Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
November 27, 2017
There is a long tube that passes through your body. It starts with your mouth and ends at your anus. Everything you eat and drink moves through this tube (known as the gastrointestinal tract or GI tract). Even though this tube seems to be inside your body, it really isn’t.
The necessary nutrients that are inside this tube eventually will travel through the cells lining this tube and then enter your bloodstream. Everything else that is waste will continue through the tube and out the other end. If necessary nutrients in the tube cannot get into your body, it is a problem. If toxic substances leak into your body from this tube, it also is a problem. Whatever happens within this tube from beginning to end affects all parts of GI tract and can affect your entire body.
The Science of This Tube
The GI tract is home to as many as 100 trillion friendly and unfriendly microbes. They are in a delicate state of balance and play a critical role. This garden of bacteria helps remove harmful chemicals you swallow and breathe. They also play an important role in the nature and function of our immune system and the creation of specific vitamins, which our body is not able to produce. In addition, these bacteria digest fibers in our foods, producing short-chain fatty acids that nourish the lining of the gut and inhibit inflammation.
While there may be over 1,000 different species of bacteria in humans, each person has a unique composition of approximately 200 species, just like each individual has a unique fingerprint. Another interesting factor is that the microbes in the intestines are very similar to the microbes in the mouth. Changes in the gut microbes can change the mouth microbes; and changes in the mouth microbes can change the gut microbes. Unhealthy changes in the gut bacteria and the mouth bacteria can cause chronic disease.
So, the connection between the mouth and the gut is critical to understand. Here is an example of how the gut can influence the mouth:
Gut Affects the Mouth
Anything that causes an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut can cause an increase in unhealthy bacteria in the mouth (HERE, HERE). Eating unhealthy foods like processed grains and processed sugars will feed unhealthy bacteria in the mouth. Overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in the mouth can cause infection in the gum tissues around the teeth and decay in the tooth surfaces. These oral infections then could pass through the gum spaces surrounding the teeth and leak into the bloodstream just as gut infections could pass through the gut lining into the bloodstream.
A Healthy Outcome
Treatment for cascading chronic diseases must include healing both the unhealthy gut and the unhealthy mouth. The balance of bacteria must be restored to a healthy state.
The first and most important action to take is to stop whatever is causing unhealthy changes in the gut and damage to the gut lining. If infection has begun in the mouth, then this must be treated appropriately. The gut, the mouth, and any other source of infection must be identified, treated, and repaired. The healing process will support the overall immune system.
Nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods will help bring the garden of bacteria into a state of balance as well as assist in the healing of the gut lining. Other therapeutic measures may need to be taken to repair the gut. A healthy mouth must be maintained through an efficient oral hygiene program. In addition, poor lifestyle choices, which could produce disease as well as prevent proper healing, need to be identified. Specifically, exercise, sleep, and stress need to be evaluated and corrected as necessary.
It appears we have plenty of evidence that much disease begins in the gut and can affect the mouth. An unhealthy gut puts the entire body at risk. The mouth-gut connection affects the entire tube as well as the entire body.