Have you heard the buzz about Xylitol lately? Xylitol is similar to sugar in taste, but the effects on the body are quite different. Sucrose (white table sugar) serves as food for the harmful bacteria in our mouths (plaque), resulting in acid production that creates cavities. Xylitol is a different kind of sugar known as a polyol (sugar alcohol). Sugar alcohols aren’t sugar (although they do taste sweet) and they aren’t alcohol–at least, not the sort of alcohol (ethanol) that we ingest in alcoholic beverages
Many people are surprised at Xylitol’s great taste and amazed to learn about its long history. It is found in familiar fruits and vegetables, the wood of birch trees, and even the human body. The oldest record of this “sugar for oral health” seems to have been about 2500 years ago, in a book of Chinese herbal cures. The remedy is “Zhin-he–tong” (“sugar from the white tree”) for cavities and gum disease. Xylitol has none of the controversy that surrounds fluoride and it comes in a variety of usable forms that make it very easy, delicious and economical to use. Side by side in a sugar bowl you can’t really tell them apart.
What Does Xylitol Do?
Xylitol not only rids the mouth of sticky harmful bacteria, it actually promotes the growth of tooth-protective, non-acidic good bacteria. Xylitol has a much different effect on the plaque in our mouths, and prevents it from sticking to the tooth surfaces. Plaque uses carbohydrates and sucrose from our diet to grow and multiply creating that “furry” feeling that you sometimes feel on your teeth. The acids in plaque cause breakdown of the teeth and that is what leads to cavities. Those same bacteria are what irritate the gums which leads to gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Regular use of Xylitol has been shown to not only reduce tooth decay but also facilitate the remineralization of teeth. In Europe, children eating Xylitol had nearly 50% fewer ear infections. Xylitol has been used by diabetics for decades, and it is poised to replace fluoride as the greatest scientific discovery for healthier mouths!
Why Do We Need Xylitol
For many populations worldwide, the levels of dental caries have reached epidemic proportions. Even in the U.S., childhood tooth decay is on the rise. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that in the U.S. by the time kids are age 17, almost 80 percent have experienced tooth decay.
In Finland it is practically the opposite where 80 percent of high school graduates have no cavities. What is the difference? Finland schools regularly distribute Xylitol to the students. In Belize, Dr. Peter Allen, head of the Ministry of Health, reports that in his country’s landmark study, Xylitol reduced cavities by more than 50 percent with results continuing to show that same reduction even five years after the study (and Xylitol usage) was completed. When mothers eat Xylitol they help to stop infecting their baby with cavity-forming bacteria, and help prevent generations of families with “bad teeth”.
How Much Xylitol Do We Need?
The dental benefits of 5 – 10 grams of Xylitol each day in frequent small doses range from reducing gum problems to preventing cavities. Strive for at least 5 separate exposures with 1-2 grams Xylitol at each event. A small amount of Xylitol will work to prevent cavities when it is wiped over an infant’s new teeth. Even a tiny amount can prevent problems for a baby. Less than 5 grams does not have as much effect, although every time Xylitol is eaten it does help to alkalize the mouth for some tooth benefits.
Xylitol can be dissolved in liquid (or straight in the mouth), eaten in candies, and chewed in gum, and even sweeten your coffee. Avoid gum that mixes Xylitol and sorbitol together (Trident for example), the sorbitol seems to inactivate the Xylitol and is thought to possibly be a trigger for acid reflux. Over time we hope that Xylitol will begin to make its way into homes across the world resulting in fewer incidences of disease so that we can begin to enjoy healthy mouths for generations to come!
Word of caution, Xylitol is toxic to pets and should be kept away from them. In humans, high doses may have an initial laxative effect, or cause cramping and bloating (it acts as a fiber in our intestinal tract but the body regulates quickly), however, in pets, ingestion could be fatal.
There is no doubt that my 6 year old daughter is fancy! She loves clothes, fashion and makeup as much as I love herbs. I usually let her wear lip gloss, and figured we could combine our interests by making our own. We had a lip gloss/balm making party with her friends, and the results were wonderful. Happy kids, healthy and safe product, and fun memories.
- 7-8 teaspoons of oil – we used 4 of coconut and 4 of castor, but you can use any high quality base oil that you have on hand. (For a firmer consistency, use 7 teaspoons and for a softer consistency, use 8) *Castor oil on its own is great for a quick gloss if you don’t have anything else around.
- 2 teaspoons of beeswax
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 10-12 drops of essential oil of your choice (we used Tangerine, but you could opt for Peppermint if you enjoy a tingle)
- 2 drops pure vanilla (optional)
- 1 Capsule Vitamin E oil (optional)
- Warm the oil, beeswax and honey over low heat in a small saucepan or double boiler, stirring occasionally until melted.
- Remove from heat and add the essential oil, vanilla and vitamin E.
- Let cool slightly and fill the container of choice. We used 1/2 oz tins, but you can also use small glass jars, or empty lip balm tubes.
- Allow the balm to cool and harden, use and enjoy! To speed the cooling process, you can place the balms in the refrigerator.
Oh, the sleepless nights of teething babies! Our third and last little love, Arya, is 9 months old, and her top front teeth have been trying to break through for a couple of weeks now. Last night, I was able to catch up on some TiVo between the not-so-lovely hours of 3-5am thanks to these two teeth, so to say that we are both a tad bit tired would be accurate!
I’ve used, with excellent results, Hylands Teething Tablets with all 3 kiddos to help ease the pain and discomfort that comes along with teething. During the day, I also give them plenty of fun things to gnaw and suck on, such as whole carrots and fresh or frozen fruit in a mesh holder. Here’s a new one that Arya is loving, and since it’s summer and warm in most places, you can’t go wrong with some icy cold treats! The cold helps to numb the gums, relieving the pain associated with teething while the herbs help calm and promote relaxation and sleep.
Frozen Herbal Teething Pops
1 teaspoon Dried Catnip or Chamomile (see below for descriptions of each herb)
1 cup water
Directions: Add 1 cup of boiling water to 1 tsp of either Catnip or Chamomile and steep for 30 minutes. Strain. Allow to cool and fill ice cube tray (1 cup of tea should fill about 8 cubes in an ice tray). Freeze. Place in mesh teething holder when ready to use.
Catnip – This is a wonderful, calming herb that helps to promote relaxation by relieving restlessness and helping to induce sleep. It helps to relieve tension, colic, gas and pain through its relaxant effect on the digestive tract. It is also an invaluable remedy for respiratory infections, colds and the flu, in addition to being helpful in the treatment of bronchitis, asthma, chickenpox, sore throats and sinusitis.
Chamomile - Popular for it’s calming effect on the nervous system, it helps to promote sleep and relaxation of the mind and body. It is also well known for its relaxing effect on digestive system, relieving tension and spasm, making it a great option for the treatment of colic, abdominal pain, gas and other digestive upsets. It is a great antiseptic, antibacterial, and very effective against thrush. Chamomile is a general pain reliever that can be taken for headaches, toothache, and other general pain. More recent findings suggest that it also acts as an antihistamine, and can be used for asthma, hay fever, and externally for eczema.
As always, you can find these and many other herbs online at Mountain Rose Herbs.