Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Anti-Nutrient: Phytic Acid & Dental Decay

Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that is found in the outer layer of grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and tubers. Its principle purpose is that of phosphorus storage for the the future plant (phosphorus we can't utilize). Traditional cultures carefully soak, grind and ferment many of these foods in order to minimize the phytic acid and other anti-nutrients. I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that the foods we are buying in the grocery store today are not prepared for us in this manner.

The reason we need to worry about phytic acid is that it binds to minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Deficiencies can lead to all sorts of problems over time: low magnesium with insulin sensitivity, calcium deficiency with osteoporosis, and low calcium and phosphorus levels with dental decay. It is this last point I find particularly interesting.

A study by May Mellanby and C. Lee Pattison, linked a diet high in cereals and low in vitamin D to cavities and decay back in 1932. Vitamin D is important because it allows our digestive tract to absorb the minerals needed for the health of our teeth and bones. Too much phytic acid in our diet means there may be a lack of minerals to prevent tooth decay.

In 2009, on my quest for health, my husband and I tried becoming vegetarian. Naturally, our diet included a lot of grains, nuts, seeds, beans and tubers. Neither of us felt well being vegetarian and so we put meat back on the menu a few months later. However, I continued to eat a lot of grains until a short while ago.

I visit the dentist annually, and when I went last June, I was astonished to find that I had developed eight cavities in just one year - eight! My dentist's explanation was genetics and, I do believe that is a contributing factor. But, eight? We eat well in our household. We don't eat junk or processed foods. I brush and floss daily. This has been one of those unexplained mysteries that has been nagging at me, until recently.

I realize now that I must have been ingesting copious amounts of phytic acid in my diet - no wonder so many of my teeth were in decay. I strongly believe that our mouths are a window to our health, and I feel fortunate to have had that early warning.

Today, we eat no grains, limited seeds and legumes, and I'm working hard to cut out the nuts and tubers from our diet. On a positive note, early dental decay can be reversed with the right diet (low or no cereals and high in vitamin D). I hope to see better results at my next dental visit.

Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon

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