Paleo and Perio:
Who’da Thunk?

evolution rWho would have thought that a Paleo Diet could improve or prevent periodontal disease (gum disease)? The science is there, and its interpretation is exciting. Here are two papers that have great importance:
In a paper published in 2009, researchers evaluated a group of 10 people who lived for 30 days in a replicated Stone Age environment near the Rhine River in Switzerland. The design of this research required a diet that was devoid of all processed foods. Their diet only consisted of foods that ancient people would have consumed in that geographical area around 5,700 years ago. They were given some basics of raw food, but they had to forage and fish for most of their food. During the 4-week course of the study, these individuals were unable to perform any oral hygiene; they were not given any modern gadgets like toothbrushes or dental floss. At the beginning of the study, any existing gum problems were recorded and the types of bacteria present in their mouths were determined.
At the completion of the 4-week experiment, plaque levels at the gum line around the teeth increased as expected. However, researchers were surprised by a reduction in gum infection. The depths of infected gum pockets decreased significantly (p < 0.001), and bleeding from the gum pockets decreased significantly (p < 0.001). When bacteria in the mouth were examined at the end of the study, those samples revealed a change in the balance of bacteria, which favored healthy types of microbes rather than pathogenic ones. Good bacteria increased; bad bacteria decreased; plaque increased; and the individuals could not perform any oral hygiene for the entire 30 days – the researchers were shocked!
The reasons for the surprise results were the ingestion of nutrient-dense foods (these positively affected the gut and mouth microbiome along with the intestinal lining) as well as the complete avoidance of any processed foods (these would have damaged the gut and mouth microbiome along with the intestinal lining).
A diet that supports this type of healthy outcome is a Paleo-type diet.
It would be helpful if specific nutrients that were contained in foods could be identified that improved mouth health. In a paper that was published in 2013, the authors performed an extensive search of peer-reviewed literature attempting to identify the types of nutrients that could help tissues heal after periodontal surgery and help prevent periodontal disease.
If a diet contained these beneficial nutrients in abundance in their natural states, it probably would be embraced. Nutrients in their natural state and contained in food are much more effective biologically than nutrients that are commercially isolated and unnaturally provided in supplement form.
The authors of this analysis reviewed 37 published papers and concluded, “There is some evidence that a wide variety of dietary components – including macronutrients and micronutrients – are integral for optimal periodontal health as well as healing after periodontal procedures.”
Here is a summary of the nutrients that were reported either to improve healing after periodontal surgery or to reduce the incidence of periodontal disease:

  • Vitamin D
  • DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid that is abundant in fatty fish like salmon)
  • Low ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids (ideal ratio is 1:1; average US diet consists of ratio about 30:1)
  • Low ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids (ideal ratio is 1:1; average US diet consists of ratio about 30:1)
  • Low sugar and processed carbohydrates; high fiber
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C

A diet that incorporates all these nutrients within its food choices is a Paleo-type diet.
A Paleo-type diet avoids processed foods that have been identified with gut dysbiosis, intestinal permeability, and chronic inflammation. A Paleo-type diet provides all the nutrients needed for every cell to survive and thrive. Such a diet consists of animal products from head to tail that have been pasture raised or wild caught, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. There are no acellular carbohydrates, no processed foods, and no unhealthy fats or oils included in a Paleo-type diet.

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