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#18 – When ALS is Actually Mercury Toxicity, Westin A. Price, Ancestral Eating, and Why Good Health Begins in the Mouth with Dr. Stuart M. Nunnally, DDS

Today our guest is Dr. Stuart Nunnally, DDS, a biologic dentist practicing in Marble Falls, Texas. Dr. Nunnally is chairman of the jawbone osteonecrosis committee of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. He holds fellowships in the Academy of General Dentistry and in the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. Dr. Nunnally is board certified in naturopathic medicine and is board certified in integrative biologic dental medicine. In today’s episode we discuss Dr. Nunnally’s experience with mercury toxicity and how heavy metals mimicked ALS symptoms after removing dental amalgams exposed Dr. Nunnally to high levels of mercury vapors for years. Dr. Nunnally also discusses the myriad ways oral health impacts on overall health, including his view on root canals, and how his work has been influenced by the work of the late Weston A. Price.

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This Episode Covers:

  • The ALS like symptoms that Dr. Nunnally developed prior to heavy metals diagnosis [5:00];
  • What it’s like to believe you have ALS / impact on family [9:00];
  • How Dr. Nunnally discovered he did not have ALS / lab tests he ran and how he detoxed [13:30];
  • How to deal with mercury amalgams [21:30];
  • How the work of Westin A. Price still resonates today and the power of ancestral eating [33:00];
  • Dr. Nunnally’s preferred cholesterol range [35:00];
  • More ancestral eating [42:00];

Discussion

This blog post on dental amalgams contains a good rundown of the studies that have looked at mercury fillings and how they can impact on human health.

Transcript:

Dr. Nunnally: Now that we have the entire genome mapped, we know that some people have snips in there, which makes them much less able to detoxify. And when you’re in that category as I am, then you have the potential for the mercury to sneak up on you. There’s no real barrier to mercury. It passes the placental barrier or it passes the blood-brain barrier. It has no barrier whatsoever. Mercury is a very insidious mineral.

John: Welcome to the “Gene Food Podcast.” I’m your host, John O’Connor. Hey, everyone, before we get into today’s episode, I wanna remind you that we have our genetic test kits available for purchase on our website. We just launched those last week. We give you access to over 120 genetic markers linked to nutrition like ApoE4, histamine clearance, carbohydrate scouring. We even have a cannabis weed, alcohol, and caffeine metabolism portion of the test, so a lot of information in those tests. If you don’t have 23andMe, and you’re looking for a genetics angle for your nutrition in the new year, check out our test kits. We’re proud of the product, and we think that you will find value in them. Listeners to the podcast can get 15% off of kits with the coupon code podcast GF. With that little plug out of the way, today we’re really excited to bring you Dr. Stuart Nunnally, who is a biologic dentist in Texas Hill Country outside of Austin in Marble Falls. Dr. Nunnally is somebody who sees patients not only in Texas but from all over the world. He’s one of the best known and respected dentists in the country, and his practice focuses on integrative care, biologic dentistry, and treating the whole person.

He has a very, very, very heroic story whereby he thought he had developed Lou Gehrig’s disease, otherwise known as ALS, which was actually mercury toxicity, and we talk about his journey towards getting rid of the mercury in his body and achieving a state of health after a long struggle with that issue. We also talk about how dental health plays a role in comprehensive health. I think you probably may have heard, but what’s happening in your mouth has a big impact on what’s happening in your body. And we get into studies that have been done by Weston A. Price that prove that and just kind of talk generally about how we can optimize our oral health to improve our overall health. So, without further ado, we’re excited to bring you, Dr. Nunnally. Dr. Nunnally.

Dr. Nunnally: Hi, John.

John: Hey. It’s good to… Do you remember me? I came in your office that one time.

Dr. Nunnally: Yeah.

John: If you do, then you have an incredible memory. Yeah.

Dr. Nunnally: I do remember you. I do remember you. Yeah. I remember your voice distinctly.

John: Wow. Really?

Dr. Nunnally: Nice to hear your voice.

John: Yeah. It’s good to hear from you too. It’s such a lovely part of the country. I just love the people in Texas and in Austin. And even in your neck of the woods which, would you say you’re Texas Hill Country?

Dr. Nunnally: We are.

John: Yeah. Okay.

Dr. Nunnally: We’re an hour west of Austin, which puts us right in the hill country.

John: Yeah. And I remember coming into your office. It was by far the most pleasant and positive experience I’ve ever had at a dentist. That’s for sure.

Dr. Nunnally: Oh, well, thank you.

John: So how have you been? How are things in Marble Falls and Texas in general?

Dr. Nunnally: Good.

John: Are you guys seeing the growth move out that way or is it maintaining it’s kind of more small town still vibe?

Dr. Nunnally: You know, both. It’s still a great little town, but we have been discovered, no question, and there are a lot of people who like to, you know, move out our way and then maybe commute into work. It’s a bedroom community in some ways, but, you know, it still is a wonderful kind of retirement area. And my wife and I have lived here for all our lives, and we think it’s greater now than ever, so just a good spot.

John: It’s a beautiful spot. I can remember driving out from Austin. You know, you kind of get those winding hill country roads, and it’s just got that real beautiful feel, but there’s, you know, you hit the towns as you go. It’s great. Oh, cool. So, I wanted to have you on. You know, it’s funny. I saw you listed on an ALS conference website. I believe is how… And I was like, “Wow, that’s crazy.” I knew that Dr. Nunnally…you know, I know that your practice is sought after by patients not only in Texas but you see patients from all around the world. But I was surprised to see you on, as a speaker at an ALS conference. Can you tell the audience a little bit about how that came to pass and your experience with those symptoms?

Dr. Nunnally: Well, yeah. It was such a privilege to be at that conference. You know, let’s see. 18 years ago about this very time, I began to have symptoms that certainly mimicked ALS symptoms. They started as really intense cramping in my legs. I was still a quite competitive triathlete at the time, and I developed these cramps in my legs that were very uncharacteristic of the types of cramps I’d had before. And usually I could run through most any cramp, but this was not, this was atypical. So at any rate, the cramps got worse, and they spread throughout my body and even began to sort of debilitate me in my ability to work. My hands would cramp. And then my legs, in particular, began to fasciculate. A fasciculating muscle is one that you can see twitch. All of us have fasciculating muscles from time to time usually around our eyes will have little twitching muscles occasionally. But this was also very uncharacteristic. All the muscles in my body from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head were fasciculating like a Christmas tree.

John: Wow.

Dr. Nunnally: It’s such a bizarre thing and so fatiguing when your muscles are twitching like that constantly. And so I began to see a neurologist, and one thing led to another. Actually weeks and weeks of testing and finally I was referred to the Lou Gehrig Center in Houston. And I think all of us, especially me, thinking I had ALS, which made matters worse. I didn’t have ALS. I had a mercury toxicity issue. But as a result of that whole experience, actually, I went to Montreal for treatment thinking at the time I had ALS, and it turned out that my mercury levels were about the high, well they’re by far the highest I’ve ever seen since. Oh, that’s one of the hallmark symptoms of heavy metal toxicity, especially mercury toxicity, is twitching muscles and cramping muscles. And it looked very much like ALS, but fortunately, it was not. But as a result of that…so over the last 18 to 20 years, I’ve seen many, many…most of the patients I see either have an autoimmune disease, some kind of degenerative disease or cancer. So, we do a whole lot of therapies that you wouldn’t normally expect in a dental office because we see all of these unique folks who oftentimes have very bizarre symptoms. Nobody can quite put their finger on it, and sometimes finally, their physician or their naturopath or some healthcare provider will say, “Well, maybe this is related to your teeth.” That’s what happened, and that’s why I was speaking at that ALS conference because I see a lot of ALS patients and, of course, other patients with other autoimmune diseases, and dentistry certainly impacts our immune system. So, when you , whenever you have ALS or any other degenerative disease, you want your immune system to be functioning in tip-top shape. So, a lot of times, I’m kind of the last man on the totem pole, you know, for patients to see, and we do everything we can to detoxify them from an oral standpoint, which helps systemically.

John: Yeah. There’s a lot to get into there. I wanna touch on a lot of these immune system issues here in a minute, but back to your story. So, what’s going through your mind? So for a period of time there, you’ve resolved yourself to the idea that you have ALS, which for people that aren’t familiar is Lou Gehrig’s disease. That’s a neurodegenerative autoimmune condition, correct?

Dr. Nunnally: Correct, it is.

John: How did you deal with that in the time that you had sort of convinced yourself or where it looked like this was the issue you were dealing with? What were those days and weeks like for you?

Dr. Nunnally: Oh, those were sad times. You know, my children were still in school, still living at home. Oh, honestly, I can remember times when my wife and I cried ourselves to sleep. I married my high school sweetheart, and we’ve had this incredible marriage. It’s hard to believe we still live in the town we grew up in and in the home that Rebecca grew up in. You know, we’re kind of clannish, and we love this little community we live in, and, of course, both of us have been very active in the community. And it was just a terribly sad time, and I learned so much through that though, John. It’s turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in my life, honestly. I learned so much. One was, if you believe you have a disease, it’s just about as bad as if you do have it. You can bring the symptoms on, and you can make it worse by… The mind is so powerful. It’s amazing how powerful it is, and words are so powerful. As you know, when a physician comes in, especially one that you respect, and says, you know, “You have this or that,” boy, howdy, those words are powerful, and you can hang on to them, and before you know it, you’re in the throes of the disease that you maybe don’t really have. So, that was a powerful lesson for me. I learned that, and I’m able to share that with my patients oftentimes because, when we get in these degenerative disease states, it’s very hard for people to see themselves getting well again. And I love to share with them my story and how when I finally got it through my head, “Do you know what? I believe I can get well,” it was a huge turning point in my journey back to health. That’s what happened.

The days when I were in the throes of believing that I had ALS were often very sad days, but I will have to say my wife and good friends here came along beside me. That was huge. That’s another interesting thing to getting well. When I see patients who are out there trying to do it on their own, it’s a very…that’s a difficult place to be. When they’ve got a good support group, good family, people who are helping them, oh, that’s so much better. It’s so much easier to get well. And then my faith sustained me, John. I don’t back away from telling people I’m a Christian, and I’m just telling you, the Lord sustained me. And I have dear friends who are virtually every faith. I’m just saying, you have to…in my opinion, if you’re in especially a diseased state where things look so bleak, I can’t imagine facing that without having a strong belief in God. Those are the things. My belief in God and my relationships with my wife especially and my friends really did sustain me.

John: Yes. Basically sticking to the foundational pillars of your life, you know, as you built it just leaning back on that and letting that stand and carry you through that. That’s so cool. And then, you come to this point where you…the kind of the clouds part and you realize that you don’t indeed have ALS, which is incredible. Was that a diagnostic tool? Did you think of it on your own or who suggested that you be tested for metals and then assuming the metals came back off the charts and it was kind of…almost like a reprieve, I would imagine?

Dr. Nunnally: Well, the metals did come back. We did, of course, blood, hair, and urine tests. I had several different alternative practitioners do that. To tell you the truth, 18 years ago, it was not that easy to find someone who really practiced integratively. I found a wonderful MD in West Texas who was practicing integratively, and he ran the tests for me and suggested it. I’m glad he did because he sent that data to the largest testing laboratory in the U.S. And they called to say, “Who is this guy? How on earth could he have this much mercury in him?”

John: Wow. Which lab is that, Dr. Nunnally?

Dr. Nunnally: It was Doctor’s Data in Chicago, which I think is probably the largest lab for testing metals in the world. So, you know, interestingly enough, I hadn’t put a mercury filling in in 20 years when I got sick, but I had, I did the first two years after I graduated from dental school. I knew better, but I did it. And then the thing about it is I took no precautions for all those years when I was removing mercury fillings for myself. I and my staff were sitting in this little mercury vapor fog.

John: Oh, that’s… Okay.

Dr. Nunnally: Yeah. I’d just been sitting there breathing those vapors for all those years and finally it had overwhelmed me, caught up with me.

John: I got you.

Dr. Nunnally: You know, dentists have a terrible track record in terms of neurological issues. We rank number one in just about every category in terms neurological poor health. So, that’s what happened.

John: Interesting. And so this was an issue where it’s time to now get this metal out of your system. And what did your healing journey look like? I know as I’ve read some of the materials on your website and prepared for the show, it sounds like you made sweating a priority, you know, different types of nutraceuticals. When did you start to realize that you were recovering and you were seeing your body? How did you do it?

Dr. Nunnally: Well, to tell you the truth, I kind of moped around for a while. I was delighted to not have ALS, but I had been running pretty hard in every aspect of my life. You know, I’d been running a dental practice, and I had lots of things going on here in my community and kids and lots of obligations. So, here it was. Things came to a halt. I mean, I didn’t even set foot back in my office for six weeks after I’d been to Montreal and after I’d been to Houston, the ALS Center, to finally get this mercury toxicity diagnosis. And I just felt…even though I was very relieved to not have ALS, it still looked like, “Man, how am I gonna get out of this thing?” Especially when my left side was not working very well and had very little stamina. But things started to get better. I did. I bought an infrared sauna and put that in my garage, got it big enough for my wife and me to get in there at the same time so we can at least talk. And I started getting in there every day, and finally after probably, I think it was probably over a month getting in every day. I finally broke a sweat. I had lost my ability to sweat.

John: Really?

Dr. Nunnally: Mm-hmm.

John: Even when exercising?

Dr. Nunnally: Yes. And it’s very interesting. A heavy metal toxicity sometimes will inhibit your ability to sweat, and it interferes with the enzymes in such a way that you just lose your ability. And I did. It took me for, a long time to finally break a sweat, and that was a huge part of my healing. So, I got in that infrared sauna daily. You know, there are some…a few keys for your listeners to sauna. You never wanna stay in a sauna to the point where you’re exhausted. You wanna break a sweat, towel it off, and then get in a shower and rinse it off so you don’t reabsorb the toxins. But you never wanna stay in there to the point where you have to be helped out where you’re that fatigued. And you always wanna stay well hydrated when you’re in there as well, have some water with you. So, I did that. That was very helpful. I did a bag of vitamin C, B once a month for several years. Vitamin C is not a chelator, but it amps up our glutathione levels. And that is a fabulous chelatr for mercury. Glutathione is what God put in us to chelate heavy metals. So, I did that.

John: But, Dr. Nunnally, let me stop you right there. I just wanna ask you. What is your opinion on just doing the intravenous glutathione directly? Why did you decide to do the vitamin C route and not the glutathione? Because I know a lot of people are very into glutathione IVs.

Dr. Nunnally: Yes. And I think glutathione IVs have their place. They certainly do, but they’re fairly short-lived. So vitamin C helps restore the body’s own glutathione to a state where it can receive the metals. And I think it’s quite frankly great just to give the body the building blocks to build your own glutathione, you know.

John: Very cool. Yeah.

Dr. Nunnally: That’s what I did. I had always had a fairly clean diet because I was trying to be a competitive triathlete, but I really got it clean. We went to, you know, strictly organic grass-fed beef at least when we were eating at home, which was most of the time. And all of those things played a role, and finally, at about year three and a half, I was able to jog again. And now I’m back 100%. I can’t even tell you how, what a fabulous ride it’s been, John. I’m so grateful.

John: Yeah. It’s such a cool story. And there are people out there publicly discussing the problems that can come from mercury and how mercury does mask other disease states. You know, it’s funny. I don’t know if you know Tony Robbins, the kind of the self-help guru?

Dr. Nunnally: Sure.

John: He’s been pretty public talking about how he was eating a diet that was very high in swordfish, and he started developing this kind of, you know, mental, you know, muscular kind of issues, and was tested for mercury, and his levels were off the chart as well.

Dr. Nunnally: Oh, yes.

John: And so it kind of comes back to you. In your case, you have this issue because professionally, you’re helping people remove amalgams, mercury amalgams that used to be used commonly as fillings in cavities I believe, correct?

Dr. Nunnally: Correct. Yeah.

John: But there are still people out there who are walking around who have mercury fillings. I actually had a couple of them, and I did some research and had them removed and wrote a blog about it. And so one of the things that I thought was really fascinating about the whole amalgam issue is that there is some disagreement it seems out there in terms of studies and commentators as to whether these amalgams are dangerous or not. But I don’t think that it’s in dispute that they raise your serum levels of mercury.

Dr. Nunnally: Right.

John: And so, what would you say to people who are listening at home who have a loved one who has amalgams or are considering having theirs removed? What’s kind of the state of the thinking there?

Dr. Nunnally: You know what? I love the way you language that because it seems as though certainly a large segment of the population seems to tolerate, you know, the mercury that comes off of mercury amalgam fillings. A mercury amalgam filling is…the amalgam fillings that all of us have in our mouths or did have are 50% mercury. And so we would think and we’ve always been told that once they gets mixed into this filling material that’s put into the tooth that it’s basically inert and then it does not leach out. That’s now been scientifically proven over and over again, it does leech out. If you put a phosphorescent screen behind a tooth, an extracted tooth that has a mercury filling in it, you can watch the mercury literally boil out of the filling. You just see the vapor come right off of it. We know that it leeches mercury. Some people tolerate it well, but some people don’t tolerate it well. Now, that we have the entire genome mapped, we know that some people have snips in there, or little deficiencies in their genome, which makes them much less susceptible, or much less able to detoxify. And when you’re in that category as I am, then you have the potential for the mercury to sneak up on you, and then there’s no real barrier to mercury. It passes the placental barrier. It passes the blood-brain barrier. It has no barrier whatsoever. Mercury is a very insidious mineral.

What I would tell your listeners is that, you know, maybe you’ve tolerated it well, or maybe you think you’ve tolerated it well. I can tell you this. It’s a challenge to your immune system whether you’re, you know, tolerating it overtly or not. I wouldn’t have a mercury filling within 100 miles of me. Who on earth would wanna stick a mercury filling in them? And, you know, it’s interesting. There are still probably 40% of dentists in this country that are still using the material. To me, that’s terribly disheartening. I would encourage your listeners to go to the iaomt.org website. iaomt.org that stands for International Academy of Oral Medicine Toxicology. That’s a fabulous research-based group of dentists, physicians, nutritionists, biochemists. And that group has adopted a protocol for how a dentist should very safely remove mercury fillings. I’d find one of those dentists on that website, and that’s where I’d go get my mercury fillings removed.

John: What about the case for somebody who has, a large number of their teeth have mercury fillings, and they’re concerned that…you know, because especially some older generations, it was even more common. I think there was more replacements done. And let’s say you’re somebody who has…you know, for me, I had a couple of them. I was kind of a little bit hesitant to get wisdom teeth out, and I eventually end up doing it. But what let’s say you have a bunch of them, and you’re worried that you’re gonna have to basically… What do you do with those patients where you have to do reconstructive dentistry or how does that work?

Dr. Nunnally: You know, oftentimes not, John. Usually, we can simply remove the mercury filling and replace it with a biocompatible bonded filling, which looks like the tooth, gives a tooth much more strength and is just a beautiful way to restore it. Now, there are dentists around the country who would want to put crowns on your teeth. I personally would prefer to go… I just like a real conservative route, removing as little tooth as possible, and just removing the metal and replacing that with a bonded filling. So, it’s interesting how much that differs from dentist to dentist, John. You’d think we all have the same uniform treatment plan, but it is not that way. Some dentists are a bit more aggressive and can justify that. I like being, you know, very conservative in terms of replacing the material. I think the best rule of thumb is the least amount of dentistry, the better off you are most often.

John: That makes a lot of sense. And then when you actually go in to have these procedures done, the biologic dental offices and the offices that are up on these issues, they have a protocol for making sure that when the mercury filling is removed from the tooth, that’s when the mercury exposure is gonna be at its most acute because you’re essentially releasing it from its bound state, correct? Do you use some kind of a vacuum procedure or what’s the protocol look like there just for somebody who’s thinking, “Okay. I got these…” What’s it gonna look like for them when they go in and sit down in the chair?

Dr. Nunnally: Well, if the dentist has a respirator on and the staff in the dental office, staff have respirators on, you can at least know that the dentist has been trained, and he recognizes the seriousness of removing these very safely. The patient should expect at the very least to have a rubber…what’s called a rubber dam. It’s a mask that goes over the teeth so that as the metal is removed, it doesn’t go into the mouth. The mask contains it. And then a very high volume suction. We call it… Well, it just looks like a big old elephant’s snout, comes right up and basically rests right on the patient’s chest. It sucks any of the particulate. As the dentist drills this mercury-containing mixture out of the tooth, there’s a lot of particulate flying around in the room. So the higher the volume of suction you have in close proximity to that, the better off the patient, the dentist, and the staff, all are in terms of their exposure. Those are the sorts of things that you would expect.

John: I think what we’re establishing here is you said it earlier. People metabolize mercury differently based to a certain degree on genetics. And that’s one of the things being in the “Gene Food Podcast” that we’re interested in, are some of these genetic markers. It’s a very early days for us to understand this, but we do know, you know, superoxide dismutase, some of these other markers, SOD2, things like that. For people that don’t metabolize mercury well especially, what kind of an immune system reaction are we talking about? Are there specific cytokines that you know of that are triggered by mercury? What does that look like in terms of the immune response?

Dr. Nunnally: Yeah. Well, most often, the patients who don’t metabolize it well, they’re fatigued. Many times they do have neuromuscular issues. They have exacerbations of whatever other illnesses they have like Lyme, and other illnesses are compromised by having extra burden of heavy metals. So, I’d say the biggest problem is for patients who do not detoxify is it just take them longer…it takes them longer to get well. They just struggle, and they just have to hang in there longer, and they have to have more support. They have to have those sorts of things like we talked about a while ago. You know, they have to have the ability to sweat. They have to maybe do some adjunctive procedures like high-dose vitamin C and/or glutathione, you know. Of course, you can even do glutathione and a liposphere now, do liposomal glutathione, and it can be a big help as well.

John: Yeah. When I saw the research on this, the thing that I thought was really interesting was it seemed to me that there wasn’t necessarily a smoking gun in the studies that have been done for mercury fillings and tying them to, you know, a specific condition. But what I thought was really interesting was, as I said earlier, there was no dispute that these amalgams raised your serum levels of mercury. And then I saw an interesting study, which we can link to in the show notes, where it was people that had had their amalgams removed had this very significant drop in subjective health complaints. Just overall, their health improved as a result of having had these amalgams removed, which I thought was interesting.

Dr. Nunnally: Well, there are some long-term studies, you know, in the Scandinavian countries where they’ve removed…well, they banned mercury amalgam fillings years ago. And so now you have an entire patient population without mercury fillings. They make for a pretty good study group because of their…they have much less certain neurological diseases and so forth. And then you also have a large group who had their mercury fillings removed, and when you study those groups retrospectively, you’re exactly right. They report an increase in stamina, overall well-being, and just as you would expect. I mean, we’re talking about an incredibly potent neurotoxin. You wouldn’t do better if you had that removed. I mean, if you remove plutonium from someone, wouldn’t you expect them to do better? But plutonium is, you know, the only element that’s more reactive than mercury.

John: We are gonna transition from mercury,where we had a pretty good discussion, go to the work of Weston A. Price, who…you know, he’s just become so popular. There’s a lot of people we had on ,a nutrition Ph.D. professor a few episodes back, very influenced by his work. Well, how has he influenced you? What are your top-level things you think of when you think of his work?

Dr. Nunnally: Well, when I think of him, obviously, I think of eating a diet that would be consistent with my heritage. You know, he demonstrated over and over again that when people ate the diet of their tradition, then they did best. I find that myself that I do very, very well when I’d eaten my ancestral diet. And I’ve seen that in my patients. I used to look at a lot of different blood analyses on patients, and I would see patients, for example, someone from…let’s say they were from a culture of…well, maybe from Asia where they would typically a lot more greens and fruits, vegetables, and maybe a little bit of protein in the way of probably fish. Maybe they had moved to this country, and they were eating the typical American diet. You know, you would see a decline in their health, and their chemistry would look awful. And interestingly enough, especially being a triathlete, I used to do everything I could to get a competitive edge. I became vegan for a while, and my chemistry looked awful.

John: What did you see? Did you see triglycerides go up?

Dr. Nunnally: Triglycerides went up, absolutely. Yeah. Protein went down. Interestingly enough even my…I’m actually a big fan of having your cholesterol elevated, but mine got very high.

John: Sorry to stop you there. That’s a topic we are very nerdy about here, just kind of lipids and lipid biomarkers. Where do you like to see your cholesterol set in terms of serum cholesterol and LDL and all that?

Dr. Nunnally: Yeah. I like to see my total cholesterol somewhere around 220 to 250. And then I like to see my HDL to be at least a third of that. And pretty much I function very, very well there, cognitively and else-wise. We know from the Framingham study, you know, that the point at which people had the least mortality was a cholesterol of 221. So, I think that works well.

John: Yeah. You definitely need the cholesterol. Do you do your particle count and your LDL cholesterol and all that as well?

Dr. Nunnally: I do. I’m not so worried about that as long as my HDL stays up there nice and high, which I keep high by doing nice… I do a good high-grade pharmaceutical grade fish oil, and I do quite a bit of K2, which was Weston Price’s X Factor, of course. And at any rate, I’m a big fan of healthy fats. But I certainly don’t worry about a total cholesterol of 250 in just about anyone unless their HDL is real low. So at any rate, Weston Price to me is, he’s one of my heroes. I think about him in terms of what he elucidated for us in terms of the ancestral diet. But one of his biggest contributions was the fact that he identified and that he demonstrated over and over again that what happened in the mouth didn’t stay in the mouth. It could cause systemic problems. And he demonstrated oftentimes that root canal treated teeth and other teeth, infected teeth, could cause systemic problems, and he could duplicate that. He could, in other words, remove an infected tooth from someone, let’s say the person had lupus or let’s say they had rheumatoid arthritis, he removed the infected tooth, took a portion of the tooth, put it in the belly skin of a rabbit, and he could duplicate the disease in the rabbit. And he demonstrated that for many, many diseases. He published 1,200 pages on this back in 1923 because he was motivated to do it ,because he did a root canal on his own son, Donald, and several weeks later, Donald died of a heart attack. And he was just 16 years old. and if you can imagine this, Weston, everyone says he was just a precious dear man. But I know this must have agonized him. He removed that tooth from his dead son, a fragment of that, and he put it in the belly skin of a rabbit. The rabbit died subsequently of a heart attack.

John: No way. Really? This is documented? That’s insane.

Dr. Nunnally: Oh, this is very well documented. He did it 99 more times. He did it to 100 rabbits. All 100 consecutively died of heart failure. That’s why he became such a devoted researcher on this topic of dental disease and systemic illness.

John: There’s a couple things to unpack there for the audience because this information is very valuable. The first here we’re talking about as this whole idea of epigenetic eating basically, right?

Dr. Nunnally: Mm-hmm.

John: And there’s a lot of very good researchers. I don’t know if you’ve brushed up against the work of Valter Longo at USC. Have you seen those prolonged fasting kits that have become popular? He’s like the fasting-mimicking guy?

Dr. Nunnally: Yes. I’m familiar with it.

John: Yeah. And he’s echoed that, you know, which is that there really is something to this idea that getting in touch with what previous generations in your family ate has a benefit, which I think we can all appreciate. And then you said vitamin K2. Before we get in, I wanna get into also to the disease states in the mouth. But why was that such an important nutrient for Weston Price?

Dr. Nunnally: Weston knew there was some factor that was providing patients with these strong physiques, beautiful skeletons, and also almost no heart disease. And he didn’t know what it was. It really wasn’t elucidated until many years later. But what he was realizing all of these cultures when the patient ate, or when the person ate their ancestral diet, they were getting ample supplies of K2, which is menaquinone. And it’s very interesting. That particular vitamin will deposit calcium into our skeletons the way it should and remove calcium from our vasculature at the same time. So, in other words, your arteries, and not just your arteries, your other tissues, they stay much more supple. You don’t have this deposit of calcium into them. Instead, it’s removed from them, and it’s deposited into the bones where it should be. And so you see, in the cultures where K2 is prevalent, you see robustly healthy people. You see good strong skeletons. You see good strong jaw bones that accommodate all the teeth. The teeth are not crooked and squeezed into position. And Price demonstrated that. Within one generation of changing that diet, leaving the ancestral diet, you begin to see this much smaller frame, small skeletons, smaller jaws that don’t accommodate the teeth.

John: Yeah. I’ve read similar accounts in books like “Sapiens.” I don’t know if you’ve read “Sapiens,” but this whole idea when we transitioned from… It does seem that there’s something to this paleo notion that when we transitioned from hunter-gatherer populations millions of years ago to more agricultural stable grain-based eaters, there was a shrinking in brain size, and there was some degree of a smaller frame that developed in people, maybe a little bit more of a disease state. I’ve noticed in myself that when I have stopped eating gluten, for example, it improved my dental health. So, we know that, as you’ve said with Weston Price taking these different teeth and putting them in rabbits and doing these experiments. For the person at home that’s thinking, “Well, I really need to start taking my dental health more seriously,” what can we all do to improve our dental health besides going to the dentist twice a year and flossing and brushing?

Dr. Nunnally: I would certainly get my mercury mouth fillings removed by someone who’s going to do that in a very safe manner. Easy things that you could do at home is one, I would avoid fluoride if at all possible. I would make sure that my toothpaste didn’t have fluoride in it. In fact, I might even make my own toothpaste just using a little baking soda. Here’s what you could do to make your own toothpaste. You’d have a fabulous toothpaste. You could put a little hydrogen peroxide on your toothbrush. I’m just talking about 3%, just good old brown bottle, 85 cent a bottle hydrogen peroxide. Put a little that on your brush, sprinkle some baking soda on it just like my grandmother did, and brush your teeth with that. It’s a fabulous way to clean your teeth.

John: Right. So there’s no fluoride there. And what else does it do?

Dr. Nunnally: We don’t want the fluoride because the fluoride has so many systemic implications, like competing with your iodine for your thyroid hormones, and we don’t want that to happen. Baking soda is a great neutralizer. It neutralizes acid in the mouth, and hydrogen peroxide tends to bubble out the anaerobic bacteria that we have in our mouth. The anaerobic bacteria are typically the disease-causing bacteria, don’t like oxygen. And good old hydrogen peroxide is H2O2, so you get a little liberation of oxygen when you put it in the mouth, and the bacteria are killed from that. So that’s why it’s such a good toothpaste. Also, a great way to do it, John, is to put an ounce of hydrogen peroxide in the water bath of a waterpik. Put about seven ounces of water, one ounce of hydrogen peroxide, and irrigate your gum tissue and teeth with that mixture. That is a terrific way to clean your teeth.

John: That alters the pH of the mouth to a more alkaline state, which prevents those bad bacteria from taking a foothold. Is that correct?

Dr. Nunnally: Yeah. That’s correct, and it neutralizes the acids that they produce.

John: Interesting. Okay. And how do you feel about processed grain and sugar? I mean, if you think of the number one thing that a dentist usually will tell you it’s don’t eat sugar. Aside from epigenetic eating, what other things do you see in your patients that are helpful in terms of food interventions?

Dr. Nunnally: Yeah. Well, certainly avoiding soda waters. You know, that’s 28 grams of sugar, any of the drinks, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper. That’s 8 ounces, 28 grams of sugar. And that’s hard to even hold 28 grams of sugar palm of your hand, and, of course, most people don’t stop at 8 ounces. Most drinks when you get them are 16 ounces or 24 or 32. That’s a tremendous amount of sugar. Of course, it’s bad for your teeth, but the systemic problems are even greater and we’re at an all-time high now, you know, in terms of diabetes in the history. And 99% of it has to do with what we’re ingesting. And then the other things I would do, you know, John, in terms of oral health is I would have a dentist who has maybe a real open mind, I would have them evaluate my root canal, because root canal treated teeth can be an issue. If you go to my website and hit a research tab there, you’ll see that I have summarized 26 very current research papers on the root canal issue. And it’s just in about a two and a half-page summary, and that would be helpful for people to look at in terms of deciding whether they’re gonna hang on to the root canal treated teeth or not.

John: We’re getting ready to close out the episode here, but I think it might be worthwhile taking a minute and just asking you this. Is the root canal issue similar to the mercury issue and that you have some people that just metabolize that mercury more effectively than others, and the ones who are either getting megadosed or who have some kind of genetic inability to metabolize the mercury effectively are the ones that are having these issues? Is that true with the root canals as well? It seems like some people are okay with them. How do we calibrate that from a 10,000-foot standpoint?

Dr. Nunnally: Oh, man, that’s the $24,000 question, because you’re right. You’re exactly right. Some people tolerate toxicities of all sorts better than others. You got down from you are walking around outside with a mask on because they’re not tolerating exhaust fumes. Well, you and I both know that I have a dear friend who died recently. She smoked for 70 years of her 90-year life. We are all so different. So, you’re right. People do deserve to know. They deserve to know that if they have… By the way, this study was done in Manhattan in 2018. If you have a root canal, and it has obvious infection on it that you can see on what’s called a cone beam exam, if you have that, you have 530% increased incidence of cardiovascular issues.

John: Wow.

Dr. Nunnally: It’s a lot.

John: Mm-hmm. It’s huge.

Dr. Nunnally: Say it’s something that should be investigated. And if someone has some kind of bizarre health issue and no one’s identified it, and they have multiple root canalled teeth, they should be examined by someone who can take a good look at that.

John: Do you think there’s any issue with bonding as well, the bonding in teeth? Is that something that’s similar to root canal or is that a different category?

Dr. Nunnally: It’s in a totally different category. The bonding agents for the most part that are used in this country now, most are safe if they’re bonded correctly. If the dentist is using a light that bonds that correctly, then you don’t get the BPA released from the resin. So, I know where the question is coming from, and you’re correct. BPA is [inaudible 00:50:01]. And fortunately in dentistry, I think the resins have less and less BPA, and if they’re handled correctly by the dentist, the patient has very little exposure.

John: Cool. Yeah. Well, I think that’s quite a good tour through the world of dentistry, absolutely fascinating story that you have, Dr. Nunnally, and I really appreciate your time and your expertise. It’s really a pleasure to chat with you and to hear your voice again, and thank you for coming on the show.

Dr. Nunnally: John, what a treat to be with you this morning. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

John: You as well. Have a great weekend.

Dr. Nunnally: Okay. Bye-bye.

John: The “Gene Food Podcast” is our attempt to synthesize the latest developments in the fields of genetics, nutrition, and medicine and offer you practical tips and stories you can use in your own unique health trip. If you enjoyed this podcast, you can find more information online at mygenefood.com.

John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the founder of Gene Food, host of the Gene Food Podcast and a health coach trained at Duke's Integrative Medicine Program. Read his full bio here.

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