As part of a charity auction hosted at UMass, Dr. Silk along with another exceptional physician, Dr. Ennis hosted a culinary restaurant tour of Worcester for several students during my first year at UMass. Because linking community, health, and enjoyment of the culinary scene is what WooFood is all about, what better guest blogger is there?
One of Dr. Silk's community causes is oral health - something too often overlooked by doctors and society. The author Michael Pollan writes in the book In Defense of Food that cultures eating traditional diets often had better oral health than we have today, even without access to dentists, so I decided to ask Dr. Silk what the connection is between food and oral health.
I am writing this blog for woofood.org for 3 reasons - 1) I want to applaud the organizers of woofood.org - great idea; 2) because I think food is one of the 4 main tenets* of good overall health and wellness especially food that is local and "real"; 3) because I also think oral health is very important and so wanted to make a comment about this latter topic as it relates to a healthful diet.
Oral health affects overall health - it's that simple. Cavities lead to infections leads to getting very sick OR missing school and work OR not being able to eat and not growing well, etc, etc. Periodontitis or deep inflammation of the gums is associated with heart disease, diabetes and other full body health issues. You don't floss and/or you don't brush often or you don't go see your dentist and your mouth problems can turn into major health problems.
And FOOD plays a BIG role in this process. When you eat food, your mouth goes into an acidic state for 40 minutes after eating because bacteria in your mouth turn the sugars into acid. This is how you get cavities. Some food and drinks are worse than others. Eating simple sugars is the worse. Soda (or pop where I come from) is extremely bad, juice not too much better; desserts and candy are awful. This brings us to woofood.org. So best to buy from places that have offerings of fruits and vegetables and whole grains (brown bread and pasta) and meats/chicken and fish (if you eat them).
If you are going to eat sugary foods and drinks - do them at meal time.. You are already creating acid in your mouth - go whole hog. Then brush your teeth or chew sugarless gum (if you can't get to a brush) to increase your saliva which also protects your teeth. When it comes to eating healthy snacks - drink water or milk; eat fruits, vegetables or foods with less sugar like cheese. Farmers markets are perfect for finding healthy snacks to have at home or on the run. And they are local so the products being sold have many other good elements for being healthy (besides you will be helping local farmers keeping doing what they are doing!). There are many restaurants in Worcester that offer healthy choices. Continue to visit this website to check out the offerings. And most of the time - advice that is good for your teeth is also good for your waistline. In a country that has an obesity problem, we all need to snack less and eat more food and drinks that are healthy in a reasonable size portions. So... choose healthy; don't eat or drink too much of those healthy choices; avoid sugary things between meals; brush or chew sugarfree gum after meals/snacks....And keep checking out woofood.org to find those healthy options.
Hugh Silk, MD
[* the other 3 tenets to good overall health are: consistent physical activity (not necessarily exercise); strong social networks (including family, friends, a partner, clubs, religious gatherings); and having a sense of purpose (a job, a calling, a faith, volunteering, etc).]