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Bad Breath, Blueberries and Cancer

September 23, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

It’s no secret that health status plays a major role in the overall quality of one’s life. But it doesn’t necessarily require a serious medical condition to significantly impact day-to-day life. Something as benign as chronic halitosis (bad breath) can cause stress during the most basic activities such as interacting with colleagues, family and friends. Likewise, working hard to prevent a disease like type 2 diabetes can also feel like a burden. However, both of these hurdles pale in comparison to the stress experienced by those living with a life-threatening illness such as cancer.

Dr. Andrew Weil is undoubtedly one of the most prominent figures in the field of integrative medicine. One of things I like best about him is that he uses his influence to spread the word about natural remedies that address virtually every aspect of wellness. This past week he tweeted about his top suggestions on how to manage breath problems. Here’s an overview of what he recommends:

  • Halitosis can be a sign of more serious health conditions including diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, infections, kidney and liver disease. They should be considered if other measures fail to improve bad breath.
  • Ask your doctor if your medications may be causing dry mouth – a potential contributing factor of halitosis. Discontinuing or switching drugs may be appropriate.
  • Brush your teeth twice-daily; floss once-a-day; and clean your tongue with a tongue scraper after brushing.
  • Persistent halitosis can be a sign of gingivitis. Visit a dentist to rule out this possibility.

Dr. Weil goes on to mention the improbable benefit of acidophilus, a healthy bacteria/probiotic used to ferment dairy products including yogurt. His skepticism stems from the fact that acidophilus primarily affects “the colon and large intestine in the lower end of the digestive tract, while problems that cause bad breath are typically higher up (sinus problems, gum disease, oral cavity, tonsils, decaying food particles, infected teeth)”. What Dr. Weil neglects to mention is that there are specially manufactured probiotics that are intended to dissolve in the mouth which can, indeed, improve oral health and persistent halitosis. One example is a scientifically-validated supplement with combines a beneficial bacteria known as Lactobacillus salivarius WB21 and the sugar-alcohol, xylitol. A recent Japanese study found that gum health and “malodor parameters” significantly decreased in 12 patients using this product after only four weeks of treatment. (1,2,3)

Why in the world is a low-carbohydrate advocate like Dr. Michael Eades recommending that people eat more fruit? The last time I checked, fruit contains sugar! Rest assured that Dr. Eades has not abandoned his old carbohydrate-restricting ways. He just knows good science when he sees it. In the case of blueberries, it seems the beneficial components (anthocyanins and phenolics) outweigh the risks (fructose) with respect to blood sugar disorders and cardiovascular risk. The impetus for a recent tweet by the good doctor is a study appearing in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. A double-blinded, randomized and placebo-controlled study evaluated the effects of feeding blueberries to a group of “32 obese, nondiabetic, and insulin-resistant” men and women for 6 weeks. The findings of the intervention indicate that adding blueberries vs. a placebo to the diets of patients at risk for diabetes and heart disease can effectively improve insulin sensitivity. It’s important to note that this is but one strategy worth considering for this high-risk population. As helpful as blueberries may be, they failed to instigate any significant changes in body fat, caloric intake or inflammatory biomarkers. (4,5)

Whole Blueberry Powder May Enhance Insulin Sensitivity
Source: Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 140, No. 10, 1764-1768, October 2010 (link)

My final Twitter item of the week comes courtesy of the Canadian health magazine, Best Health. A recent tweet from BestHealthMag reports that the green, leafy vegetable, watercress may thwart cancer cell growth. This encouraging proclamation is based on a publication presented in the June 2010 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition. The trial exclusively involved women who had previously been treated for breast cancer. Researchers from the University of Southhampton, UK provided the study volunteers with an 80 gram (about 3 oz) serving of watercress. Blood samples were taken before and after the consumption of the watercress. Several important findings were reported: a) in-vitro testing indicates that a component of watercress (PEITC) directly inhibits cancer cell growth; b) eating watercress lead to a significant elevation in plasma PEITC levels in humans; c) watercress consumption caused positive changes in an anti-cancer pathway, namely, a reduction in 4E-BP1 phosphorylation. Though preliminary, this report suggests that watercress may be a useful tool in the long-term prevention of breast cancer and other malignancies. (6,7,8,9)

Unfortunately, there are no miracle cures out there for any of the above conditions. The best we can currently hope for are viable tools to help overcome each battle, one day at a time. The information you read here today can place you and those in your sphere of influence in a better position to stay well and feel better along the way.

Be well!


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2 Comments & Updates to “Bad Breath, Blueberries and Cancer”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: More support for probiotic supplementation …


    Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol. 2014 Apr;117(4):462-70. doi: 10.1016/j.oooo.2013.12.400. Epub 2013 Dec 20.

    Lactobacillus salivarius WB21–containing tablets for the treatment of oral malodor: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial.

    OBJECTIVE: This study evaluated the effect of probiotic intervention using lactobacilli on oral malodor.

    STUDY DESIGN: We conducted a 14-day, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover trial of tablets containing Lactobacillus salivarius WB21 (2.0 × 10(9) colony-forming units per day) or placebo taken orally by patients with oral malodor.

    RESULTS: Organoleptic test scores significantly decreased in both the probiotic and placebo periods compared with the respective baseline scores (P < .001 and P = .002), and no difference was detected between periods. In contrast, the concentration of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) (P = .019) and the average probing pocket depth (P = .001) decreased significantly in the probiotic period compared with the placebo period. Bacterial quantitative analysis found significantly lower levels of ubiquitous bacteria (P = .003) and Fusobacterium nucleatum (P = .020) in the probiotic period. CONCLUSIONS: These results indicated that daily oral consumption of tablets containing probiotic lactobacilli could help to control oral malodor and malodor-related factors. Be well! JP

  2. JP Says:

    Update: Oil pulling “works”, but it requires motivation to stick with it …


    J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Nov;8(11):ZC18-21.

    Comparative efficacy of oil pulling and chlorhexidine on oral malodor: a randomized controlled trial.

    BACKGROUND: Oral malodor affects a large section of population. Traditional Indian folk remedy, oil pulling not only reduces it but can also bring down the cost of treatment.

    AIMS: To compare the efficacy of oil pulling and chlorhexidine in reducing oral malodor and microbes.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: Three week randomized controlled trial was conducted among 60 students of three hostels of Maharani College of science and arts and commerce and Smt V.H.D.College of Home Science. The hostels were randomized into two intervention groups namely chlorhexidine group, sesame oil and one control (placebo) group. Twenty girls were selected from each hostel based on inclusion and exclusion criteria. Informed consent was obtained. The parameters recorded at the baseline (day 0) and post intervention on day 22 were plaque index (PI), gingival index (GI), objective (ORG1) and subjective (ORG2) organoleptic scores and anaerobic bacterial colony (ABC) count. Intra and inter group comparisons were made using Kruskal Wallis test, Wilcoxan sign rank test, ANOVA and student t-test.

    RESULTS: There was significant reduction (p<0.05) in the mean scores of all the parameters within sesame oil and chlorhexidine group. Among the groups significant difference was observed in objective and subjective organoleptic scores. Post hoc test showed significant difference (p<0.000) in mean organoleptic scores of sesame oil and placebo and chlorhexidine and placebo group. No significant difference (p<0.05) was observed between sesame oil and chlorhexidine group.

    CONCLUSION: Oil pulling with sesame oil is equally efficacious as chlorhexidine in reducing oral malodor and microbes causing it. It should be promoted as a preventive home care therapy.

    Be well!


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