I Could Have Died Ten Years Ago

Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS     Nutritional Periodontist
July 14, 2016   [printfriendly]

I Could Have Died 10 Years AgoIt is 2016, and I am 69 years old. I am healthier today than I have ever been. But, ten years ago I could have died.


In 2006, I was in my living room at home. I was holding a laptop computer in my hands when I got a shock from the computer that travelled up my arm.


It turned out that it wasn’t a shock from my computer after all; it was a TIA. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is frequently a warning sign of an impending stroke. I had no idea what it was at the time, so I dismissed it as just a “shock” from my computer.


Seven days later, on a Saturday morning, my 6-year old grandson was sleeping in our bed. He and his family were in transition from where we all lived in Charleston, SC to their new home in Portland, OR. When I awoke that morning, I rolled over in bed and tried to ask my grandson, “Do you want to go out for breakfast?” But, the words would not come out of my mouth. I only uttered some garbled sounds.


I thought I must have been sleeping with my mouth open, and my throat must have gotten dry. So, I got up, went to the bathroom, and drank some water. I felt fine. I returned to the bedroom and proceeded to ask my grandson the same question. No words came out. I could not utter intelligible words. I panicked.


My wife, whom I woke during this attempt to communicate with my grandson, realized what was happening. Although I felt great, I could not speak. I actually went back to the bathroom to take a shower, and my wife drove me to the hospital.


Still unable to speak, the ER personnel also knew what was happening. They took my blood pressure, which was off the charts. I had a stroke. I was admitted to the hospital and remained there for a week.


My doctors were great. They saved my life. They put me on 7 different medicines, and they told me that I would have to take them for the rest of my life.


About 2 months later, I was able to return to my dental practice. However, taking 7 medicines that treated the manifestations of my stroke was not an answer I could accept. I needed answers about what caused my problems in the first place. I wanted to make personal changes, but I needed to know what to do.


Answers to my basic question, “What caused my problems?”, were not easy to dig up. From 2006 until 2013, I attempted to get answers to my straightforward question. The answers were not forthcoming from my physicians. Although they saved my life, they did not know how to answer my question. They didn’t know what they didn’t know. Their answers did not address my underlying causes. They simply reiterated that I needed to take my medicines and to eat a healthy diet. Their idea of a healthy diet, I later learned, was hardly a healthy diet. It wasn’t until 2013 that I learned what would change my life forever.


In 2013, I was fortunate to find a 5-day continuing education course that addressed nutrition for healthcare professionals. Interestingly, this course was totally different than anything I had experienced until then. This program was based on ancestral nutrition – the diet and lifestyle that sustained our primal ancestors for 2.5 million years. The logic and biology that I learned made more sense to me in those 5 days than anything I tried to learn the previous 7 years after my stroke. I began to learn in just 5 days that almost everything I was doing for myself was wrong. What an epiphany!


Fast-forward the next 3-plus years of intense self-education until now. By changing my diet and lifestyle in 2013, I changed my life. My blood chemistries for the first time began to improve. Instead of taking the original 7 medications, I am now only on 2. I feel great. I have stamina. I have lost over 30 pounds since 2013. In my mind, I have become the poster boy for a Primal Lifestyle and Diet at the age of 69.


What does a Primal Lifestyle and Diet look like for me?


I eat nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods. I do not eat any processed foods. I primarily eat organically grown foods. All my animal protein is either pastured or wild caught. I emphasize healthy fats. I eat moderate amounts of protein and low-to-moderate healthy carbohydrates. I enjoy organ meats, seaweed, fermented foods, soaked nuts and seeds, and homemade bone broth.


As for lifestyle, I engage in an exercise program of high intensity interval training once a week for 8 minutes or so, bodyweight strength training twice a week for 10 minutes or so, and some aerobic fun cycling 2 days a week. I try to walk about 10,000 steps a day, to sleep 7-8 hours a night, and to keep my cool as far as stress is concerned. Candidly, I need a lot of work on controlling how I deal with external stresses. Let it be known, I am a work in progress.


So, today I know what really matters for a healthy life going forward. Cheating on my diet is not a phrase in my vocabulary. I pursue living the healthiest and highest-quality life I can. I want to shout out to the world what I know.


I incorporate my newfound knowledge with the treatment I provide my patients who have gum disease. I often ask my patients, “If you knew a train were coming at you, would you get off the tracks?” Unfortunately, only about 5% of my patients are interested in making necessary lifestyle changes. But, if I only could make a difference for one patient, I would have succeeded. That patient could tell another friend, who could then pass it on. It’s the concept of exponential change. I liken it to a video going viral on YouTube.


Have I resonated with you? If so, let one person know. Then, let the process begin!


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I Woke Up This Morning Feeling So Alive

      Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS     January 11, 2016   [printfriendly]
When I Woke Up This MorningYou need to know my history in order to understand what I am saying. I have written about it HERE.


I am almost 69 years old. For the first 66 years of my life, I was not healthy. I thought I was healthy, but I wasn’t. In 2006, when I was 59 years old, I had a stroke but recovered completely within 2 months. It wasn’t until 2013 when I learned what I had been doing wrong for 66 years. It was an eye-opener.


I learned about primal nutrition and primal lifestyle. That included eliminating from my diet all processed grains and sugars, all unhealthy fats, and all other processed foods that had chemicals added to them. I learned to exercise efficiently and sleep restoratively. I tried to learn to control my stress levels – not an easy task.


Over the last three years, I have become a different person. I feel healthier than I have ever felt. I have energy throughout the day; I don’t have carbohydrate cravings; and I only eat when I am hungry. I have gotten into an exercise program that makes sense to me and has science to back it up.


I do high intensity interval training for about 10-15 minutes once a week. I do bodyweight strength training for about 10-15 minutes twice a week. Both of these I do in the comfort of my home. I do outdoor aerobic exercise two days a week for about 30 minutes at a time. I also do non-exercise movement by walking about 10,000 steps a day, and I use a stand up desk at home instead of sitting down as I used to do. I have written about my routine HERE.


A medical doctor who also is a functional medicine practitioner once told me, “In order to repair your body, it may take one month of proper nutrition and lifestyle for every year you damaged your body from your poor nutrition and poor lifestyle.” Since I had been damaging my body for the first 66 years of my life, I may need five or six years of doing what I am doing now to get as healthy as I can. So, I am a work in progress since I am only three years into my repair process. But, I feel great. I feel so much alive. If only I knew then what I know now!!


My goal is to spread the word. People don’t understand that the damage they are doing to their body doesn’t make itself known immediately. It often takes decades to fester and escalate before the clinical signs and symptoms become obvious.


Most people need a tipping point to make a change in their lives. Some people need to be debilitated by a heart attack or a stroke before they get the message. Some people need an external event to occur like the birth of a grandchild to motivate them to make a change. A few people only need to learn what is best, and they make the change. Whatever it takes to tip your consciousness into motivating you is all that matters.


So, I write quite a bit. I lecture to lay groups of people and also to those in my profession. I try to impress that a train is coming, and the prudent person should get off the tracks. The science is there. Most medical practitioners don’t know what they don’t know. I am living proof of what a primal diet and a primal lifestyle can accomplish is such a short time.


When I woke up this morning, I felt compelled to put into words what I was feeling.

What’s Up With Gums, Gut, and Paleo?

evolution rThe soft tissues in your mouth are an extension of your gastrointestinal tract. Your mouth is like the first tee in a golf game; like the coming attractions before the movie starts in the theater; like the entrance to Disney World. It’s where it all begins.
As a periodontist, I have been treating gum disease for 41 years. The traditional methods of treating gum disease have rarely included the concepts of healthy nutrition based on our evolutionary requirements. For my patients, I include the methods of assisting all the body’s cells to reach their peak nutritional performance along with my treatment of gum disease through patient-friendly techniques.
There is a relationship between the gums, the gut, and Paleo. Let me describe this correlation.
Your gastrointestinal tract is a tube about 25 feet long. The tissues lining the entire length of this tube from the mouth to the anus can and will respond in their own way to whatever occurs along this path.
Once you take the first bite of food, digestion begins. Assisting digestion are the teeth that chew the food, the muscles that move the food along, the enzymes and chemicals that are produced to breakdown the food, the friendly bacteria that further digest food particles and produce necessary biochemicals, and the absorption processes that allow the dissolved nutrients to migrate into the bloodstream to nourish every cell of the body. Whatever is left over from this digestion process is excreted.
If there were irritants to the gut from the foods we ate, damage to the lining of the gut and increase in unhealthy bacteria could occur. The result could be unhealthy particles of food and bacteria entering the bloodstream creating chronic inflammation. This inflammation and increase in unhealthy gut bacteria affect the entire body as well as the health of the gum tissues. Their pathways increase the potential for gum disease as well as increase unhealthy bacteria in the mouth. Unhealthy bacteria in the mouth and further insult from ingestion of unhealthy carbohydrates will cause gum disease.
Paleo is a lifestyle. A Paleo way of eating may go under various titles. It is sometimes called a primal diet, or an ancestral diet, or a caveman diet.  There are no specific foods that make up a Paleo diet. The common denominator is that all these diets DO NOT include processed foods or processed sugars or conventionally fed and farmed animal products or processed fats and oils. A Paleo diet avoids these unhealthy foods, which often lead to damage in the gut, increase in unhealthy gut bacteria, and eventually damage in the gum tissues.
To come full circle, a Paleo diet, which excludes all these bad foods, can maintain a healthy gut in addition to healing a damaged gut. A Paleo diet can help maintain gum health.
So the importance of Paleo is that its nutrient-dense foods will allow the gut to function properly. A healthy gut will allow nutrients to be absorbed properly and will maintain a healthy community of gut bacteria. All this assists the gum tissues in remaining healthy.

Science Gives Green Light to Low Carb

evolution rDiabetes is a huge problem in the US. The 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report identified that this disease affects 29.1 million people in the US (9.3% of the population), and it is estimated that 86 million adults have prediabetes (1 out of every 3 adults). In contrast, today’s hunter-gatherer societies dispersed worldwide rarely experience degenerative diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes just doesn’t happen overnight. First, there are years of nutritional incongruities. Then there are years of progressive clinical manifestations of metabolic syndrome. Eventually, there is a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and later possibly a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.
The manifestations of metabolic syndrome, which are frequently precursors to type 2 diabetes, include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased triglycerides
  • Decreased HDL cholesterol
  • Increased visceral fat around the waist
  • Increased fasting blood glucose

Richard Feinman and 25 additional authors wrote a critical review citing evidence of the benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet on Type 2 diabetes and various metabolic syndrome markers. It was published in Nutrition on January 31, 2015. In this article, the authors summarized 12 points of evidence that strongly support the health benefits of a low carbohydrate diet.
The article points out that a low carbohydrate diet would consist of less than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day, which should translate to less than 26% of the total energy (calories) consumed in a day. In 2000, the average daily consumption of carbohydrates was 330 grams for men and 230 grams for women.
A primal or Paleo diet is a lifestyle of eating nutrient-dense foods. It could be a low-carbohydrate diet if fruits, nuts, and starchy vegetables were consumed in limited quantities.
Here is my summary of the article’s pertinent points that translates to an overall healthier body:

  • Reducing dietary carbohydrates is the best way to decrease blood glucose levels.
  • There has never been any other dietary intervention for weight loss that has been superior to reducing dietary carbohydrates.
  • Replacing carbohydrates with protein in a meal is generally helpful with the exception of those people with existing kidney disease.
  • Healthy fats that are consumed from food do not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Plasma saturated fatty acids, which contribute to cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance, are increased with consumption of carbohydrates. Healthy fats in food consumed by humans do not contribute to unhealthy levels of saturated fatty acids in their plasma.
  • Reducing dietary carbohydrates will reduce serum levels of triglycerides, increase healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, and improve all factors of metabolic syndrome.
  • There have never been human studies that have shown that lowering carbohydrates will have significant negative side effects.

A lifestyle that incorporates a low-carb eating plan is not just for type 2 diabetics. It is a healthy plan for the entire family, for the entire body, and for the entire mouth. I encourage you to read this review paper where you also will find all the references for the various studies to support the authors’ statements.