The Oral Health-Gut Health Connection
This may be hard to believe, but your gut microbiome is the foundation of your health. When you have good gut health, this means that you have a proper balance between good bacteria and potentially harmful bacteria and yeast in your digestive system.
The reality is that the oral microbiome sets the stage for your overall health. This means that the healthier your mouth and oral microbiome are, the healthier your gut, immune system and entire body will be.
Here’s a snapshot of the basics:
Think of Your Mouth as the Gatekeeper of Your Gut
Every time you swallow, you’re swallowing thousands of bacteria; some bad but some good. You might be under the impression that you’re supposed to kill every germ in your mouth, but that’s not the case. Similarly to the gut microbiome, there are good bacteria found in your mouth that support the health of both your teeth and the rest of your body.
Probiotic strains of bacteria perform protective functions in the mouth. For example, there are strains that release acids that keep harmful bacteria that cause tooth decay monitored and under control. There are other strains that protect against gum disease and bad breath. It’s important to be mindful of the fact that there are harmful antibacterial mouthwashes on the market that also wipe out all the good bacteria that our microbiomes need to thrive.
Your Mouth Acts as a Mirror of Health & Disease in Your Body
The gut microbiome determines a large part of our health and well-being, including our mental health, weight and even some degenerative diseases like dementia. The oral microbiome is the opening to the intestinal tract and is essential to keeping the gut healthy. It flows beyond the mouth and down the digestive tract to become the gut microbiome. This is where microbes become critical to the overall function of our body.
Research reveals a clear link between oral disease and systemic disease, as oral pathogens have been found in rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and even cardiovascular disease. That means that when we look at our oral care first, we have the ability to halt disease in its tracks.
It’s important to note that simple carbs like sugar and flour don’t cause as much damage to our teeth as most of us think. Their true impact is the ability they have on reducing the diversity of our oral microbiome; this is where the problems arise. Our bodies are in constant communication with the gut about what’s coming into it from the outside world. While the gut can be responsible for the execution of what happens in our bodies, our mouths are in control of what drives these results. When our mouths and oral microbiomes are healthy, diverse and thriving, the rest of your body will flourish, too.
Guidelines for Choosing Oral-Microbiome Friendly Foods
- Try to eliminate or reduce processed foods as they are full of preservatives and artificial additives.
- Focus on consuming whole foods that haven’t been altered from their natural or original state.
- Say goodbye to sugar in all its forms, including: high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, table sugar, added sugar, refined sugar, honey and more.
- Juice is not necessarily your friend; even if they claim to be 100% fruit juice. They are a concentrated hit of simple carbs.
- Visit a local farmers market and check out all of the seasonal and locally sourced foods that are available to you.
- Eat a variety of fiber-filled veggies like Brussels sprouts and leafy greens.
- Replenish your microbiome with fermented and probiotic foods.
- Choose veggies that contain prebiotic fiber, which is known to specifically feed beneficial bacteria.
- This may seem obvious, but chew! Your mouth is the beginning of the digestive system, and eating on the run can starve the beneficial bacteria of their role in kick-starting the food processing.
This is just an overview of the oral health-gut health connection so if you have other questions, just ask. As always, feel free to reach out to us with any oral health-related concerns!