Don’t Use Antiseptic Mouthwash

Don’t Use Antiseptic Mouthwash
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The natural flora on our tongue (lingual bacteria) are essential for the athletic performance-enhancing effect of the nitrates in vegetables such as beetroot.

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How do they know it’s the nitrate that’s responsible for the beet-related boost in athletic performance? Beets have all sorts of wonderful phytonutrients. Well, first they compared beet juice to a berry juice—packed with phytonutrients, but no nitrate. Beets worked; berries didn’t. Yeah, but still, I’m sure there’s lots of stuff unique to beets, other than the nitrate.

So, then they got creative. If it truly is this unbelievable nitrate-to-nitrite double pass through the mouth, what would happen if you had them swish with an antiseptic mouthwash? Wipe out that integral population of tongue bacteria. They tried it; nitrite levels dropped—presumably eliminating the performance-enhancing effect.

They even had guys drink the beet juice, and then drool for three hours. Not swallow any of their saliva. And that eliminated the beetroot effect too!

“The effect of beetroot juice on the plasma concentration of…nitrite and the effects of spitting versus swallowing.” I told you this was a crazy story. They drank the same amount of beet juice, but by drinking and drooling, they removed that critical second pass through the mouth.

So, don’t waste your money buying beets to boost your athletic performance—unless you keep your tongue bacteria happy, and swallow your spit.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

How do they know it’s the nitrate that’s responsible for the beet-related boost in athletic performance? Beets have all sorts of wonderful phytonutrients. Well, first they compared beet juice to a berry juice—packed with phytonutrients, but no nitrate. Beets worked; berries didn’t. Yeah, but still, I’m sure there’s lots of stuff unique to beets, other than the nitrate.

So, then they got creative. If it truly is this unbelievable nitrate-to-nitrite double pass through the mouth, what would happen if you had them swish with an antiseptic mouthwash? Wipe out that integral population of tongue bacteria. They tried it; nitrite levels dropped—presumably eliminating the performance-enhancing effect.

They even had guys drink the beet juice, and then drool for three hours. Not swallow any of their saliva. And that eliminated the beetroot effect too!

“The effect of beetroot juice on the plasma concentration of…nitrite and the effects of spitting versus swallowing.” I told you this was a crazy story. They drank the same amount of beet juice, but by drinking and drooling, they removed that critical second pass through the mouth.

So, don’t waste your money buying beets to boost your athletic performance—unless you keep your tongue bacteria happy, and swallow your spit.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Marie-Claire.

Doctor's Note

If you’re asking yourself, “What beet-related boost in athletic performance?” you may have missed the first video in this series, Doping With Beet Juice. And if the whole “nitrate to nitrite double pass” is a mystery to you, then check out Priming the Proton Pump. If you’re thinking, “Wait a second, aren’t nitrites the preservatives in cured meats that cause cancer?” then you’re way ahead of me—stay tuned to the 14 following videos in this series! 

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Using Greens to Improve Athletic PerformanceTea and Flouride Risk; and Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much Is Safe?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

21 responses to “Don’t Use Antiseptic Mouthwash

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  1. If you’re asking yourself “what beet-related boost in athletic performance?” you may have missed the first video in this series Doping with beet juice. And if the whole “nitrate to nitrite double pass” is a mystery to you, then check out yesterday’s video. If you’re thinking “wait a second, aren’t nitrites the preservatives in cured meats that cause cancer?” then you’re way ahead of me—stay tuned to the 14 following videos in this series and feel free in the meantime to check out the hundreds of other videos on 1000+ topics.




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      1. Hi there Matheus,

        I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you so much for your question.

        Dr. Greger has several videos on toothpaste. If you search “toothpaste” in the search bar on NutritionFacts.org, you’ll see a few. Here are a couple:

        https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-capb-in-sls-free-toothpaste-any-better/

        https://nutritionfacts.org/video/antibacterial-toothpaste-harmful-helpful-or-harmless/

        Hope that helps answer your question!




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  2. Should I stop rinsing my mouth with salt water (which I find soothing to my gums) or stop chewing xylitol-flavored gum, which is supposed to kill bacteria?




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  3. Would this avoidance of antibacterial products include the triclosan often used in toothpaste? Should we all go back to brushing our teeth with baking soda?




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    1. That is not necessary. If you brush your teeth at night, you will wake up in the morning with bad breath because the bacteria have recolonized. It is relatively easy to reacquire mouth flora. I just don’t brush my teeth in the morning if i plan on hard physical activity that day.




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        1. I found SLS in all the toothpaste I had been using and switched to baking soda. I have been short of breath lately and worry about potential oil buildup in my lungs from years of using toothpaste with SLS.




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  4. I don’t use soap on most of the body, now, as I shower, with the idea that the natural skin flora is maintained and can do it’s job. Have you anything on soaps and this matter?




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  5. would have liked to see the atheletic performance measured after antispetic mouthwash to “close the loop” and associate the perfomance benefits with nitrites




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  6. Are non-antiseptic mouthwashes OK? Also, in this or a related video, you say that the nitrates in beet juice spur action by proton pumps. Does that mean that the use of proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium will diminish the production of nitrites and therefore NO in the body, regardless of whether you are juicing? Emerging research seems to suggest that NO is helpful for many physical processes and possibly to ward off disease, so it would seem that the effects of PPIs could be far-reaching. Thanks!




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  7. There is a big push in the alternative dental world to use hydrogen peroxide in your tooth brushing routine. Does this ruin the nitrate proton pump effect? Maybe our teeth are more important than the proton pump or maximizing beet juice action.




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  8. Hi. I read that mouthwash can eliminate the benefits of nitrate absorption? So a couple of questions:

    – Do all mouthwashes have this detrimental affect
    – What are the timescales involved e.g. can I use mouthwash in the morning, load with nitrates at lunch then get the benefits in the evening?




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  9. I found that people with bad breath typically eat one meal a day. The body prefers four meals of 400 to 500 calories (depending on body size) at four hour intervals to keep bad breath at bay. Also if you use garlic cut 1/8 inch off the top of the bulb and discard. That is where the garlicky smell comes from.




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