Healthy Gums, Healthy Teeth and a Healthy Heart!

The top five nutrients you need to know about

 

By Lea Wetzell, MS, LN, CNS

article_other_couplesmiling.jpgUp to 75 percent of Americans over the age of 35 have gum disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the gum tissue. Are you one? Gum disease not only affects the health of your gums and teeth, but it also can lead to serious complications to the heart! People with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart problems. Research has also found a link between gum disease and other chronic inflammatory conditions such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. "The theory is if you have a certain amount of inflammation, something is going to break down somewhere [whether is it's your heart, your gums or something else]," says David Cochran, D.D.S., past president of the American Academy of Periodontology. Whether you currently have gum disease or want to prevent gum disease, here are five important nutrients to include in your diet on a regular basis.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients for preventing gum disease and promoting healthy gum tissue. Studies have found that people who eat 160mg or more of vitamin C per day have a significantly lower risk of gum disease. Vitamin C is essential for producing healthy connective tissue that keeps your teeth locked into their sockets and helps to strengthen your immune system so your white blood cells can control bacteria levels in your mouth. Make sure your diet is full of foods rich in vitamin C such as broccoli, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, oranges, lemons, kiwi and grapefruit.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

CoQ10 is an antioxidant-rich nutrient that is a master at providing energy to our cells and keeping gums healthy. If you have gum disease, CoQ10 is effective at healing gum tissue. Research has shown that CoQ10 can reduce the signs of gum disease including bleeding, inflammation, and pocket depth. The best dietary sources of CoQ10 are meat (beef, pork and chicken; organ meats such as the heart have the highest amount) and fatty fish (sardines, herring, salmon, tuna and mackerel). For people with gum disease, supplementing with 200mg of CoQ10 has been shown to improve gum health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for healing gum tissue, and for your immune system. A strong immune system can help fight off infection, while a deficiency of vitamin A can weaken your immune system and set the stage for gum infections. Foods that contain vitamin A include fish, eggs, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, green leafy lettuce, corn, bananas, watermelon and grapefruit. A teaspoon of cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin A.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for gum health. Research published in the Journal of Oral Science (March 2009) showed that vitamin D promotes gum health by supporting the immune system and decreasing inflammation, both key to combating gum disease. A lot of people living in the northern latitudes are deficient in vitamin D. A simple blood test can determine your vitamin D level. An ideal range of 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 is 50-70 ng/dL. If your vitamin D level is below that range, you probably need a vitamin D supplement. You can also get vitamin D from sun exposure or from food sources such as organ meats, fatty fish and eggs from pasture-raised chickens.

Folic acid

The B vitamin folic acid keeps your mouth healthy by promoting healthy cell growth of the gums and all the surface tissue in the mouth. To maintain healthy gums, be sure you're consuming 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Dietary sources of folic acid include leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and legumes. Folic acid supplements are also an option.

Start slowly by eating real foods first

Because gum disease affects up to 75 percent of people over age 35, it is important to take steps to protect your mouth. Eating the Nutritional Weight & Wellness way (real foods eaten in balance 5-6 times per day) will provide you with the five nutrients recommended to keep your gums healthy. If you have gum disease, you may benefit from a nutritional consultation for a comprehensive eating, and possible supplement, plan to address nutritional deficiencies. Be sure to make real foods a priority in your diet for a happy, healthy mouth. Remember, you'll also be protecting your heart and lessening your chances for developing a serious health condition.

For more information, listen to our Dishing Up Nutrition podcast about healthy skin, teeth and gums from August 11, 2012.

References:
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
"Journal of Oral Science": Vitamin D and periodontal disease
www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/heart_heart/3_foods_for_healthy_gums_hearts

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