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Book Review: Cure Tooth Decay

It’s hard to start a review of this book because there is just SO MUCH to write about! I learned a lot from this book, and I highly, highly recommend it, even if you don’t have any issues with your teeth. There’s great advice about diet and oral hygiene: myths are busted, nutritional details are dissected, truths are discovered. It is not the most exciting or suspenseful read, but still well worth it.

Ramiel Nagel, the author, is not a nutritionist or a dentist or even a doctor, but his interest in curing and preventing tooth decay came about when his daughter suffered from multiple cavities and teeth rotting so badly they were turning black. From fear that she would lose many teeth, Ramiel began researching the works of Westin A. Price and Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions) for help. What he found he applied to himself and his family and he had such success in turning around their oral health that he passed on his newfound knowledge in his book.

Here are the biggest things I took away from this book:

  1. All grains contain an element known as phytic acid. Phytic acid is a snowflake-shaped molecule that acts as a sweeper arm, attaching itself to calcium, magnesium, and other essential vitamins and minerals in our body and literally sweeping them away so that we cannot absorb them. So even if your grains naturally contain good elements (or are fortified with them, which is a separate issue I’ll get to), they are not absorbed by our bodies because phytic acid steals them. Even the good elements floating around in our bodies are swept away by the cheeky phytic acid. Such a little swipper, that acid! This is the main reason why grains are really not good for us, despite what the grain industry tells us about how many good nutrients are in grains. Yes, the good stuff is in there, no doubt about it, but it our bodies can’t absorb it then it does us no good. Which brings me to my second biggest learning point…
  2. All the elements we consume are not going to serve us unless we can absorb them properly. This one is really fascinating to me. Did you know you can consume all the Vitamin A you want, all day long, but unless it is taken with Vitamin D it is not going to be absorbed? Too much Vitamin A without enough Vitamin D can actually be toxic! This is just one example of how vitamins and minerals need a symbiotic relationship in order to do their good thang for us. They cannot act alone – they need a buddy, a specific buddy, in order to be successful. Also, back to fortified foods – when we add vitamins and minerals to foods that don’t normally have them, our bodies don’t recognize them and don’t absorb them. This is also the case for a lot of vitamins and supplements – when they are not in food, a lot of the time our bodies just don’t understand what they’re getting so they don’t use them. Synthetic vitamins are often received as toxins to our bodies, which is why, Ramiel states, sometimes the odor or color of our urine can be a bit “off” after consuming a multi-vitamin. It’s not that all supplements are bad, but be sure to select one that is food-based, does not have any sugar added, and take in compliment with a rich diet of quality whole foods from which we should be getting the bulk of our vitamins and minerals anyway.
  3. Diet has as much to do with oral health as hygiene. It took me a minute to wrap my brain around the following point – tooth decay is not caused by sugar sitting on your teeth. Tooth decay is caused by sugar replacing the essential vitamins and minerals in our bodies that help our teeth. It is our bodies processing the sugar and using all our good stuff to process it, rather than sending good stuff to our teeth to make them healthy. In other words, when we have a good diet full of good, absorbable vitamins and minerals, our teeth are healthy and strong. When we miss out on those good vitamins and minerals because we’re consuming sugar (and grains), our teeth not only miss out on receiving good stuff but our bodies must also take good stuff that is already there in order to get the toxins out of our systems. When we consume bad stuff we’re hit with a double punch: first missing out on introducing new good stuff, second being robbed of the good stuff that’s already there. Crazy right?
  4. We’re doing oral hygiene all wrong. Brushing teeth is great for removing plaque… but it also pushes plaque up under the gum line. So does flossing – think about it. You’re using a little string to try to pull plaque from a tight space. You’ll get most of it, but the flossing action itself is literally pushing the plaque up to your gums. Ramiel Nagel outlines lots of oral hygiene techniques that serve us much better than the old-school brushing and flossing. I won’t go into the specifics (otherwise you have no incentive to read the book!) but the things I’m starting to try are oil pulling, oral irrigating (Water Pik) with salt water, and herbal powder treatments applied to the gums. Treating our gums well is most important – without a strong neck, the head is floppy. Without strong gums, even healthy teeth can be lost. Also, oral hygiene is not the “be all and end all” solution to oral health that we’ve been taught: “Cleaning teeth will change the environment of your month and it can help slow down the problem [of decay], but it does not stop the original cause of tooth decay.” Caring for your whole self, through a quality, balanced diet and managed self-care is essential to completing the holistic oral health picture. Definitely don’t stop cleaning your mouth! But re-thinking why we use the methods we use and how they are actually successful (or not) is a great step in the right direction.

The only thing I struggled with while reading this book is all the diary. We’re dairy-free right now but Ramiel Nagel recommends lots of raw, grass-fed dairy in order to get a big calcium boost and essential vitamins A and D. There are not a lot of diary-free alternatives given but there are some – diary-free folks are not completely left out of the picture which is really nice. I worry that we’re not able to get enough calcium from vegetables, since we have to consume a ton of calcium-rich veggies to get what we could get from a cup or two of raw milk and some butter. I really hope to get back to raw dairy later this year, if it seems like Kiddo1 can handle it, but until then I guess we’ll just have to really try to get enough veggies. A calcium supplement would be nice, but per #2 above we probably won’t be able to absorb much of it since it will have to be from a synthetic source that does not contain the casein and whey protein that we’re avoiding. (And yes, raw dairy is safe, not scary, contains way more good stuff than pastured, which removes the good and has to be fortified with vitamins… but I digress.)

Overall, this book gives me great hope for the future of our dental health. There are TONS of reviews out there from people who have taken on the Cure Tooth Decay protocol and have seen cavities harden over, dental pain disappear, and dentists who are shocked and amazed at the results from diet and hygiene changes. I’m slowly starting to implement some of these tools with my family – Kiddo1 and I have been taking fermented cod liver oil for a few weeks now and the occasional complaint from him about a sore tooth has gone away. Once he switches up his hygiene routine (it’s taking some convincing) I think he’ll be in even better shape.

Book Review: Long Way on a Little

Recently we changed our source for meat so we’re getting pastured-raised chicken, pork, and beef (and a duck, too!). The chicken was an easy switch, but the pork and beef were, admittedly, not so great. They were turning out kind of rubbery and gamey-tasting. Mr. Handsome said the beef tasted a little like lamb, which he thinks tastes like rotting beef. So there was room for improvement I guess.

I also didn’t understand a few things about our new meats. Why does this meat always come frozen? Why is it more expensive if the cows are just eating grass? Why isn’t it tasting as good as people say pastured animals taste?

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Luckily I bought this copy because the pages are already splattered with cooking grease!

Enter, “Long Way on a Little,” my meat savior. I got this book because I really enjoyed Shannon Hayes’s other book, “Radical Homemakers,” and I was interested in learning about reducing our meat expenses. The book did not disappoint! I have learned so much. And it was a super quick read.

Turns out there are very simple explanations for why pastured meat is sold frozen. There are much more complex reasons for why pastured meat is more expensive, including government subsidies of conventional meat production (and other types of farming). And the reason why my pastured meats weren’t tasting great is because I was cooking them wrong!

“Long Way on a Little” is packed full of recipes for all the parts of cows and pigs, as well as lamb and whole chickens and ducks (there’s also a great explanation on why farms sell chickens whole and why we should buy them whole!). I’ve learned about “super slow roasting” my meats as well.

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Super slow roasted chuck, the best roast I’ve ever tasted!

This photo is of a 7 bone chuck roast I scored from our food buying club (more on that in another post) that I roasted in the oven at 170 degrees (I later found out that my oven goes all the way down to 140 degrees if I use the warming feature, so I’ll be doing a lot of slow roasting now!). It took about three hours to cook up to 135 – the book also explains why lower internal temperatures are not only better for pastured meats but also way more safe than the same temperatures with conventional meat.

I’ve already made three recipes from this book and I can’t wait to try more. I’m very interested lately in finding ways to use the entire animal that we purchase. With whole chickens we’ve been making bone broth, but I’d love to start using the fat from the beef and pork cuts to make tallow and lard. Luckily the methods are outlined very clearly in this book, so I’m sure I’ll be making productive use of all those “leftovers” soon. I’ve got a bunch of fat leftover from the roast that is just sitting in the fridge waiting for me to render!

I love this book very much, I highly recommend it. The pork medallions recipe from this book is the one that Kiddo1 loved a few nights ago. So it even gets his stamp of approval!

The next book up for review is “Making Home” by Sharon Astyk.

 

 

Book Review: Radical Homemakers

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these! I have been reading since the last book review, I swear! Not as much as I’d like to, of course. Kiddo1 and I did have a reading contest last month. We raced each other – I read “The Book Thief” and he read “Divergent,” then we switched books. I finished “The Book Thief” first, but now he’s nearly done with the whole “Divergent” series and I haven’t even started the first book yet!

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My copy, which is quickly becoming worn!

In my defense, though, I’ve been distracted by homesteading-type books. This was the first one I read and let me tell you, if you need a motivator to start becoming a productive household, “Radical Homemakers” by Shannon Hayes is probably a good place to start.

I was reading this book when I started writing again last week. I’m sure its influences are in the articulation of my goal. Shannon makes a very compelling argument for homemaking. I’m sure her thesis has appeared in my posts about my goal, so I won’t go into the details of why she thinks homemaking is a critical art that should be cultivated.

The fascinating part of her argument, to me, comes in the evolution of human thought that she points out. Our society has gone from being very home-centered, when accomplishment of domestic tasks really did influence ones very survival, to the industrial revolution and the beginning of abandoning the home, the rise of convenience appliances and foods alongside the rise of “housewife syndrome” in the 60’s, the shunning of domestic tasks with the first wave of feminism, and on and on. It’s funny how one thing, like how Darwin described the roles of women and men in evolution, could so greatly alter how the vast majority of people view the sexes. She has some really great history lessons like these all through the book. I find them so interesting!

Shannon also shares profiles of a bunch of families she has interviewed as part of her research. I love reading real stories about others who have started to blaze a trail to homemaking. This book kind of reminded me of Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, with its second half full of birth stories. That book was very inspirational to me in pursing natural childbirth, and so I find “Radical Homemakers” to be very inspirational in pursing my new goal!

Apparently people have found this book to be controversial. That opinion could be prompted by the author’s disdain for corporate culture. It could be her opinions on feminism or maybe even her interpretation of history, But I found myself nodding along with just about everything in this book so I didn’t find it too controversial! I found myself wanting to be friends with Shannon Hayes, so I can learn everything she knows! She does address some of the controversy in this interview, which I also found extremely interesting!

This is a great book if you’re at all pondering issues of how we got to this modern life, or if you have any interest in homemaking. Next time I’ll review another of Shannon Hayes’s books, “Long Way on a Little.”