Domino Effect of Disease:
The Mouth & IBD

Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS Nutritional Periodontist
December 18, 2017 [printfriendly]



Domino Effect of Disease


The onset and progression of disease are like the domino effect. Dominos standing up one after another in a line, and when one falls down, all the others eventually collapse. In the body, it’s the same. When one cell in our body is affected by something, its effects are transmitted to all other cells of our body in some way ultimately. It’s the domino effect of disease.


We eat foods and expose ourselves to our environment. As the dominos fall, nutrition and environmental factors continually and cumulatively affect our body. This machine of ours, which we call the human body, responds in many ways that are confounding and astounding. Effects could manifest instantly, the next day, or decades later. While our body was designed to properly function for an entire lifetime, it was never destined to be damaged on a constant basis. The unhealthy results of the domino effect are chronic degenerative diseases.


The Mouth

I talk about the mouth. Being a periodontist, the mouth is the area of my expertise. The mouth is the beginning of the entire digestive tract. It also is the mirror to almost everything that goes on in this tube that extends about 30 feet from the teeth to the anus.


Dr. Johan Woelber, a periodontist and researcher[1] at the University Freiburg Medical Center in Germany, stated, “The modern Western diet in particular with its refined carbohydrates, industrialized meat, pro-inflammatory fats, and round-robin of diets robs the body of critical vitamins, minerals, fiber, trace elements, and phytochemicals. The key to detecting such problem areas is periodontitis, which is strongly linked to other chronic diseases.”


One Scenario of the Domino Effect

Three common food additives that are in many processed foods we eat are maltodextrin, carrageenan, and xanthan gum.


Maltodextrin, carrageenan, and xanthan gum are polysaccharides that are used as thickeners and emulsifying agents in foods. Unfortunately, they increase unhealthy types of bacteria in the gut, decrease the effects of specific anti-bacterial cells of the immune system, and damage the one-cell-layer lining of the intestines. Maltodextrin, carrageenan, and xanthan gum can lead to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.[2]


In my domino analogy, IBD has been shown to create bacterial changes in the mouth.[3],[4],[5] Once bacterial changes occur in the mouth, dental diseases like tooth decay and gum disease can flourish.


Specific foods like grain products, over-processed sugars, and sodas can increase the severity of dental diseases. Once there is active dental disease, there is an interplay between unhealthy bacteria in the mouth and unhealthy bacteria in the gut associated with IBD.[6]


In contrast to creating disease, the domino effect could result in healing. For example, a specific diet may offer a potential cure for IBD:


In November 2017, Gauree G. Konijeti, MD, MPH, and her researchers published a paper in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.[7] The study involved 15 patients who were living with IBD for an average of 19 years. These individuals were placed on a Paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet. The diet removed grains, legumes, dairy, refined seed oils, refined sugar, eggs, nightshades, coffee, alcohol, nuts, and seeds. It seems like a lot of food restriction, but some of these foods would be reintroduced later on. However, in a short period of time, the results were amazing. By week 6 of this restricted diet, 11 of the 15 patients had remission of their IBD signs and symptoms. Recall that the average patient in this study had been suffering with this disease for an average of 19 years. This result surprised the clinicians.



The mouth can introduce foods and chemicals that can cause disease, and one disease can manifest into many other diseases. Yet, the mouth can be the starting point of a cure by introducing nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods and eliminating those that stoke the flames of disease. In addition, if there is active gum disease, a dentist, who understands the biology of the mouth, must treat this disease effectively so that it doesn’t continue to be a factor in systemic and gut disease.



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