Exploring Various Aspects of Modern Life and How They Affect Our Overall Health

Written by Cynthia Liu

Mouthwash.

This seems to be my litmus test lately for finding my tribe of like-minded people who take a holistic approach to health.

What does mouthwash have to do with overall health?

Exactly. It’s all connected.

Conventional mouthwash kills all the bacteria in your mouth indiscriminately so that both bad breath germs and the beneficial microbiome die.

Why does this matter? Well, some of those good bacteria in our mouths produce nitric oxide.1 Dubbed “Molecule of the Year” in 1992 by the prestigious Science journal, one of nitric oxide’s primary purposes is regulating blood vessel dilation. Low levels of this molecule have been implicated in a variety of medical issues, from high blood pressure to diabetes to erectile dysfunction.2

The mouthwash commercials said that their product would freshen your breath to make you more attractive, but they neglected to mention the potential trade-off in sexual performance!

Here’s a tip: drink some green juice, eat some parsley or gargle with baking soda and water to freshen your breath without killing your nitric oxide-producing microbiome.

As most of you readers are patrons of the Be Hive of Healing, you know that Dr. Sherry Sami is an integrative dentist who, of course, knows about mouthwash killing the microbiome. Likewise, Dr. Habib Sadeghi is a member of the American Holistic Medical Association.

It's All Connected: Exploring Various Aspects of Modern Life and How They Affects Our Overall Health

I was pleasantly surprised to find another member of the tribe who passes the mouthwash litmus test and is a spiritually conscious and holistic healer—Dr. Pankaj Vij. The author of Turbo Metabolism, Dr. Vij started a program at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California to reverse diabetes using a holistic approach that includes a whole foods plant-based diet, exercise, and meditation.

I was impressed that Dr. Vij could thrive in a large medical group practice such as Kaiser, where primary care physicians are allotted 10 to 15 minutes per patient on average.

A more typical large medical group experience that comes to mind is that of my colleague’s tween-aged daughter, who had become mysteriously ill. Her pediatrician had taken lab tests and prescribed antibiotics—but the daughter was still having headaches, fever, nausea, and general malaise.

“Didn’t you just move into a new house?” I asked my co-worker. “Maybe there is off-gassing from the new carpet, draperies, or bedding that’s making her sick.” As it turns out, I was right. It’s all connected.

Yet given the brief window of time the pediatrician had to spend with the patient, the doctor wouldn’t have been able to get a holistic lifestyle history about the child. In contrast, Dr. Sami is in private practice and has the freedom to prioritize spending the time it takes to create a comprehensive file on each patient with over 100 medical, dental, and lifestyle questions.

Most people are on board now with regards to the mind-body connection. We know that stress affects the body and that many chronic diseases are related to lifestyle factors such as stress, diet, and exercise.

As for the mouthwash connection, people aren’t quite there yet. The concept of the gut microbiome was barely a blip on the radar in science 20 years ago. It gained momentum when the Human Microbiome Project was launched in 2007 and emerged in mainstream media around 2010.3

It makes sense that the microbiome would be connected to the gastrointestinal system, but it’s more of a stretch to consider that the microbes in your gut could affect your emotions, mood, and immunity, and be linked to diabetes, allergies, obesity, autism, and other medical issues. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine that mouthwash could affect your blood pressure, erections, and risk of developing diabetes.

Yet it’s all connected.

It's All Connected: Exploring Various Aspects of Modern Life and How They Affects Our Overall Health

We are not machines that can be compartmentalized. We are holistic beings.

This begins, of course, with birth. Cesarean sections (C-sections) have evolved from an occasional medical intervention to save lives to an elective procedure of convenience that can accommodate the obstetrician’s schedule, keep the mother’s vagina tight and sexy, and boost revenues for the hospital.

At first glance, the outcome is the same—a baby. Yet research in recent years shows that babies delivered by c-section bypass the big dose of immunity-boosting bacteria in the birth canal. As a result, c-section babies are at greater risk of developing immune diseases such as allergies, asthma, and type I diabetes.4, 5, 6 Likewise, babies who are fed formula miss out on the immunity-building properties of breast milk. It’s all connected.

Baby formula is a processed food. On paper, it appears to have all the appropriate nutrients. Yet focusing on specific nutrients doesn’t work as well as eating the whole food with synergistic components, such as immunity-building probiotics from Mom.

Another example of the problem with thinking in isolation is the creation of genetically modified wheat. Scientists have genetically modified wheat to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which is the primary component in Roundup.

This makes it much easier to farm—just spray lots of glyphosate all over and it will kill all plants (weeds, competing plants, everything) except for the GMO wheat, allowing the GMO wheat to thrive. However, this has created unintended consequences—the side effects of cancer and other health problems for the farmers, as well as many consumers who have come to believe that they are allergic to wheat or gluten, but are actually just having a toxic reaction to poison.7

It’s all connected.

Industrial agriculture was developed after WWII with the noble intention of being able to feed more people on the planet. Now, the short-term goal of filling Big Ag’s coffers has obscured the far-reaching global consequences: soil that’s become depleted of nutrients, polluted water, a life of suffering for factory-raised animal “products,” the extinction of wildlife, increased antibiotic resistance in humans, and processed food that is detrimental to the human microbiome and contributing to the increase of chronic illnesses.

With regards to the quest for feeding more people on the planet, the problem isn’t a lack of food. Rather, it’s the lack of access to food. In fact, we have a surplus in monocrops such as corn and soy, and food scientists and marketers are employed to figure out how to unload the excess by getting people to consume more food processed from these surplus ingredients.

It's All Connected: Exploring Various Aspects of Modern Life and How They Affects Our Overall Health

Cows raised in industrial CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are fed grains, which their stomachs aren’t made to digest—no matter if the grains are organic or not. Cows’ stomachs are designed for eating grass. On top of that, the FDA allows factory farms to supplement cattle feed with chicken manure, pig or horse parts, and cow parts that are not infected with mad cow disease.8 These herbivore cows that have been fed grains, chicken manure, and animal parts end up being in poor health and needing routine antibiotics, which then contributes to antibiotic resistance when humans need antibiotics—it’s all connected. In contrast, the erudite holistic farmer, Joel Salatin, considers his mission to be that of a “land healer.”

Salatin’s Polyface farms gained national recognition after being featured in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and the movie Food Inc. In Polyface’s biodiverse ecosystem, the herbivore cows eat their natural diet of grass and are moved to new pasture daily so the grass gets a rest and can continue to grow. The egg-laying hens follow the cows in the pasture rotation to eat bugs and scratch through the cow dung for maggots. In the winter, the cows are fed hay in a shed, where they lounge on a bed of wood chips, sawdust, and hay to absorb their excrement. After the cows are done, corn is added to the fermenting compost and the pigs are brought in to root around for corn, aerating the compost in the process, to make a rich, natural fertilizer. In Salatin’s self-contained ecosystem, he doesn’t have to pay for or waste fossil fuels in transporting cattle feed, fertilizers, soil conditioners, antibiotics, or cow manure disposal.9, 10

Industrialized agriculture’s effects on the earth parallels the effects of processed food on our bodies. Factory farming depletes nutrients in the soil, kills the microbiomes in the soil, and temporarily adds nutrients back in the form of chemical fertilizers. But then, with the plants’ immunity weakened, chemical pesticides need to be applied.

Factory farmed and processed food depletes nutrients in our bodies, kills the microbiomes in our gut, and with our bodies’ immunity weakened, chronic illnesses develop, for which pharmaceuticals are prescribed to manage the symptoms. Isn’t it interesting that there are multinational conglomerates with a complete cradle-to-grave portfolio that includes industrialized agriculture, processed food manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies?

It’s all connected.

So the next time you are presented with a choice that is seemingly innocuous and maybe even beneficial, remember that it’s all connected. Mouthwash to kill bad breath germs? Organic baby formula? Cheap factory-farmed or processed food? It’s all connected.

Sources

[1] Barone, Jeanine. “Why Nitric Oxide Is So Important.” University of California Berkeley Wellness, 2018 May 4, (http://bit.ly/2mcfea2)

[2] Kaumudi, J; Muñoz-Torres, F; Morou-Bermudez, E; Patel, R. “Over-the-counter mouthwash use and risk of pre-diabetes/diabetes.” Nitric Oxide, 2017 Dec; Vol. 71: 14-20. (http://bit.ly/2lPEQco)

[3] “Fast Facts About the Human Microbiome.” Center for Ecogenics & Environmental Health. (http://bit.ly/2khmwJ0)

[4] Ross, Heather. “The Truth About C-Sections, Probiotics, and the Bacteria in Your Gut.” 2015 Apr 24. (http://bit.ly/2kGBrfY)

[5] Samsel, A and Seneff, S. “Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance.” Interdisciplinary Toxicology 2013 Dec; 6(4): 159–184. (http://bit.ly/2kvpbit)

[6] Salatin, Joel. Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal, 2007.

[7] Cho, C.E. and Norman, M. “Cesarean section and development of the immune system in the offspring.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2013 Apr; 208(4):249-54. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2012.08.009. (http://bit.ly/2kcOnKd)

[8] Glynn, Sarah. “C-section Babies 5 Times More Likely to Develop Allergies.” Medical News Today, 2013 Feb 27. (http://bit.ly/2lPGN8G)

[9] “Feed Ban Enhancement: Implementation Questions and Answers” USFDA. (http://bit. ly/2kg7QK8)