On the effects of fasting on the health of teeth and gums
Dr. Herbert Shelton book extract
Following are some interesting observations on the effects of fasting on the health of teeth and gums made by eminent naturopath Dr. Herbert Shelton in his book "Fasting and Sunbathing". Dr. Shelton is one of the most notable and prolific figureheads of the Natural Hygiene movement and healing system who personally supervised many thousands of therapeutic fasts. While his observations point to a (sometimes dramatically) beneficial effect of fasting on decayed teeth and diseased gums, the reader's attention is also drawn to this personal observation indicating that at least occasionally, a (badly) self-conducted fast could possibly damage tooth enamel. Here is Dr. Shelton in his own words, extracted from "Fasting and Sunbathing".
Teeth are specialized bones and are subject to the same laws of nutrition as other bones of the body. In certain quarters it is claimed that fasting ruins the teeth. The claim is not true and no one with a knowledge of fasting makes it. No evidence exists that there is any loss to the bones or teeth during a fast. There is an apparent decrease in the amount of organic matter in the teeth of starved rabbits, but the teeth of these animals grow continuously throughout life, and Prof. Morgulis suggests that this decrease may be due simply to a deficiency of building material.
Jackson says: "Like the skeleton, the teeth appear very resistant to inanition. In total inanition, or on water alone, the teeth in adults show no appreciable change in weight or structure."
There is no truth in the notion that fasting injures the teeth. On the contrary, repeated tests and experiments in the laboratory have shown that the bones and teeth are uninjured by prolonged fasting.
I have conducted thousands of fasts and I have never seen any injury accrue to the teeth therefrom. No one makes a trip to the dentist after a fast who would not have gone there had the fast not been taken. Mr. Pearson records that at the end of his fast, "teeth with black cavities became white and clear, all decay seemed to be arrested by the fast, and there was no more toothache."
The only effects upon the teeth which I have observed to occur during a fast are improvements. I have seen teeth that were loose in their sockets become firmly fixed while fasting. I have seen diseased gums heal up while fasting. But I have never, at any time, observed any injurious effects upon the teeth during or after a fast, regardless of the age of the faster and the duration of the fast. This applies only to good teeth. Fasting does sometimes cause fillings to become loose.
Although I have always regarded the loosening of fillings in teeth as due to the extraction of the salts of the bad teeth, some of my students have brought up the question: Is the loss of the filling due to an effort of Nature to dislodge a foreign body preparatory to healing the tooth? This question is worthy of study.
Jackson points out that the teeth are "especially susceptible to rickets and scurvy" and that in both animals and man, there are slight changes in chemical composition, especially in chronic (incomplete) inanition. In the young, such inanition may delay the process of dentition, but persistent growth and development of the teeth (as of the skeleton) occur in young rabbits held at a constant body weight by underfeeding.
"The effects of partial inanition have been studied in rickets and in scurvy. In both human and animal rickets there is delayed and abnormal dentition. Both enamel and dentine may be defective and imperfectly calcified."
Without additional quotations about the effects of deficient diets (partial inanition) upon the teeth in rickets and in scurvy, let us point out that dentists who have studied the effects of inadequate and deficient diets upon the teeth and do not know that fasting does not produce the same results as such diets are likely to conclude that fasting injures the teeth. Indeed, there is a tendency in all who study the effects of dietary inadequacies and deficiencies to run away from fasting; for, they reason, "if a defective diet produces such undesirable results, no food at all should produce much worse results." They are blissfully unaware that fasting not only does not produce any of the so-called deficiency "diseases," but that it is actually beneficial in every one of them.
Dr. Jackson says that: "In scurvy, the gums are markedly congested and swollen in about 80 per cent of adult human cases [...]". The alveolar bone and peridental membrane undergoes necrosis, with consequent loosening of the teeth, and ulcerations or pyorrhea may occur.
In pyorrhea we see inflammation and ulceration of the gums, pus formation, loosening of the teeth, necrosis of the jaw, and even falling out of the teeth. In numerous cases of pyorrhea that we have cared for, the gum inflammation has subsided, the ulcers have healed, pus formation has ceased and the loosened teeth have become firmly fixed in their sockets, and all of this has occurred while the patient was fasting. The effects of fasting must not be confused with the effects of a white-flour-lard-pie-pasteurized-milk-mashed-potato-diet.
Not only do such conditions not develop during even a prolonged fast, but they are improved and many of their symptoms completely removed by a fast. This remarkable evidence of the value of fasting is explained by the fact that there is a disproportionate loss of the various constituent elements of the body during the fast and a redistribution of some of these, which results in a near approach to normal body chemistry.
It is quite probable that it is much easier for the body to secure and utilize its mineral reserves during a fast than on a onesided diet. Several years ago, Prof. Forster, of München, who made experiments upon fasting animals and animals fed on mineral-free diets and found that animals fed on mineral-free diets died quicker than animals not fed at all, explained that if no food is eaten the body is nourished on itself and, consequently, a supply of mineral is obtained from the broken down tissues, but if the body is nourished on foods freed of their organic salts, there is no demand made upon the tissues for albumen and carbohydrates and so no minerals are derived from the broken down tissue.
The body possesses a reserve from which, in emergency, it may, for a time, draw the required minerals, vitamins and other elements. Animals fed on demineralized foods are compelled to expend their reserves in two directions--(1) in the regular processes of life; and (2) in balancing up the mineral-poor foods they are consuming--while animals deprived of all foods (fasting) are forced to expend their reserves only in carrying on the ordinary (though somewhat reduced) processes of life. The reserves of the fasting animal last much longer and the body's chemical balance is also maintained.
We know, of course, that the body fed on a denatured diet, is capable of extracting minerals from its own tissues, but its mineral reserve is never great enough to meet the constant demands made upon it by a mineral-free diet. The mineral-free diet exhausts these reserves very rapidly. During a fast no such demand is made upon the body's mineral reserves. The body's vitamin and complettin reserves, supposed to be stored in the liver and a few other internal organs, are also exhausted much more quickly on a deficient diet than on a fast.
Experiments with deficient diets must be carried out over sufficiently long periods of time to exhaust the body's possibilities of self-help before the effects of the diet can be seen. Its own reserves must first be exhausted before the deficiency will begin to be manifest. However, when a nitrogen-free diet is given the body, it is forced to draw upon its own stores for material. We know that under these circumstances the most important elements are vigorously retained by the body and an intensive nitrogen hunger is induced. The ability to utilize nitrogen is actually improved.
During fasting the same retention of the most important constituents of the body's stored material takes place even more efficiently than when on an inadequate diet. For, while the fast compels the body to draw upon its reserves, the denatured or unbalanced diets draw excessively upon certain of these stores and compel their more rapid utilization. Indeed, the more of the elements supplied by the diet are given, the greater is the demand made upon the stored material not supplied by the diet. It is largely for this reason that death can be produced quicker by a diet of white flour, or white sugar, or meat soup, etc., than by starvation. During the fast the body can regulate the expenditure of its stored materials in its own best interest and can conserve these in such a manner as to make them hold out longest. On a denatured diet, the demand for stored material is such that this regulation is impossible. The stored reserves are soon exhausted by those elements contained in the diet and become as denatured, or inadequate, or unbalanced, or deficient as the diet itself.
There is more malnutrition due to overfeeding with an embargo on assimilation than to underfeeding. More often there is a loss of power to assimilate special elements than an absence of them in the diet.
Animal experimentation1 has shown that when animals are fed mineral-free diets their nervous systems suffer most of all. Nervousness, weak and uncertain movements and fits of madness develop as a result of such diets. On the other hand, the nervous system suffers least of all (almost none at all) in animals that are given no food of any kind, except water, until they die of starvation. This marked difference between the effects of fasting, even of starvation, and the effects of deficient diets may be seen in man if we contrast a case of beri-beri (multiple neuritis) or of pellagra with a man who has fasted forty, fifty or sixty days. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the terrible drain upon the body's mineral reserves caused by the deficient diet than such a contrast.
1 Not supported by Healing Teeth Naturally, for the reasons click here.
2 Interestingly, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl somewhat confirmed this observation in his book "Man's Search for Meaning". He wrote about his time in the concentration camps, "I would like to mention a few similar surprises on how much we could endure: we were unable to clean our teeth, and yet, in spite of that and a severe vitamin deficiency, we had healthier gums than ever before." (Thank you,Jen, for the quote)