As I embark on this journey to complete my Masters of Science in Holistic Nutrition, I am continually reminded of this. I recently worked on an assignment related to fluoride. I am not here to discuss health pros and cons of fluoride that is for you to discuss with your dentist but fluoride is a “BANDAID” for prevention and control of dental caries (aka cavities). The real source of the problem is SUGAR.
One of the studies I came across looked at the relationship between sugars, dental caries and fluoride use. To no surprise, they concluded that the current recommendation that sugar intake should be ≤ 10% of energy intake is no longer acceptable. Regardless of fluoride intake, ≤2-3% of energy intake is optimal for prevention of dental carries in children thru adulthood.1
The World Health Organization recommends a normal body mass index adult take in only 25 g/day or 6 tsp. They recommend that the free sugars should be less than 10% of total energy intake and that further reduction to 5% (approximately 12.5g or 3 tsp) would provide additional health benefits. (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/)
This project on fluoride also continued to validate my statements that our systems are not mutually exclusive. Cavities indicate poor health overall. Just because we have a “BANDAID” that we can use, it doesn’t solve the problem.
Let’s look at another analogy.
Say a patient comes into the ER with a cut on his foot. The ER doctor cleans the wound and sews the cut up and sends the patient on his way. The patient seems irritated to have been inconvenienced to require a need for an ER visit, but thankful for the help. Two weeks pass and the same patient is back in the ER with another cut on his foot. The doctor cleans is up, stiches it back together and sends him on his way…again. This time he refers the patient to his primary care physician and maybe a consult for a safety evaluation at home. This takes time. In the meantime, the patient returns with yet another cut on his foot. This time, the ER doc asks, “Why do you keep getting cuts on your feet?” The patient replies, “There is broken glass on the floor from the frame that fell off the mantle a month ago and I can’t bend over to clean it up.” The ER doc then asks, “Do you have family in town that can help clean it up before you go home again? Let’s be sure that happens and lets get you some slippers to protect your feet too.” Problem solved.
The point is we have to look for the simple solution even though we are distracted by the symptom presentation. I hope to urge ALL health care providers to always work on finding out the source of the problem, along with providing an appropriate “BANDAID” if it is necessary. As PATIENTS, I urge you to also be open to finding the source of the problem and not only asking for a “BANDAID”. The solution is not easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t simple.
It’s like parenting. I am your mother and it is my job to keep you safe and provide you with all the tools to be healthy and thrive, even if it means you don’t like it.
The same goes for health care providers. We have an obligation to solve the problem, not dole out “BANDAIDS” all day even if that is what is being requested. It doesn’t do anyone any good. Not to mention it’s expensive. It is our job to help people along the path to health and healing. That means we have to get back to problem solving and patient’s need to be willing or the whole system fails.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove refined grains and refined sugar. Both lead to cavities. Remove the behavior of being victimized. Be very cautious of anyone selling you something (food companies, pharmaceutical companies). They have a hidden agenda, and it doesn’t always match up to where the science truly is.
Replace with whole foods like organic fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Brush your teeth regularly. As a health care provider, re-establish the problem solver mentality. Ask questions of your patients and listen to the answers. Start with, “What does a nutritional day look like for you?” or “How did you get this cut on your foot?” Remember, the old saying, “The only stupid questions are the one’s you don’t ask.” As a health care provider, you may think your patient doesn’t want to hear you say, “Stop eating sugar, it’s causing you pain…your diabetes….your cavities”, but isn’t it the truth? So, you say it again….and again….and again. Just like a parent. Just because they don’t want to hear it, doesn’t mean it isn’t the truth. And maybe one time the patient will say, “How do I stop?” As a patient, when a health care provider says those words, listen. It really is where the problem is. And don’t accept the “BANDAID” unless you really need it. Ask them, “What else can I do to get rid of this back pain?”
Restore health….and control. While empowering patients with the knowledge to resolve their problem, that creates freedom. As patients AND health care providers, we need to respect the opinions of authority figures, but we must make informed decisions. Working together we can create a society that is free from disease and instead we can spend our time LIVING life.
EAT WELL. MOVE WELL. THRIVE ON.
1. Sheiham A, James WP. A new understanding of the relationship between sugars, dental caries and fluoride use: Implications for limits on sugars consumption. Public Health Nutr. 2014;17(10):2176-2184.
No more “BANDAIDS”; let’s get to the root of the problem.
Do you ever wonder what it means to be a physical therapist? For me, it simply means, “problem solver”.
Holistic Health Coach