Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chapter 16: Primitive Control of Dental Caries

Continuing my review of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price...

In the first paragraph of chapter 16 we read:
We are concerned now with discovering whether the use of foods, which are equivalent in body-building and repairing material to those used by the primitives will, when provided to our affected modernized groups, prevent tooth decay or check it when it is active. p.253
!! What ?? He's now going to tell us if we can stop tooth decay by the food we eat? Yup.

Price has categorized the dietaries of the primitive peoples he studied:
  1. Dairy (high Alps Swiss, Arabs, certain Asians)
  2. Animal organs and eggs (North American interior natives, Andean tribes)
  3. Seafood (Islanders, coastal peoples)
  4. Small animals and insects (Aborigines, African interior tribes)
Each group he observed used foods from two or more sources, and the sources don't really matter - only the adequacy of the minerals and vitamins present in those sources are important.  He writes that we should obviously focus on foods near us, but understands that "It would be fortunate indeed, if our problems were as simple as this statement might indicate." (p.254) He then lists three problems to overcome:
  1. Strength of character and will power to eat what our bodies need rather than the foods that we like.
  2. Sedentary lifestyle of the modern = little energy needs and little hunger.
  3. Nutritional content of food.
To the first problem, I have no answer... It seems that each of us must struggle with our own character and listen to our own bodies. Perhaps we can find good ways to support one another in this struggle. I am surprised that in 1939 he wrote that 25% of the energy of the North American diet was supplied by sugar. (p.256) As our diet has changed over the past few years, Susan and I have noticed a change how "sweets" taste to us.... they're easier and easier to resist.... but not entirely, yet.

The second problem is an interesting one, and perhaps we live in a time when more people on earth are sedentary than ever before. Each person controls what they do during their day. Bodily movements, while perhaps subtle, are one of the most important aspects of "exercise". While I pity someone with a desk job, I, too have had such jobs in the past and found a simple way to overcome the lack of movement: walking to work and sometimes hiking on weekends.

The third problem is one I am trying to solve in my work. As I work with my animals and plants, I am seeking to improve the soil (and thus the nutrient content of my food) based on what I see working in nature. This relates back to chapter 15 and the quote about wild animals having perfect health. That's what I want to replicate in my farming. That means rebuilding the nutrition of the soil.

Price mentions that drying foods better preserves the vitamin content than canning. While in the past we haven't done a lot of canning, this advice might keep us from investing too much in canning equipment and have me build a solar food dehydrator instead.

He writes a bit about what he did to improve his patients' diets and seemed to universally recommend butter oil and cod liver oil, a 1/2 teaspoon 3 times per day. He believes that they are more powerful when given together. For certain these are nutrient dense foods, but it seems to me that those who live near the sea did not have dairy, and those who had dairy did not live near the sea. At any rate, it is a reparation formula for nutritionally deficient moderns, not a part of the diet of primitive peoples.

So was his program of nutrition for his patients successful? If one can believe what he writes, it was:
Clinical data demonstrate that by following the program outlined dental caries can be prevented or controlled when active in practically all individuals. This does not require either permission or prescription but it is the inherent right of every individual. p.271 
 The last part of this quote is the second to last sentence in the chapter, and it speaks to me on several levels. Simply, it is an empowering statement and a radical idea, coming from a man who's living was earned "fixing teeth". Teeth fixers earn they're living from people with bad teeth, not perfect ones. Why was he so eager to have people fix their teeth and prevent dental problems? I think the answer lies in his love of humanity. In all of his writing I feel that he loves the idea of humans living in a natural state and eating natural, local foods - and he recognizes that this possible perfection comes not from commerce, but as an "inherent right."

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