by Dr. Bruce Fife
Chapter 5: A Weapon of Mass Destruction—Part 3
As I read, and read again this next part of Chapter 5, I become even more astounded at how damaging is the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Oh yes, you won’t die tomorrow if you eat a candy bar just like smoking a few cigarettes won’t put you in the grave.
After several decades, however, the cumulative effect of consuming sugar and other refined carbohydrates, begins to take a toll on your health. A high schooler (or younger) doesn’t die because he smoked a few cigarettes. However, by 65 many of those lifelong smokers are suffering from COPD, emphysema, heart disease, lung cancer, or have already expired.
The same thing happens to most of the life-long heavy consumers of refined carbohydrates, meaning sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, and white rice. By 65, many of these people are already dealing with chronic degenerative diseases. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and others.
Sugar is toxic, and that’s why Dr. Fife use the term—Sugar Kills—in the title of his book.
The health of trillions of tiny microorganisms in our digestive system has a direct effect on our health. These organisms have a role in the following:
- Keeping us healthy and disease free.
- They help maintain the proper PH balance in the digestive tract.
- They synthesize important vitamins such as B-12 and K.
- They help support immune function.
- They aid in the breakdown and digestion of our food.
- They neutralize toxins.
- They regulate glucose absorption and metabolism.
- They protect against inflammatory diseases and the colonization of pathogenic organisms.
These microorganisms are known as the gut microbiome and consist or tens of thousands of species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
A disruption of this carefully balanced population is implicated as a causal factor with the following health problems:
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
- Reduced immune function
- Digestive disorders (chronic constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease)
- Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, ADHD, and depression
- Food allergies and sensitiveness
- Eczema and recurrent yeast problems
- Some forms of cancer
Ninety percent of all known human illness can be traced back to an unhealthy gut. By “gut” Dr. Fife means from the mouth to the rectum.
Our diet has a profound effect on the diet of the microorganism in our gut, and the foods we eat are the foods that our microbiota eat. For example, the population of the sugar lovers bloom when we eat a lot of sugary food and/or refined carbohydrates. By contrast, the fiber lovers are the happiest when our diet is rich with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Fiber is often thought as being indigestible and nearly useless as a food component. However, it’s extremely important for good digestive function and overall health. Fiber does the following:
- It softens the stool.
- It shortens the transit time through the intestines.
- It slows down the absorption of glucose.
- It helps to balance the PH in the digestive tract.
- Certain toxins are removed preventing them from entering the bloodstream.
- Most importantly, fiber provides food for our resident gut microbiota.
- Fiber-loving bacteria process and transform the fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).
My Comment: This is getting somewhat technical at this point, but it’s also extraordinarily fascinating at the same time. Dr. Fife is helping us to understand how important good gut health is for our overall health and how deleterious (bad) sugar is for our well-being.
Continuing: Without the proper amount of SCFAs, the epithelial cells lining the digestive tract begin to degenerate. A worsening condition can lead to chronic tissue inflammation and tissue breakdown. That can lead to the following:
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Lesion or ulcers
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders
Dr. Fife makes a most important statement: Evidence suggests that many people suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases are really suffering from a malnourished digestive tract. The modern processed food diet is woefully deficient in dietary fiber.
There’s much more to learn about SCFAs. Recent research shows that they play a key role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as insulin resistance and diabetes, bowel disorders, osteoporosis, kidney disease, hypertension, and colon cancer.
The SCFAs lower the colonic PH (raises the acidity level of the colon), which provides a suitable environment for helpful microbiota, protects the lining from forming colonic polyps, and increases the absorption of minerals.
Dr. Fife discusses several other details of how a healthy colonic microbiota helps one to have a healthy intestinal tract. Having a healthy gut translates into having a healthy body.
Oral Health: Bacteria Feed on Sugar
Consuming sugar causes tooth decay. Unfortunately for sugar lovers, the sugar loving bacteria produce acids and toxins which eat away at tooth enamel. It gets worse. These harmful by-products (the bacteria’s waste, if you will) also cause irritation of the gums, which leads to inflammation and bleeding.
An overgrowth of these bacteria leads to tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, and eventually tooth loss. Bad breath is another symptom of this malady.
The bacteria that cause the greatest harm feed on sugar. The more sugar we eat, the more these bacteria multiply and grow, outnumbering less harmful species. It is the imbalance in the oral microbiome that is the primary cause of poor health.
Dr. Fife pokes fun at the notion that if we just floss and brush, everything will be okay. He offers statistics as to how many people 65 and better have lost teeth due to poor oral health. One in three people 65 or older have lost all of their natural teeth due to tooth decay and gum disease.
Even moderate periodontal disease is now found in 40% of children 12 and older. Does the problem worsen as they get older? Of course!
The Most Prevalent Disease
Dr. Fife quotes the British Medical Journal, the Lancet, which states that periodontal disease affects up to 90% of the world’s population. Of the few hunter-gather populations left in the world, they have the lowest incidence of periodontal disease. By contrast, the people that eat more refined foods have much more periodontal disease and tooth decay.
There are a few hunter-gatherer populations in Africa and elsewhere who eat their traditional sugar-free diets. They have remarkably good oral health, free of gum disease and dental decay. None of them brush or floss their teeth…However, once they start to add sugar or white flour into their diets, their oral health sharply declines.
Dr. Fife points out that there are two types of dental plaque. Healthy bacteria form a sticky film on our teeth and gums. These plaques help prevent acidic foods or drinks from dissolving tooth enamel. He points out that plaque can be harmful if it’s created by the wrong type of bacteria…bacteria that feed on sugar.
If the diet consists of a large amount of sugar or starch, the plaque that coats the teeth is heavily populated by these acid forming bacteria. The acid they produce on the tooth surface dissolves the enamel, making the teeth soft and easily accessible to invasion by bacteria and other microorganisms. This leads to tooth decay.
Brushing, flossing, and dental care are necessary to remove this harmful plaque. Dr. Fife points out that primitive peoples never brushed their teeth. They didn’t need to because they didn’t have refined carbs (sugar) in their diet. The plaque that formed on their teeth was beneficial, and not harmful.
Dr. Fife reminds us that pets do not need to have their teeth brushed; not do they get tooth decay. However, if pets are fed grain-based pet food, they can develop dental problems.
He concludes this section by saying that anyone could say, “Hey, I get my teeth fixed, so what’s the big deal? And if I get a cavity, I just didn’t do good enough home care or visit my dentist often enough.” Dental problems are rarely blamed on one’s diet.
To be continued…
In our next issue I’ll continue Dr. Fife’s discussion on the connection between poor oral health and heart disease. Even more sobering, there is the sugar connection to the dreaded “C” word.
My Comments: Society’s sugar addiction is very, very costly, and it affects virtually everyone, either directly or indirectly. Let’s start with dental health.
My mom was a registered dietician, but whatever she learned in college seems to have been a total waste. Because of the usual sugary things that were in our family’s diet, I developed a liking to sugary things at an early age. I’d find a spare nickel here and there and buy five-cent candy bars at nearby mom and pop stores.
At times I would roust up a spare dime to throw into the coke machine at the corner gas station. Sometimes another neighborhood kid and I were devious and told the gas station operator that the Coke machine didn’t give us our Coke. The guy believed us to the extent that he opened the machine and gave us our Coke.
Mom always made Christmas candies for the holiday season. She put them in tins and hid them in the lower pots and pans cupboard until it was time for holiday festivities. I’d sneak two or three of the sweet morsels and rearrange them so it would look like none were taken.
In sixth grade I had collection money in my pocket from my paper route. You can guess what I did with some of it. Yeah, there were several small markets in my delivery area. Worse, some of my customers gave me a box of See’s Candy for a Christmas gift.
My ninth-grade school photo showed the weight I had put on. I caught flak from some not-so-nice peers because of it. At social gatherings it was difficult to have just one or two cookies. The highlight of the coin club that I used to attend were the “refreshments” after the meeting. No, I didn’t drink black coffee; instead, I had a doughnut or two. I was like an alcoholic that was looking for ways to get a drink.
My parents just paid the dental bills. Yes, it was drill, fill, and then bills…. courtesy of Mom and Dad. Unfortunately, I had my first crown in my late twenties. There were other crowns that followed. Nobody ever made any connection made between my diet and dental work. It was a total disconnect.
Between fillings that I paid for, crowns, a failed root canal, a gum graft, two apicoectomies, and a bridge, I’m sure I’ve shelled out over $20,000 for dental and gum work during the earlier decades of my adult years. Two of those back molars that I spent thousands on, are gone.
Yeah, It’s Expensive
I’m had many, many clients contact me about dental plans. I asked one caller, “What kind of dental work are you looking at.” “Oh, maybe some implants running between five and ten thousand.,” the person responds. Then there are those that have lost their teeth and have to resort to dentures. There’s another continuing expense. With a proper diet, meaning real foods, virtually all of these expenses, mine included, could have been avoided.
Paleontology records show ancient people with fully intact teeth. Dr. Fife discussed some current-day hunter-gatherer groups that have perfect teeth, and they don’t even brush and floss. Have they just lucked out? No, no, no. Their oral health hasn’t been ruined by sugar.
Sugar and refined carbohydrate addictions are expensive, and we’re just getting started with the cost of dental care. When it comes to the cost of medical damage to our health, you can guess that it gets much, much worse. We’ll explore this more in our next issue. End