The story of Layla and her perfect teeth — some cultural learnings from Africa

Layla's pearly whites

I had always imagined that the pioneering research of American dentist Dr. Weston A. Price would not be possible to replicate today. Now that western dietary influences have permeated so much of the world, where would you look for peoples who had not learned to eat sugar and white flour?

Dr. Price traveled the world in the 1930s to seek out primitive peoples with good teeth, and learn their ways of eating. He summarized his findings in the book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”. While Dr. Price was far from unique in attributing chronic degenerative diseases to wrong eating, his concept of right eating contrasts sharply with currently prevailing ideas about vegetarianism and veganism.

And while Layla’s story is only anecdotal evidence, it’s still fascinating to see how the healthy influences of a childhood diet which included raw milk sustained her through the grueling ordeals of her later childhood and youth as a refugee in Africa to the point where today at age 28, she has perfect teeth and a well-formed dental arch. Typical westerners need to have their wisdom teeth pulled because of a smaller dental arch caused by what Dr. Price would call “physical degeneration”.

But Layla’s story is about much more than perfect teeth. It’s about how a person with a determined goal can succeed against all odds. And maybe too, it’s about how non-ideal conditions for development need not be a determining factor in the success of a person, and may even have been, in some way that we may not fullly understand, a help along the way.

Thanks first to Ann Marie Michaels of Cheeseslave blog for circulating this story, and to Matt Stone for taking the time write it up and post it on his blog,

We’ll start with an excerpt from Matt’s blog post:

“When we saw someone with really bright skin and shiny hair we used to assume that they were eating a lot of butter.”
-Layla Sheikh’s remark watching me snarf up ridiculous amounts of butter

Recently I crossed paths with a Somalian refugee living in political exile here in Maui. Her name is Layla Sheikh. But don’t think that she’s some poor peasant girl fresh outta the Somalian desert sand, begging for food. She sports a stylin’ fro and highly fashionable clothes. She cruises in an SUV, and has her own two-bedroom apartment 200 yards from the Pacific ocean. She works as a professional model, getting gigs like holding the round cards at the UFC fights over in Lahaina, as well as doing plenty of photo shoots and fashion shows. Basically, she’s pimpin’ y’all. The African Queen. Speaks five languages, including Swahili and Arabic. She still runs (not jogs) over 20 miles a day and can climb a tree like a 100-pound squirrel though (why this isn’t on youtube yet baffles me. What I’d give…).

She needed some help spreading the word about her mission to get back in contact with her family, who she hasn’t communicated with in eight agonizing years – that and find a publisher for support with her autobiographical book project – World of Pain (working title). Since I was only starting a business, writing a book, pursuing a Master’s degree, doing independent research, and managing a retail store, I said “sure, why not, I’ve got plenty of time.” Guess I’m just a ‘yes’ man – or perhaps when face to face with someone who spent an entire year living completely alone, eating only berries, tree sap, and nuts, walking through hundreds of miles of lion-filled savannah between Somalia and Kenya, hand-digging holes to sleep in every night and covering it with brush to hide from prowling lions and hyenas, waking up with cobras surrounding her, getting chased up trees by charging lions, and often going days without water – at age 12, it feels utterly ridiculous to pretend that life is too strenuous to add a little typing to your day.

By the way, a year before this amazing event she ran, holding a younger sibling in her arms, for six months, rarely sleeping more than 20 minutes at a time, with little more than powdered milk for food. All the while bombs exploded and gunshots echoed all around her and her family, and the landscape was scattered with dead and dying bodies being slashed in the throat for food (blood) and devoured by lions and hyenas. What am I going to say, “I can’t help you with that letter to Oprah because I only got seven hours of sleep last night?” Yeah.

In exchange for the work I helped her with, I interrogated her about her diet, the health of her family and those she grew up with, and picked up on some very ‘infotaining’ details pertaining to food, health, and nutrition. Being the gentleman that I am, the first night we worked together I said, “open up and lemme see them choppers.” She was shy about it, although I don’t know why. If my teeth looked like that I’d walk around with my mouth open all day (pause to capture visual image of that). She opened up, and I peered in like a pirate glimpsing into a giant trunk full of gold. Layla, age 28, is the first person that I’ve met my age or younger with a perfect dental arch, including wisdom teeth in perfect alignment. I was even wondering if something of the sort still existed, like Bigfoot or la chupacabra! Of course, modern medicine attributes this lack of space in the dental arch for all 32 teeth to humans evolving to no longer need all those pesky teeth – a Dr. Oz answer if I’ve ever heard one.

In addition to that, her teeth are white, white. Like, white, white, white. Like Michael Jackson white. I had those sun spot things in my eyes after looking at them.

What’s her secret? Well, she grew up in Somalia where the dental care and access to the latest and greatest in oral hygiene products abound of course.

“Every now and then, I’d scrape my teeth with some tree bark,” she says.

When food was scarce she gnawed on charcoal from the fire pit. I don’t think she brushed her teeth with some All-American, don’t-do-jack to prevent cavities Crest/Colgate until after her 18th birthday. That’s how you get really nice teeth? Turns out that running the water over my toothbrush for 2 minutes and 14 seconds every night during my youth could’ve been the secret all along. Oh wait, my mouth has more metal in it than a Slayer concert. Nevermind.

Let’s get deeper into the details. First off, after Layla lived off of tree sap and berries for an entire year, powdered milk for months, was often hungry enough to eat charcoal just to have something to chew on, and grew up consuming whatever food her family could cultivate or find, she came to the God Blessed U.S. and A., took a bite of some American food, and was like (in Somali), “WTF is this S%@#??” As a former chef, this, her first impression of Americana, is priceless (had to change my underwear actually). Like most kids these days, the only thing Layla found to taste decent at all was the candy. “The milk tasted horrible, the fruit and vegetables were like dirt, and when I was given dried breakfast cereal I was insulted. I saw a dog getting fed something exactly like it.” Correction: Breakfast cereal and dog food are not identical, dog food has a much higher nutritional value. They add things to it like:

Organ meats, one of the staples of Layla’s diet as she grew up.

Layla also had broth with most of her meals made from whatever bones and scraps were left of the creature that was most recently cooked up. “Oh yeah, we used everything. Nothing was wasted. We cooked the head, the hooves, all the bones.”

She also had fresh raw milk from goats, sheep, and cows and plenty of yellow butter with her meals, which otherwise consisted mostly of corn, rice (depending on availability), vegetables, root vegetables, and small portions of meat/organ meats when available. She also hit the orchards for mangoes, papayas, and bananas, none of which caused her or her family so much as a toothache. This detail is included for those who insist that cavities are somehow magically caused by sugar residues remaining on the teeth (‘those’ happen to be over 99% of dentists on the face of the planet, who are evidently inhaling way too much nitrous).

Layla did have access to refined sugar from a nearby military base, but that access was intermittent. She also mentioned that the slight dental decay that she did suffer from was a result of her love for this white goodness, and that her mom’s teeth were even whiter and straighter than hers. “Oh yeah, my mom’s were just perfect. She grew up in an area where they had no access to sugar at all. They ate mostly grain, milk, meat, organ meats, and bone broths. The area was drier so there was little fruit or vegetables.”….”

Read the rest of the story on Matt’s

Download the 10-page version of Layla’s life so far.


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6 responses to “The story of Layla and her perfect teeth — some cultural learnings from Africa

  1. The Milkmen USA

    Thank you for this story. A real human story. More people can now see how foods, good food, and milk, raw milk, has helped to save or improve the lives of others. This young lady did revolt. She moved away, a passive revolution. Sometimes, there is no place to go and no place to hide. This is our land and we ask ourselves, why do we have to run away. When in reality, it is “they” who should run away.

    Some milkmen have similar stories to tell. Some milkmen are war veterans. Some as far back as WWI that are still here today to tell real stories. Just the other day at a Farmers Market in New Haven, CT at Wooster Square, we met a WWI
    veteran. The man was over 96 years of age. A very nice man. He was not bitter. An educated man with a sparkle in his eye still and a swing in his gait. He said,”today, nobody wins wars. Wars today are different. A man opens up a door and then boom, a bomb goes off in his face.” He also said,”if I had a son or daughter today, I would not advise them to sign up voluntarily for the armed forces.” Why, we asked? He said, “that wars are not fought the same way. You do not stand much of a chance to gain anything, not freedom, not justice. You are just fighting a politicians war. Send the politicians over there to fight, he said.”

    We admire Layla and will try to help her cause. Sometimes, a revolution is needed. The question is; who leads it and who maintains such revolution? The Michael Schmidts of the world, yes. And others are needed. Local farmers, consumers, voters, business people; the good ones. At that very same Farmers market was a group of people from Connecticut handing out information on how to register to vote. Great idea. Your votes are needed too. Vote the bad guys out. Kick the bums, the lazy ones out.

    In the meantime, Layla; look for good people. Many of them are farmers. They are interested in sustainability. And the natural ways of life. If you can, stay in Hawaii. It is one of the most pristine places on earth. In Hawaii there are no or few raw milk dairies. Maybe we can work with you to start one there. The Big Island has many farms. We think that Hawaii has more farms, small farms, than any other state in the USA. Try agriculture, work in agriculture. The land and sea will not turn their backs on you.

    Read David Gumpert’s book and Joe Salatin’s Foreward in this book, “THE RAW MILK REVOLUTION – BEHIND AMERICA’S EMERGING BATTLE OVER FOOD RIGHTS.”

    The Milkmen are Back!


  2. Hi,

    I glad to know that you are interested my story, I am looking for resources to help bring my family over, from Somalia to U.S.A. Especial now is very stressful time for me, and my family because, my father who is 94 years old and has worked as a Doctor and Tribal Chief to ex-President Siad Barre is ill, and in coma, without medical treatment. I would appreciate any suggestions, or help you can give. I just thought I throw idea out there, in case you know way to help me.

    Mat is my hero and he has been very helpful to me, and my mission, and I love him for that. Please excuse my English, I am college student.
    Check out my web site:

    Thank you

    Layla Sheikh

    • The Milkmen USA

      Ms. Sheikh:

      You now live in an affluent society, Hawaii. we recommend that you reach out on a local level. This can work if you want it too and if you are always honest in your intentions.

      The Milkmen USA

  3. The Milkmen USA


    We are in Hawaii too and many of our brothers and sisters have been there. Most of us Milkmen are from the Northeastern USA, Mid-west, and California. Don’t let the Hawaiian lifestyle and beautiful weather let you get lazy. Many a milkman had started his business alone with long 15 hour days, and many years of hard work. And then barely enough money to pay the land or farm off but always struggling to see some cream form at the top. You are already living some “Cream” just by living in Hawaii. Do you realize this? Don’t forget where you came from and what happened to you there. It is time for you to work 15 hours a day in Hawaii, we think. do not forget this. Work hard, be glad you are there now. You are one of the fortunate ones. Hawaii is a dream come true. do not look toward charity now. Go out and continue to work. we wish we could have time to run around like you and raise awareness. Instead we are here, WORKING.

    Be enterprising. Do not rely on welfare, or government- handouts. They can cripple you. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. And vote. Think about real democracy and forget empty promises about CHANGE. Try agriculture and the sea for work. Keep preservation at the forefront. Now you are really moving. If you are working in this direction, we would love to hear from you.

    As we said already, the wealth and good opportunities are right there on the islands. Make it work. God Speed be with you.

    The Milkmen USA

  4. Pingback: Nutrition and Physical Regeneration » Mo' Buttah Mo' Bettah – Musings Around The Web

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