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Expert Interview: Walking on Both Sides – How to Eat to Support Greater Oral Health


Cate Shanahan, MD

Have you ever dreamed of having a medical doctor patiently explain to you exactly why you should be eating healthy food (not just the food pyramid)?  Well, enjoy Dr Cate Shanahan’s deep dive into nutrition.

You are in for a treat to hear Dr Cate expertly school us on exactly why certain foods cause a breakdown in our health and immunity and what foods we can eat to navigate back to greater oral and whole being health.

Drawing from her background in biochemistry and medicine, Dr Cate offers several gems from which even the veteran real foodie will gain insight.

Dr Cate also shares with us her science based argument against flossing!



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Interview Transcript

Healthy Mouth World Summit
Dr. Cate Shanahan
Walking on Both Sides: How to Support Greater Oral Health Via Nutrition, As Well As Tools We Can Each Use Today to Lower Our Risk Within the Mouth

Will: The next expert to share their experience with us here at the Healthy Mouth World Summit is Dr. Catherine Shanahan, M.D., or Dr. Cate, as she likes to be called. Dr. Cate specializes is retraining metabolism to optimize genetic potential using traditional foods. As a family medicine physician practicing in Hawaii, she recognized the limitations of pharmaceutical intervention and created a dietary program based on the culinary traditions shared by all her healthiest, longest- lived patients. These elements, which she calls the four pillars of world cuisine, became the basis of her first book.

In 2010 she spearheaded TRIM, the Treatment to Reverse Inflammatory Metabolism, a 12-week program that uses food as medicine to treat patients with diabetes who are overweight, who have cancer, and other aspects of metabolic imbalance. Dr. Cate has lectured across the country and in the Pacific. She has been featured in the to-be-released documentary film Doctored, as well as the Consumer’s Digest, Better Homes and Gardens, Your Health Matters, as well as numerous websites online and traditional media radio and TV shows, including the Dr. Lowe Radio, Underground Wellness, the Food Rights Hour, and Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb.

Dr. Cate has authored two books, the first being Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food and Food Rules: A Doctor’s Guide to Healthy Eating. Some have referred to her first book, Deep Nutrition, as the best update to Weston Price’s work available. The title of Dr. Cate’s presentation today is “Walking on Both Sides: How to Support Greater Oral Health Via Nutrition, as well as Tools we can Each use Today to Lower Our Risk Within the Mouth.”

Dr. Cate Shanahan, welcome to the Healthy Mouth World Summit!

Dr. Cate: Thanks! I’m so happy to be here!

Will: Thank you for coming and sharing your knowledge here with us today. It’s been a number of years now that we’ve appreciated your main book Deep Nutrition. And since then, your equally awesome book Food Rules. It’s actually a feather in our real food networking cap, if you will, that we introduced our friend Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness to your work.

Dr. Cate: Thanks for that great connection!

Will: Yeah, he’s a great guy! We’re excited to have you here today to offer your unique perspective on how to navigate to greater oral health. And to set down a baseline, let me just start here. I believe that most of our listeners clearly grasp that oral health is simply an extension of whole-being health. It’s really a mirror of what’s going on inside the body. So, when we’re talking about oral health, we’re really talking about health in general.

Dr. Cate: Absolutely.

Will: So, let’s just jump right in. One of your chapters is titled “Dynamic Symmetry: Nature’s Desire for Beauty.” Can you explain dynamic symmetry and how it relates to oral health?

Dr. Cate: Well, you can kind of see dynamic symmetry as nature’s beauty generator. Our bodies need this dynamic symmetry to grow in a way that facilitates health. Our faces need dynamic symmetry in order for everything to work properly. Life needs dynamic symmetry in order to exist.

So, what is it? Dynamic symmetry is a principle of physics that enables balanced growth and optimal function. And it’s everywhere in nature, from snowflakes to sunflowers to snakeskin to smiling faces. It’s really the key to unlocking the relationship between physics and biology. It’s a mathematical principle. And nowhere is it more obvious than in the mouth. In fact, it’s dentists who keep discovering it in the human body because they’re looking at the teeth.

In our book, we talk about a dentist named Markquat. And, of course, Weston Price himself was a dentist. And when he was looking for teeth that lined up, he kept finding the same structure everywhere. And that structure exhibits dynamic symmetry.

So, dynamic symmetry is a kind of symmetry. We know that like bilateral symmetry where your right half is equal to your left half. Well, our faces are supposed to be dynamically and bilaterally symmetric. And so, that means that there’s all kinds of reflections of proportions that keep reoccurring. It’s based on this ratio called the Golden Ratio, which the Greeks used to design many of their buildings, including the Parthenon.

And it’s most simplest description is an integer: 1.618. And it actually goes on and on and on into infinity. And it turns out that that ratio, 1.618, you see it over and over again in the human body when it’s super healthy, in the human face when it’s super healthy, and what we call gorgeous, beautiful. Supermodels have this, typically.

And particularly in the teeth. A single tooth, when you take a look at a smiling model, the tooth models, you’ll see that the ratio of the height of the front incisor to the width of the front incisor is 1.618, where it’s 1.618 times as tall as it is wide. And the two front incisors together actually form, what they call, a golden rectangle where the two create a width that is 1.618 times as wide as the height of the teeth. And, it just goes on and on and on.

There’s some websites that illustrate this beautifully. I can link to you so you guys can see this. But, it’s over and over again. And it’s not just in the mouth and the teeth, it’s also in the relationship of the teeth to the lips. And, of course, what enables the teeth to be where they are is the dental arches and the width, the breadth, particularly, of the dental arches, which is something that Weston Price discovered over and over again.

So, Weston Price was a dentist who lived in the early part of the 1900s. And he is such a help. He was such a help for me as a physician in order to be able to understand the nature of health and the human condition because he asked this very basic question as a dentist practicing in northern United States: Why was it that there were so many children who had crooked teeth and cavities?

And it was such a trauma to him to have to correct these crooked teeth because back in those days, anesthesia was limited. And you would risk death because it was not very precise, either. So, it was dangerous to do these corrections. But they were necessary because kids were having teeth grow in sideways and all kinds of very painful conditions creating infections. So, he just sort of got fed up with all that and said, “Wait. Let me step back. The big picture of this doesn’t make sense.

So, he went all around the world to see were there people living anywhere that did not have this tendency to dental disease? And he chose to look at people who had not been exposed to modernizing influences because he really felt that something about nature provided health. And that when people were living in harmony with nature — he just sort of intuited this. And I think a lot of us do, particularly a lot of your listeners, probably. It just makes sense that nature provides health. And we can mess with that, but we can’t improve on that.

And, so Weston Price went around. It turned out he found eleven different indigenous cultures, all around the world from Hawaii to Alaska, Canada, Switzerland, Africa. And everywhere he went, he found the same thing, that children, adults, had almost perfectly straight teeth, very few cavities, not just this beautiful oral health, but the entire body was healthy.

Just like your Summit. You’re starting from the mouth and expanding out. But he did the same thing. Price found that, my goodness, these people are also resistant to the number one killers of the time, tuberculosis and other infections. So, he compiled a lot of information on what was it nutritionally that facilitated that growth?

And the bottom line, what he found that has really inspired me as a physician, was that people were getting ten to fifty times more vitamins and minerals than what Americans typically were getting at that time, which is probably no better today because we still have a lot of processed foods in our diet. And what that has helped me with is to tell folks that, “We have so much need for nutrition that we don’t have any room in our daily diet for all these little treats that we’re constantly giving ourselves between meals, the snacks and potato chips, the candies, the little sweet something for dessert, the breakfasts that are basically candy — pancakes and waffles and stuff like this.

And, so, it turns out what this has to do with dynamic symmetry and what we discuss in the chapter 2 of our book titled “Dynamic Symmetry,” is that tapping into nature enables your body to grow and express this dynamic symmetry that provides health. When you eat the processed foods, you’re actually impairing, you’re blocking that process. It’s not just a matter of not having the nutrients to be there to grow, because then we would just be smaller. But, it’s that it’s actually blocking it.

So, then, at a very fundamental level, the junk in our diet, particularly sugars and the vegetable oils, they block this proper development, which is a physical thing of the human body. And, so getting the two big blockers out of your diet — the two most abundant toxins in the diet are sugars and vegetable oils — doing that and doing nothing else different (but eating, still…replacing those missing calories with actual food) — will enable so many aspects of your physiology to recover and heal.

And certainly this is going to be key if you have gum disease or if you have cavities. It’s absolutely going to be essential because it blocks your immune system from functioning. So, that’s kind of almost like a metaphysical way of approaching health. But, it’s very fascinating how there’s this deep physical relationship with nature that we should not break. We must not break. And, actually common things like sugar and vegetable oil do sever that relationship.

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