown food and animal products._ Their soil was very high in minerals and thus the foods grown on this soil gave them great teeth. It was this reputation that led Dr. Price to come a-knocking for foods grown there.

Price was no dummy to soil health, which is why he had William Albrecht write the chapter on it in “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” However, the translation by Sally Fallon in “Nourishing Traditions” leaves this important info out.

Why did the rural Swiss have fabulous teeth on very little vegetation? They were in the mountains, with pastures irrigated by extremely mineral-rich alpine water. “Alpine Spring Water”, right? “Good for your health” - sound familiar? It's the minerals in this water that grew such rich grass that the animals ate and allowed them to produce such fantastic milk.

Another extremely healthy culture was the Hunzas. Mostly vegetarian like the rural Swiss, and also a mountain-dwelling culture with water famed for it's health-building properties.

It is my belief, with us living now as bottom-dwellers on modern impoverished soils (even “organic” is not enough), and also battling modern environmental toxicities which are notorious for depleting nutrients from both flora and fauna, that we need to find every possible way to get as many minerals into us as possible. This means eating loads of veggies (yes, those studies and veg propaganda do have some truths to them), but also ensuring that we get the vital nutrients and co-factors from animal foods (which is where Nourishing Traditions'-type diets come in).

(I've spent way too many hours trying to figure this all out, and the best resource I've found is the aforementioned Soil and Health Library (link above). It's all free and online, and has great out-of-print resources concerning agriculture, health and freedom.)

There are many compounds in veggies that are beneficial to our health, and need to be consumed as part of our body's nutrient balance to keep us running smoothly. And especially with our modern depleted soils, I think we need to eat as many vegetables as we possibly can to concentrate the nutrients. This is all just my mental mumbo-jumbo, but I do speak from experience and at least some research. When I was heavily remineralizing, I had several active cavities. I got them to become inactive through diet changes, but they would always flare up with pain on the days that I did not spend as much effort trying to get my salads and other veggies in.

It is my personal theory that this is why a lot of people make surprisingly large improvements in health once they move to a vegetarian diet: they are finally eating all the veggies that their body has been missing. We had fantastic improvement in our health when we moved to a vegan diet so long ago, and then went into a slow declining spiral where we lived in denial for a while.

And I forgot to mention earlier that when I say veggies, I mean non-starchy and green veggies. Eat lots of kale!

And of course, please note that if your or your chid's tooth decay is too deep causing much pain, then I'd suggest finding a gentle pediatric dentist to do repair work under general anesthesia.

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Further Notes on Dental Health, Hygeine, and Nutrition

The idea of caries as Infectious Disease is totally ridiculous. Good hygiene makes a difference to a point, but nutrition is way, way, way more important. And yet, how few people are told about the risks of poor prenatal nutrition and antibiotic use, and how strongly diet can affect baby's developing teeth? Enamel forms in the womb, and that is why teeth can erupt with malformed or missing enamel and decay. And that is also why baby teeth can decay even while a child is solely drinking breastmilk, which is what happened to my daughter. There are also reports correlating antibiotic use during third trimester with enamel malformation in the child (one example: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1783694 ).

If caries were a bacterial infection, why don't dentists just prescribe routine antibiotics and be done with it? "Before the Los Angeles County Medical Milk Commission, Dr. Marc Harmon, a dentist, stated that in his medical education and career he was trained to blame disease and decay on bacteria and virus. He stated that the genocide of microbes has not reduced dental decay any more than it has disease in general...Dr. Harmon concluded that the war against microbes is futile toward eradicating disease." http://www.wewant2live.com/tag/article/

Factors that do affect tooth decay:

--Different children obviously have predispositions to different decay patterns (or no decay). And the first child born is usually the most robust. This child will usually be the strongest and most resistant to tooth decay unless prenatal nutrition was deficient (which it was, in my case). The pregnancy and lactation will drain mama of nutrients and unless she takes care to eat high-nutrient foods to replenish, then the next child will suffer the effects. With each successive pregnancy and lactation, the children will get progressively weaker, and so usually the last child born will have the most decay. Things of course do not always pan out this way, because the mother may eat differently during different pregnancies, and because the mama's diet before and at the time of conception also affects the health of the child. Also, nutrient deficiencies can be passed on through the generations, which is why tooth decay (and other health issues) can look like they are “genetic.”

I am also observing exceptions to the "oldest child is most robust" rule in cases where the mama has a lot of accumulated toxins which pass on to the growing child in utero. In this case, the oldest child will usually shows symptoms of toxicity like autism spectrum disorder, allergies, and gut issues, whereas the younger children will usually be better off.

--Candida overgrowth can be indicative of a compromised digestive system, so it's not surprising that it would be linked to tooth decay. Poor absorption of nutrients would definitely have an impact on the body, but I don't think that the yeast would be the cause of decay, more like a symptom that something is wrong with the overall health of the body.

--The width of the jaw is set in the womb. A poor start is a poor start (it's the "runt" concept: ask any farmer who raises animals, especially pigs, or just watch how different seedlings grow, later in their life cycle, if they have been stunted early on).

BUT...if you give a child (or seedling, or runty pig) proper nutrition after the damage has been done, then they will have fuel to fully form to that limit. It will never be as if it were properly set in the first place, but the child (or seedling, or runty pig) will at least reach that womb set-point.

You may then get the impression that this “runt” is improving leaps and bounds _beyond_ their set-point limit, if you compare them with a person who did get a good start (first in line for mama's nutrients during a healthy pregnancy), but who was starved for nutrients after birth. Any child, despite having had a poor start, who eats a nutrient dense diet will look way healthier and be much more robust than a Standard American Diet (SAD)-eating child. And of course, a SAD pregnancy and then a SAD childhood diet means a very sad child, healthwise.

Summary: all these standard American-dieting children are being stunted even further from their womb-set marks due to poor nutrition. But a child with a poor start, despite eating a nutrient dense diet, will never develop a wide, round face with plenty of room in their jaw for their wisdom teeth, if the healthy cells were not put in place in the womb.

The conclusion drawn by the pig farmer would most likely be that despite consuming the same nutrients as his more robust brethren, the runt will still not be as healthy as the others. Which is why the runts always traditionally got disposed of.

--Remember Pottenger's experiments with the cats? It took 4 generations of perfect feeding of degenerative cats before perfect specimens would appear. My children (the eldest especially) have a lot of work to do to correct future generations, unfortunately. And then we start hoping to fix generations of problems in one lifetime! Narrow palates are not going to magically widen if you eat well, because some things are just set at conception. Also, we are dealing with a lot of environmental pollution, as well as massive soil nutrient depletion, and also lifestyle/exercise changes from people who lived more wild than we "civilized" people do now.

It has definitely been a humbling experience, but I am hopeful that my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren, will be much better off with so much knowledge regained.