Is Stress the Primary Cause of Gum Disease?
This week we’d like to step back and take a broad view to find what may be the primary undermining factor that keeps each of us from living our fullest life possible with an optimized immune expression.
After all, without an immune system humming along in good rhythm, chronic infections like gum disease can continue to grow and undermine the health of our entire body.
We often talk about how we approach gum disease from a ‘two prong’ approach…
addressing the issue ‘locally’ via ‘in the mouth’ strategies and
addressing the issue ‘broadly’ via ‘system-wide immune support’ strategies
While in the mouth strategies like oil pulling, conscious flossing, and what order you brush, floss and swish are important, today let’s turn our attention toward an often overlooked foundation…
A strong, resilient, vital, and balanced immune response.
Without a strong ‘whole body’ strategy in place, any strategies we apply in the mouth will only provide temporary benefits. If we want to reach that ‘place’ where we are no longer ’suitable hosts’ for the opportunistic thug bugs implicated with gum disease, we must address oral health from a system-wide approach too.
Interestingly, since our approach is very strongly rooted in holistic principles (aka that the body/being is one system and we cannot treat the parts individually) even many of the ‘in the mouth’ strategies we suggest also benefit our immune response.
The Primary Pillar to Optimal Health
While much of the health internet (including us) tend to point out that nutrition plays a foundational role in living an optimally vital life, we find that health psychology is even more central to expressing optimal health.
You’ve probably experienced some stress around trying to eat well.
Questions like wondering if the foods you choose for you and your family are best for you all can provoke stressful thoughts. If we habitually stress out that our diet isn’t perfect, we’re still causing stress (inflammation) in the system which will undermine our ability to be optimally healthy.
And, as we all know, stressing about food is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things we can stress about, right?
The bottom line, we must manage our stress levels and cultivate healthy psychology as a daily habit, or we are going to fall short of our potential genetic expression of health and vitality.
Not surprisingly, the scientific literature is awash in studies proving that stress makes gum disease and periodontal disease worse.
Yes, stress indeed helps us grow. That’s the way the principle of ‘Use it or Lose it’ works. We have to stress a muscle to make it stronger, challenge our memory to keep it sharp, and regularly stretch if we want to maintain flexibility.
The stress we’re referring to here however is the chronic stress (that is very manageable by the way) that’s born from how we respond to life.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters…
The Greek philosopher Epictetus stated, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
It’s not what happens to each of us. It’s how we react to what happens to us that determines whether we freak out and cause damage to our health or can let the changing winds of life pass by without taking up arms about what just happened.
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of being in such a great mood that when something that would have normally gotten under your skin happened, because of your great mood, you were able to laugh it off. That’s the power of a healthy relationship with stress. That’s the central importance of our ability to manage stress healthily to optimally express our genetic capacity of health and vitality.
But what about all the other times when we’re not already in the ‘good graces’ of an awesome mood?
What can we do to manage our reaction to life?
It turns out that there’s quite a lot we can do.
Count your blessings.
We all know how good we feel when we ‘wake up and remember that we don’t have to stress out. Stopping to count the blessings in our lives is a very powerful way to shift from a place of stress to a peaceful place.
Making a habit of counting our blessings not only supports our oral health but is such a gift to anyone who witnesses that intentional cultivation of a life well-lived. Not only do we give to ourselves with the habit of counting our blessings, but our habit ripples out waves of peace, calm, and good feelings into the lives of others around us.
When angry, take 3 breaths.
The physiological benefits of deep breathing span every single system in our bodies.
However, it doesn’t count to quickly snort 3 breaths so you can ‘get them over with’ and maintain the stressed-out state! Pause, turn your attention within, and take three conscious breaths.
If you want to supercharge your stress shifting attitude, try silently repeating to yourself ‘This too shall pass’ while taking those breaths.
Mentally step back from the stressful situation.
A good friend and mentor of ours taught us many years ago to mentally step back from the current whatever we’re choosing to be all stressed about and see how in the grand scheme, it’s a rather insignificant situation we’re choosing to stress over.
Taking a mental step back helps to reframe the situation and provide the very beneficial ‘distance’ to be able to put the stress into its rightful ‘insignificant’ place.
So, while most of our writing is on the details of how to navigate to greater oral health, let’s remember to keep in perspective the primary factors that either contribute to or undermine our ability to optimize our immune response.
How about you? What do you do to manage your stress levels? What would you like to do more regularly to better support yourself? How have you found that managing your stress more effectively has helped you live a healthier, happier life?
And, if you have active periodontal disease and you’d like to learn about a kit that can help you address periodontal disease-causing microbes from the comfort of your own home, you can read about our HealThy Mouth System here.
We hope this helps you along your path to optimal oral (and whole being) health!