Can stress affect your smile?

While at the dentist, I was recently told mental stress could affect my smile. While some immediate cause and effect relationships jumped into my mind, I wanted to learn more because I understand how important oral health can be to our overall well-being. I wanted to share what I found out with you.

While scientists are still studying the mechanisms involved, I think it is generally understood that stress can be viewed as the root cause for many health issues. Ranging from heart disease and stroke to anxiety, there is even some evidence that shows stress increases the chance of infection. What is not often discussed, is the negative effect stress has on our oral cavity such as the health of our gums, teeth and bones of the mouth.

The most obvious way stress can affect our smile, is bruxism. Bruxism is described as teeth grinding. Long-term teeth grinding and clinching can lead to gum erosion and the warring away of the enamel. Exposing the underlying dentin leads to an increase in the likelihood of tooth decay and tooth sensitivity. Dentin exposure may appear in your smile as grey, black, or pale yellow on the teeth. Dentists may prescribe a night guard for this issue.

In addition to bruxism, it seems chronic stress leads to a deterioration of good oral hygiene habits such as flossing and brushing. Additionally, people under chronic stress are more prone to eating products that are more likely to damage the enamel in the teeth such as foods containing high levels of sugar.

Another condition associate with poor oral health is osteoporosis. Stress causes us to release cortisol, a stress hormone that liberates calcium from our bones leaving our bones less dense. Therefore, long-term stress can result in osteoporosis, which not only leaves us susceptible to fractures and disability (which is not good in itself,) it can also lead to bone loss in our oral cavity. Bone loss in the mouth can leave us more prone to issues with the gum health and tooth loss. Consider the following from the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease.

‘The portion of the jawbone that supports our teeth is known as the alveolar process. Several studies have found a link between the loss of alveolar bone and an increase in loose teeth (tooth mobility) and tooth loss. Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those who do not have the disease.’(2)

While it is universally understood that lifestyle choices such as eating a nutrient rich diet, not smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption is a good idea for our overall health. It is choices like these that can simultaneously help maintain our bone health and consequently our oral health. Unfortunately it appears that stress is not usually included when discussing oral hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing. I think addressing stress is paramount to our oral health as well as our overall well-being.

The ways to bring stress under control may surprise you. To find out how to manage stress, please see my must read post, Can stress decrease you lifespan?. If you just want to look at ways to deal with stress, please skip to the information towards the end, as the post is fairly lengthy.

This article is for educational purposes only. Please contact your health care provider if you have any questions regarding your health.

As always, I invite you to continue to educate yourself on topics such as these as your health affects everything you do and everyone you know. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.









How can H. pylori affect you?

She had been vomiting everyday for 1 to 2 weeks every few months for 5 years with no other symptoms.  Her medical doctor suggested it was due to stress and suggested a prescription for antidepressant medication.  She decided to not take the drug.

When I saw her a few months later, she said she did not feel like she had been under stress nor did she report having been depressed.

When I first saw her I thought her symptoms seem to coincide with some type of a parasite life cycle.  Although this was my original thought upon meeting with her, I knew I needed to run some tests to understand her condition more fully.  So we ran some blood work, saliva, and stool tests.

Her Saliva testing indicated that she had low secretory IgA, which could indicate a parasitic infection of the gut.

Her CBC and chem screen values where all within normal limits.  However, her white blood cell count was at the low end of the reference range.  From a functional medicine standpoint, this could be indicative of a chronic infection somewhere in the body.  As an infection is being fought for long periods of time, the bodies immune system has a more difficult time keeping up with it and the white blood cell count can fall.  This is in contrast to an acute infection in which the white blood cell count could be elevated.

Her stool test was positive for H. pylori.

I then referred her to a medical doctor who prescribed her a regime of antibiotics and other medication to treat the H. pylori infection.  Following her antibiotic therapy we retested her for H. pylori and found her to be negative for the organism.

She continued to be a regular chiropractic patient for over 10 years. She reported the vomiting never returned following her treatment for H. pylori.

When looking at what could happen if this infection had gone on untreated in this young woman, I think we should consider the following post, ‘Eradicating H. Pylori lowers Risks for Stomach Cancer’, from Roji Menon, MD.  See her blog here:


Eradicating Helicobacter pylori in asymptomatic, healthy adults
reduces the incidence of subsequent gastric cancer.

Researchers identified six randomized, controlled trials that assessed
the effect of eradication therapy on stomach cancer incidence 2 or
more years later in adults who tested positive for H. pylori but had
no symptoms and were healthy. A variety of eradication therapies were
 used. Control groups received placebo or no therapy.

The authors conclude: “It seems likely that the benefit of searching
for and eradicating H. pylori in healthy asymptomatic individuals will
outweigh any potential harms, especially in populations at high risk
of gastric cancer. However, results from further trials in different
populations are urgently needed.”

You can also consider my last post: Is this the cause of your ulcer?

As always, please contact your health care provider if you have any questions regarding your health.

Please continue to educate yourself on your health because your health affects everything you do and everyone you know.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.

Is this the cause of your ulcer?

And, if you have it, you may not know it.

Currently H. pylori is recognized as being associated with the cause of ulcers of the stomach, in the beginning of the upper intestine, and esophagus.  Even though H. pylori was discovered in 1982.  It wasn’t until Robin Warren and Barry Marshall won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005 that showed H. pylori to be the cause of ulcers.  It is found in 90 percent of peptic ulcers.


Symptoms are usually associated with problems such as weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, heartburn, bad breath, diarrhea, bloating, burping, nausea, black stools, and vomiting.  Or there may be no symptoms at all.  Or there may be no ulcer present.

Please, consult your health care provider regarding any health concerns you may have.

What can H. pylori cause if not addressed?

Not only has the presence of H. pylori been associated with the cause of most peptic ulcers, it has been associated with an increase in risk of stomach cancer.  In addition, some practitioners have associated H. pylori with malabsorption of key nutrients leading to anemia, fatigue and other conditions.

Unfortunately, this organism is becoming more common.  And as I already mentioned, this organism may or may not be associated with symptoms.


The practitioners that I have worked with have reported to me that the most accurate form of testing is the stool test, even more so than the breath test and blood test.  The MayoClinic suggests that the blood test is the least accurate and that the stool and breath test are the most accurate.

I have always used the stool test as I can also test for other gut parasites at the same time.


Treatment involves the use of antibiotics to kill the organism.  It can be difficult to treat the organism as it buries itself deep within the stomach wall.  In combination with antibiotics, your doctor may prescribe a proton pump inhibitor as well as histamine receptor blockers (2).  It is important to discuss any noticed side effects with your doctor when taking the medication. You should be retested following treatment to make sure the infection is no longer found.

How does it spread?

The most common way for this organism to be transmitted is from person to person via mouth-to-mouth and fecal matter-to-oral.  So if you are tested and found to be positive for H. pylori then your family members should be tested as well.  This organism can be difficult to kill especially if the infection is long standing.  The treatment itself can be physically rough.  It is suggested to follow up with a health practitioner who is experienced in the treatment of this infection.

Since this post involves the topic of ulcers, I feel it is important to recognize directions from the National Digestive Diseases 
Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) that is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The NDDIC recognizes the following symptoms associated with peptic ulcers as a Medical Emergency and a person who has any of the following symptoms should call a doctor right away(4):

  • sharp, sudden, persistent, and severe stomach pain(4)
  • bloody or black stools(4)
  • bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds(4)

I hope this information is useful in your persuit to understanding your health.  As always, I advise you to continue to learn as much as possible about your health as it affects everything you do and everyone you know.

Yours In Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.







Why… Why… Why?

The patient reported on her first visit having leg symptoms of an achy nature that has been persistent for more than a year. She could not recall a specific event that initially seemed to cause the problem, nor could she recall anything that aggravated the leg symptoms. She advised me she experiences the leg achiness daily and it’sbeginning to affect her ability to work. She indicated have been seen by her medical doctor with no relief of her achiness. She reported being referred for a neurological consult for further evaluation. She relayed that the neurologist was unable to find a reason for her symptoms. She indicated that she had heard chiropractic care could help with her problem and made an appointment with my clinic.

I relayed to the patient that I believed chiropractic manipulation should be the first step in her care to help alleviate any nerve irritation that may be causing or contributing to her leg problems. In addition, we began soft tissue work on the leg musculature to help relax tight muscles and alleviate any trigger points that could be causing the symptoms. After explaining to the patient my treatment plan, she agreed to it and we began care. In her case, I wanted to see some type of improvement in her symptoms within the initial two-week period. Although she indicated her back and neck had more mobility after a few weeks of care, she reported having no relief of her leg achiness. I began to think what else could we do to help her. I asked myself what could be the underlying cause of her symptoms. Using the philosophy of functional medicine I reviewed her file. Based on her case and financial situation I asked her to do one thing and go on a gluten free diet then return a few times over the next six weeks to see how she was doing.

I am going to take a moment to mention a method of approaching health and disease referred to as functional medicine. The focus of functional medicine is to look for the root cause of symptoms by looking at the way key body systems function. Finding imbalances in key body systems and then working towards correcting them is at the center of functional medicine. Although this way of approaching medicine is growing in popularity, it is currently considered an alternative approach to allopathic care. Naturopaths, chiropractors and some medical doctors use functional medicine to look for the root cause of symptoms. They often use different types of laboratory work to look for the underlying cause of problems.   It can be a powerful tool to help patients since treatment often involves healthy lifestyle changes as well as other remedies to bring systems back into balance.

Ok, back to our patient.

I remember not hearing from her for about three months. She returned to my office indicating that her leg achiness was 100% gone. She reported that the only thing different she did since her last visit was the gluten free diet plan I had asked her to strictly adhere too. She reported the diet change was tough at first, but became easier as she began to progressively feel better.

I wanted to tell this story to help illustrate a direct cause effect relationship may be missed if we do not continue looking for a reason behind symptoms. Sometimes it can be one thing that drives symptoms. Of course, it is not always this easy. Finding the underlying problem will most likely take patience on the part of the patient and the doctor. I could have stopped trying to figure out the problem after manipulation failed this patient. However, it is as one of my mentors, Dr. William Timmons, N.D. always used to say, “you always have to ask why?….why?….why?… to get to the underlying cause”. Dr. Timmons did not like to treat the symptom by masking over it with various herbs and other modalities. He would instead strive to look for the cause. Then he would treat the cause not the symptom. As practitioners we must always ask ourselves why is the patient experiencing these problems. Functional medicine is one approach to health that helps practitioners find answers by asking why… why… why? This time, it was intolerance to gluten.  To see how gluten intolerance could be associated with symptoms such as leg achiness, read my post; Could this one thing be making you sick?

As always, you should consult with your health care professional for any health concerns. Because your health affects everything you do and everyone you know, I encourage my readers continue to educate themselves as much as possible on their own well-being.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.

Nowhere to live? Nothing to eat?

“Out of work?  Nowhere to live?  Nowhere to go?  Nothing to eat? “

The above was found in the text of an article on the front page of The New York Times March 17, 2014.  The quote above was made to reference an online ad that continues, “Come to Fukushima.”  The title of the article is “Fukushima Cleaned Up by Poor and Unskilled”.

The article goes on to say that TEPCO hires contractors to carry out the hiring for the Fukushima plant.  It indicated that the contractors exploit the “destitute” “willing to carry out the hazardous decommissioning at the site.”  The article continues, “Regulators, contractors and more than 20 current and former workers interviewed in recent months say that the deteriorating labor conditions are a prime cause of a string of large leaks of contaminated water and other embarrassing errors that have already damaged the environment and, in some cases, put workers in danger.  In the worst-case scenario, experts fear, struggling workers could trigger a bigger spill or another radiological release.”

This blog was not started to write about nuclear threats to the environment and us, however, the potential negative health aspects from radioactive exposure could be severe and widespread and should not be ignored.  If you recall, the TEPCO Fukushima power plant was struck by an earthquake and tsunami that caused three reactors to meltdown in March of 2011.  As I discussed earlier in the posts, ‘Should we worry about Fukushima?’ and ‘Fukushima water to hit US west coast?’, radioactive ocean water could reach the west coast as late as this summer.

While the World Health Organization acknowledges cancer rates will probably increase in Japan as a result of the meltdown, we still cannot understand to what extent long term leaking of radioactive water into the ocean will have on our health and planet.  For now, we need to understand the perspective of people like Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  Buesseler has been following the effects of the meltdown since the beginning and concedes more research is needed.

What has become increasingly clear, is how TEPCO operates.  It is headlines such as the New York Times article quoted above that do not give me much confidence in the decommissioning process managed by TEPCO.  Some have called for an international involvement of specialists from all over the world as an answer to the problem.

Some monitoring of ocean water is being done in California and Oregon.  Washington State is not currently monitoring ocean water at all.  This is interesting as the initial radioactive water from Fukushima is expected to reach the Washington coast as late as this summer and as early as this April.

I think it is good that people educate themselves on this topic.  We can follow the monitoring that is already being done in Oregon and California and keep track of the work being done by Ken Buesseler.  He is currently involved in crowd sourcing to fund monitoring sites along the Pacific coast by volunteers.  His project is called – “How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?”.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.


Fukushima radioactive water to hit US west coast?

This is a follow-up to the post, Should we worry about Fukushima?


There has been concern over the far-reaching and long-term effects of radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean since a tsunami and earthquake struck Japan in March 2011.  The two disasters combined, caused  a meltdown of 3 nuclear reactors at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) plant.  As I stated in my post, there needs to be more research to understand the effects of the meltdown.

In a resent article from USA Today it was indicated that Ken Buesseler stated, “I’m not trying to be an alarmist.”, “We can make predictions, we can do models. But unless you have results, how will we know it’s safe?”

Ken Bruesseler is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has been following and monitoring Pacific Ocean radiation levels since Fukishima’s meltdown. He originally predicted the radiation in the ocean would hit the US west coast in three years.

The USA Today article made reference to a new report by stating that a “report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium 134 has already has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.” Then the article goes on to say that Cesium 134 has a half-life of 2 years.

I recall that the concern over the contaminated run off was the isotopes Cesium 137 and Strontium 90.  Cesium 137 is known to cause cancer and has a half-life of 30 years. Strontium 90 is linked to bone cancer and leukemia and has a half-life of 28.8 years.

As reported in the USA Today article, “no federal agency currently samples Pacific Coast seawater for radiation,” Bruesseler said.  He and other scientists want more research.

California and Oregon currently does some testing for radioactive isotopes in the Pacific.  Currently the testing in both states revealed minimal detectable activity.

As the contaminated water is suspected to reach Seattle as late as this summer, and travel south, it will be interesting to see how the levels change as the run off water from TEPCO reaches the US coast.

Meanwhile Bruesseler is using crowd-sourced money and volunteers to monitor radioactivity within the ocean along the Pacific coast. His project is titled – “How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?”.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.


Should we worry about Fukushima?

CNN reported on February 20, 2014, “The leak of an estimated 100 metric tons of highly contaminated water was discovered late Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said in a statement”(1).   A BBC report indicated, “the water from Wednesday’s leak was radioactive, with a reading of 230 million becquerels per litre of radioactive isotopes”(2).   The report goes on to say that the World Health Organization “advises against drinking water with radioactivity levels higher than 10 becquerels per litre”(2).

CNN indicated that TEPCO reported the contaminated water did not go into the Pacific Ocean.   Indeed, there has been much concern over the far-reaching and long term affects of radiation in the Ocean since the meltdown of 3 reactors caused by an earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011.

In 2013 RT published an article on August 7th that stated “For the past two years, TEPCO has claimed that it managed to siphon off the excess water into specially-constructed storage tanks.  However, the company was forced to admit late last month that radioactive water was still escaping into the Pacific Ocean”(4).  In the same article when referencing the amount of contaminated water leaking into the ocean, Yushi Yoneyama, an official with the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, which regulates TEPCO was quoted as saying, “We think that the volume of water is about 300 tons a day”(4).   The RT article reported that TEPCO confirmed the leak but would not reveal the extent.

So, what progress has TEPCO made since the August 2013 article.

Apparently the contaminated ground water is still leaking into the ocean at a considerable rate.  An article written by The Guardian December 3, 2013 indicated, “TEPCO estimates that around 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater still flow into the Pacific each day”(5).

Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has been following and monitoring Pacific Ocean radiation levels since Fukishima’s meltdown.  He believes the initial release of radiation following the meltdown will reach the US west coast in three years.

It is good to note, that in addition to the ongoing contaminated water leaking into the Pacific, there was an initial amount of radiation released into the ocean following the Fukushima meltdown.  As an article written August 7, 2013 by National Geographic explains “the level of radioactive contamination that the plant was spewing in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, estimated to be from 5,000 to 15,000 terabecquerels, according to Buesseler.  For a comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima released 89 terabecquerels of cesium-137 when it exploded”(7).

The World Health Organization acknowledges that while the cancer rates in Japan will probably increase as a result of radiation released from the Fukishima meltdown, it is unclear as to what extent long-term exposure of contaminated water leaking into the ocean will cause.

The National Geographic article goes on to say, “As Buesseler’s research has shown, tests of local fish in the Fukushima area still show high enough levels of radiation that the Japanese government won’t allow them to be caught and sold for human consumption”(7).

While reviewing the literature on radiation from Fukushima, it appears the main concerns are cesium and strontium 90(Sr-90).   Exposure to cesium 137 increases cancer risk.  Internal exposure to Sr-90 is linked to bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia(9).  The National Geographic article references Buelleler as saying “Cesium is like salt—it goes in and out of your body quickly,” he explains.  “Strontium gets into your bones.”

The fact that Strontium goes into the bones means it bio-accumulates.  This means, that as fish are eaten by bigger fish, strontium 90 will accumulate in ocean life.   As people eat the fish it could end up in us as well.

It seems, that as the contaminated water leaches through the soil at Fukushima into the ocean, cesium is filtered by the soil.   Strontium is not.   This means, that as the contaminated water reaches the ocean, more bioaccumulation in organisms, including humans could occur.

Are we seeing the early results of Fukushima as millions of star fish literally melt and break apart on the US west coast from Alaska to California?

Are we seeing the effects on seals as they turn up dead, sick, with open wounds, internal ulcers, and hair-loss?

Are we seeing the effects as recent observations show the considerable decrease in salmon populations returning to spawn?

Are we seeing the effects on herring as they are found bleeding from their eyes and other various parts in fisherman nets and on beaches?

In addition to these relatively recent events, A November 22, 2013 National Geographic article referenced a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which indicated, “In March 2012, less than one percent of the seafloor beneath Station M was covered in dead sea salps.   By July 1, more than 98 percent of the bottom of the ocean was covered by decomposing organisms”(11).

Are these recent events coincidence? It is hard to say.

I am aware that both long and short term effects have been quickly minimized by some, and that the anomalies in the ocean have been written off as non-coincidental with respect to Fukushima.   What I do not understand is how some believe they can be certain of the effects it will have on the present and future, with little research on the issue.   I believe that more research is needed before we dismiss the consequences that this may have on the delicate balance of our ecosystem, and our own well-being, not only the local, but global.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.