A few years ago I learned that flaxseed oil improved my gums and other people’s — especially Tyler Cowen’s. A few months ago I went to Beijing for two months. Toward the end of the visit my gums would bleed when I’d use a toothpick. Yet I was drinking 3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil every day, just like in Berkeley.
Well, my Beijing flaxseed oil was old. Stored in a freezer, yes, but about 9 months old. When I returned to Berkeley, I bought fresh flaxseed oil. In a week, my gums were much better. The bleeding stopped.
Last week I went to the dentist. He measured my “pockets” — the distance a probe can be inserted between the gum and the tooth. The readings were almost all 2’s (mm), with a few 3’s and one 1. Years ago, before flaxseed oil, the rear teeth were 4s and 5s. Now I floss and brush my teeth less than back then. Because of living in China, I haven’t had my teeth cleaned in more than a year (unprecedented) so I have the most plaque ever in my life. Yet my gums are the healthiest they’ve been, after just a few weeks of good flaxseed oil. (“Your gums are in good shape,” said the dentist.) This suggests that plaque doesn’t matter, the opposite of what one dentist told me and what Wikipedia appears to say (“The focus of treatment for gingivitis is removal of the [usual] etiologic (causative) agent, plaque.”). Nothing is said about too-little omega-3.
All this suggests that gingivitis, a disease of inflammation, is due to too-little omega-3. This is even more plausible because omega-3 is a precursor of an anti-inflammation signaling molecule. Here’s the sequence of events that led to this conclusion: 1. Several people wondered if they could do the Shangri-La Diet with flaxseed oil, so I tried some. It seemed to improve my balance. 2. Careful measurements of my balance confirmed this. 3. Further measurements showed that more flaxseed oil continued to improve my balance until I reached 3 tablespoons/day, which is far more than any recommended dose I’ve seen. 4. Readers of this blog and friends tried taking flaxseed oil in similar amounts. Everyone who did so, as far as I know, found their gums greatly improved. 5. One person stopped taking the flaxseed oil. His gums got worse. He resumed. They got better again. 6. The story I tell here.
Notice how important blogs (this blog) are in this story. It’s a kind of microscience — I learn something via self-experimentation, I post it, people write in with their experience — that has turned out to be surprisingly informative, given the many ways it differs from professional science (no long training, no lab, no grants, no peer review).