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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How I Changed My Life

      Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS     October 1, 2014   [printfriendly]

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My story is interesting because I could have died.
You would think that a healthcare professional like myself would have learned everything that was necessary to be personally healthy. But, not true. Medical and dental professionals have a paltry amount of nutritional training – and no training in the importance of primal nutrition and lifestyle.
My story begins in December 2006:
I had been in practice for 32 years. I was treating my body as well as I thought was appropriate. I ate low fat, high fiber foods including grains, skim milk, fish, and meat. I didn’t like non-starchy veggies, but I thought I was doing just fine. I exercised aerobically 4-5 days a week for about 40 minutes a day. One of my loves was to snack on popcorn, which I believed supplied me with healthy fiber.
Then, in December 2006 I had a life-changing event. My daughter (who was staying with me and my wife while her family was transitioning to Portland, OR from Charleston, SC,) was sitting on our living room floor while I was standing with my laptop in my hands. All of a sudden I felt a shock travelling from the computer up my arm. I dropped the computer on my sofa, and my daughter exclaimed, “What’s wrong?” I said that I just got a shock from my computer. Her response was, “Dad, don’t be so melodramatic.” A week later, I had a stroke.
The stroke must have occurred while I was sleeping. When I woke up, my grandson was at our house, and I attempted to ask him if he wanted to go out for breakfast. But, the words could not come out. I was unable to speak. I felt fine, but I couldn’t speak. My wife, who is a nurse, realized what was happening, and drove me to the hospital. I was lucky.
My doctors explained that the “shock” that I thought was from my computer was actually a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). Many people who have a stroke will experience a TIA days or weeks before the stroke as a warning sign of an impending crisis. I was not aware of such a warning sign, so I paid no attention to it.
While in the hospital for a week, my cardiologist and internist put me on three types of blood pressure meds, a cholesterol med, and an acid reflux med. My vascular surgeon put me on 81mg aspirin and Plavix. Their medical advice was for me to take these meds for the rest of my life. Within three weeks, I was able to speak normally. I returned to work after six weeks.
After my stroke in 2006, I knew that I needed to get educated about good nutrition. So, I began my reeducation. For the next 6 years, I actively pursued my needed education in nutrition. I thought I was doing well.
In April 2013, I enrolled in a 5-day nutrition course that changed my life. I was excited because I believed that this was going to be the program I had searched for to confirm what I was doing currently was correct. I hoped to learn a few new things to hone my skills and update the knowledge that I already acquired. This program wasn’t about basic nutrition as I had been learning; it was about primal nutrition – the foods and lifestyles that allowed our species to thrive for 2.5 million years. What I learned in those informative and enlightening five days did change my life. I learned that almost everything I was doing was wrong. That blew me away!
Among other things, I learned that most processed foods were making us sick. I learned that modern grains of any type were one of the worst things I could put in my body. I learned that healthy fats were essential, and anything that was processed to be low-fat or no-fat was unhealthy. I learned that all the fruit I was eating contributed way too much sugar to my body, and leafy greens and other multicolored veggies were required at every meal. I also learned that exercise needed to be efficient, sleep needed to be restorative, various stresses on my body needed to be reduced, and that sitting most of the day was almost as bad as smoking. Wow!
So, I traveled back to my home in Charleston, SC and informed my wife of what I learned. She was not happy. But, she allowed me to make a 30-day test of my new fangled ideas. We removed all the processed foods, grain products, and sugar aliases from our pantry and fridge, which added up to 7 grocery bags that I took to my local Food Bank. We joined our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program to obtain locally grown, organic veggies weekly. The foods we started eating consisted of grass fed beef and wild caught fish; all kinds of shellfish; free range chicken, liver, and eggs; all kinds of vegetables raw and cooked; some deeply colored fruits and occasionally nuts and seeds that we soaked overnight.
At that time, my meds were still the same. My HDL was 48, my triglycerides were 120, and my resting blood pressure was 137/87 even with three blood pressure meds. I weighed 184 pounds. My physicians’ advice was, “Continue to take your meds.” Unfortunately, my physicians were ignorant of the science of primal nutrition and lifestyle, as I believe most physicians are.
Today, I am still practicing periodontics, and I plan to continue treating my patients for the foreseeable future. As I am writing this, my resting blood pressure is 119/72, and my pulse rate is 54. My HDL is 76, and my triglycerides are 112. I weigh 154 pounds.
It has been stated that it takes one month of repairing a nutritionally damaged body for every year of the manifestation of a disease. I am still a work in progress; I have much farther to go to regain optimal health. I am patient, but I am diligent and motivated. I can’t believe the way I used to live was slowly destroying me. I can never return to the way it used to be. I am a changed person, and I want to spread the word.
The doctors, whom I depended on in 2006 while I was having a stroke, were exceptional. They saved my life, but I had to learn how to get healthy on my own. I only learned what was going on in my body after I learned about evolution and how our ancestors thrived.
Why didn’t my physicians help me understand why I had a stroke, and how I should improve my lifestyle to get healthy? Why didn’t my physicians explain how I should wean off my meds over time? The science is there, but most of the medical profession hasn’t gotten the message.
While making a change in my life, I also am making a change in my patients’ lives. In June of 2014, I received the designation of Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, which helped me understand why and how diseases start at the cellular level. In September, I received the Certified Primal Blueprint Expert designation, which brought the concepts of primal nutrition and primal lifestyle into a cohesive game plan to incorporate with my active periodontal treatment. I teach all my periodontal patients the importance of primal nutrition and primal lifestyle. When you enable each cell in the body to function properly by giving it what it needs – which is nutrient-dense real foods and exercise and sleep and reduction in all types of stresses – each cell will help all other cells to thrive. Your gut will become healthier; your overall body will become healthier; and your mouth will become healthier.
I’ve reenergized my life and reengineered my professional career. I offer the knowledge that I have learned to all my patients and to all who want to listen.

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