BEFRIENDING YOUR BODY WITH MINDFULNESS

Being disconnected from or being self-critical of your body can have serious health consequences. An 18-year-old woman had bilateral breast implants at an out-of-state clinic. Since her early teens, she had wanted this surgery because she thought her breasts were too small and unattractive. When she saw me the week after her surgery, her breasts were painful, tender, red and obviously infected. She was now ashamed and deeply regretted her decision to alter her body based on social pressure and images....

….FULL ARTICLE

MINDFULLY MANAGING ANGER

Anger can be a healthy emotional response or a serious health risk.  Managing anger appropriately does not require that we deny it, repress it or get completely rid of it. Brief, mild-to-moderate episodes of anger and righteous indignation can be a useful stimulus to positive and constructive action on both the personal and societal levels. However, severe, repeated or uncontrolled anger can lead to serious harm to oneself or others.  The body’s stress (“fight or flight”) response is triggered by anger.

….FULL ARTICLE

LET FOOD BE YOUR MEDICINE

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) is the world’s premier nutrition education resource. Harvard Medical School and the Department of Nutrition at HSPH developed the Healthy Eating Plate to provide the general public with up-to-date, science-based nutrition education. They recognized the need to provide more scientifically accurate information than is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate, which does not accurately reflect current, science-based nutrition advice.

….FULL ARTICLE

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STRESS AND ORAL HEALTH

For many people, there is a relationship between stress and oral health.


The presence of oral disease and dental disorders can cause stress from low self-image, which can have a negative effect on well-being and personal happiness. Stress, chronic anxiety and depression can lead to self-neglect, including neglect of dental hygiene. For many people, dental self-care is not a high priority. It is especially common for stressful economic times to be associated with lapses in the proper oral hygiene habits of regular brushing and flossing of teeth and professional dental exams. Turning to sugar-laden comfort foods for stress relief can also lead to dental caries (tooth decay).


Emotional disorders and stress at home or work can lead to the excess production of dental plaque, which in turn can lead to periodontal (gum) disease, leading to gingivitis and bleeding gums. A highly emotional response to financial hardship, in particular, has been shown to increase gum disease. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, and Kentucky ranks first or second nationally in tooth loss. A healthy diet, regular brushing, flossing, anti-bacterial mouth rinses and regular dental evaluations can save your teeth.


Stress can increase the frequency of canker sores. Also known as aphthous ulcers, these painful lesions occur inside the

mouth and are not contagious. Students often have more canker sores during the school year than during holidays and summer vacation. Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are contagious, painful blisters around the lips, nose or chin caused by the herpes virus. Stress is a common trigger for these blisters. Though canker sores and cold sores resolve with or without medication, their resolution and their prevention can be helped by healthy approaches to stress management.


Stress, worry, anxiety and anger can also lead to bruxism, the clenching and grinding of the teeth during sleep or while awake. This grinding of the teeth can eventually lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ problems can cause popping or clicking of the jaw when opening the mouth or chewing. It can also cause facial pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint, neck, shoulders and around the ear when chewing, speaking or opening the mouth. A custom-made dental bite guard may be required to prevent damage to the teeth and the TMJ from frequent grinding. Individuals may be unaware of their teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Signs include flattening of the tips of the teeth and increased dental sensitivity from loss of dental enamel.

There are many ways to help prevent stress from having an adverse impact on your dental health. You can probably find something on this list that fits your lifestyle and personal preferences. To help you manage stress:


•  Try to reduce your exposure to the circumstances, patterns of thinking, habits, people or other sources of your stress.

•  Seek financial, emotional or pastoral counseling to help you deal rationally, thoughtfully and methodically with your stress rather than    self-medicating with drugs, alcohol and overconsumption of unhealthy foods.

•  To reduce mental and emotional stress, connect more with your body through your preferred physical activity – walking, jogging,    swimming, yoga, dancing or sports.

•  Practice daily skilled relaxation, meditation or prayer.

•  Spend some time each evening reading inspirational material that uplifts your spirits.

•  Keep a daily gratitude journal (count your blessings).

•  Get a massage.

•  Hug a loved one.

•  Play with children and animals.

•  Spend unhurried time in nature.

•  Do something for others who are less fortunate. Generosity is good for both the giver and the receiver.

•  Participate in social and community activities that reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.


There are several resources that offer self-directed approaches to stress management. They do not take the place of professional help should your burden of stress feel overwhelming or get worse over time. Speak with your dental or medical provider for a professional stress management referral if your self-care strategies are not helping. Your dental health as well as your overall health may depend on how effectively you manage your stress.


Sources and Resources


•  Stressed out? Your Dentist Can Tell

•  How stress affects your oral health

•  Dr. James Gordon, founder of the Center for Mind Body Medicine guides a ‘soft belly meditation

•  Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘single pointed meditation’ led by Peg Baim of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

DR. JOHN PATTERSON

Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations

more articles by dr john patterson