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If you’ve undergone or are in the midst of conventional cancer treatments, dry mouth (Xerostomia) may be one of the unpleasant side effects you’re experiencing. Having a dry mouth affects more than just eating. You need saliva to talk, swallow, taste, and digest food. You also need saliva to protect your mouth from infection. The good news is that there are certain foods and other simple remedies for dry mouth that you can try at home.
Cancer Treatments That Cause Xerostomia
- Chemotherapy is known to cause Xerostomia after treatment. It generally comes in the form of reduced saliva production. This means your salivary glands are unable to produce sufficient spit to coat the mouth during conversation and eating. The chemo side effects of xerostomia are generally short term. On the average, dry mouth occurs for only a few months after treatment. Still, it is important to take actions that will alleviate the problem.
- Radiation Therapy also causes dry mouth if it is directed toward the head and neck areas. It may take six months to notice improvement of dry mouth symptoms or the problem can even linger on for several years. Because of the importance of natural saliva, altering your diet to speed-up the recovery process is paramount.
6 Ways Dry Mouth Impacts Your Life
1. Dental Hygiene
Saliva is concentrated with probiotics that fight against pathogens. It also washes away food particles and counters plaque build-up. Without saliva, the mouth is susceptible to bacterial overgrowth which leads to gum disease and halitosis. Making frequent visits to a dentist that specializes in bio-dentistry to help prevent cavities and oral infections is helpful.
2. Difficulty Talking
Having a reduced flow of saliva causes your tongue to stick to your mouth when trying to hold a conversation. This can be very unpleasant and may affect your social life. It’s important to keep your mouth lubricated as much as possible so you can communicate more comfortably. Hydrating foods and drinks can help with this. (See below for more on this.)
3. Cracked Lips
It’s amazing how well saliva can keep your mouth and lips moisturized when functioning properly. Consuming moisture-rich vegetables and fruits can help protect the lips during your recovery period. Avocado is one vegetable that is especially effective for keeping the lips and skin smooth due to its high concentration of natural vitamin E. Try smoothing the vitamin-rich pulp onto your lips as a moisturizer.
4. Difficulty Chewing
Chewing your food is important for digestion and saliva is the beginning of the process. If the salivary glands are damaged it’s important to eat juicy foods at room temperature or even cold. This also helps with pain and soothes the mouth.
5. Incomplete Digestion
The salivary glands release saliva at the mere thought of eating food. This is because saliva contains important digestive enzymes that begin the process of digestion. Without these enzymes you can suffer from undigested food which can result in inflammation, a build-up of putrefied foods in the colon, constipation, and other maladies. While you are recovering from therapy you will want to consume enzyme-rich foods in their uncooked state to maximize your digestion.
6. Diminished Taste
Saliva helps to break down food in the mouth which releases the bio-chemicals to enhance the taste sensation. This helps to make the dining experience enjoyable which also optimizes digestion. With little to no saliva, your ability to taste food is greatly reduced.
At Home Remedies for Dry Mouth
- Chaga mushroom tea promotes regeneration of damaged tissue.
- Plantain tea is known for its ability to rebuild smooth muscle tissue in the mouth and detoxify the body.
- Burdock Root extract in Sweet Red Clover Blossom tea is excellent for repairing nervous tissue, relieving pain, and rebuilding soft tissue. It’s also excellent for restoring glandular functions.
- St. John’s Wort oil and tea are excellent for relieving pain in the mouth and restoring a sense of well-being.
- Echinacea tincture will help heal the glands in the mouth and relieve pain.
- Consume dark leafy greens as well as other veggies from the cruciferous family such as cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. These contain powerful antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-bacterial components that will help fight infections, reduce pathogenic bacteria, and feed the body with minerals and vitamins simultaneously.
- Consume garlic, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and coconut milk yogurt. These foods will also fight bacteria while releasing digestive enzymes to do the work that saliva normally performs.
- Fresh celery juice, cucumber, avocado, and pineapple are hydrating and full of digestive enzymes and antioxidants.
- Consume blended vegetable soups gently cooked to maintain their nutrients. Examples include: sweet potato soup, pumpkin soup, cauliflower soup, and beet soup. These should be consumed at temperatures slightly above room temperature or cold so as not to further injure the mouth.
- Incorporate various smoothies, including green smoothies, oat smoothies, and superfood smoothies. These will help you take in nutrients without the need for chewing. Because they are hydrating, this will also help moisturize the mouth and body while boosting the body’s natural healing capacity.
Making a warm water tea and adding the herbal tinctures will help relieve pain and restore glandular functions in the mouth. This will also give you a sense of well-being which is very important for recovery. The foods listed above are excellent choices for adding to your menu, especially the smoothies and soups. These can be made quickly with a blender.
The benefit of the smoothies and soups is that you can maximize your nutrients without having to chew. They will help in rehydrating you and offer pre-digested food to lessen the burden of digestion since saliva supply is (very) limited.
Please note, I am not a doctor and am only making suggestions based on my experience, research, and health background. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider before making any serious health choices to verify their compatibility with any treatments you are taking.
Here’s a healthy recipe to help you get started with your dry mouth recovery menu…
Recipe to Alleviate Dry Mouth
- 1½ cups fresh cauliflower
- ¼ cup red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon flax seeds
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 ¼ cups spring or filtered water
- Add all the ingredients to a high speed blender. Blend until smooth.
- Place in the top of a double boiler. Heat until the water boils in the bottom pot and the soup is very warm to the touch.
- Put in bowls and serve immediately. Enjoy!
Have you experienced xerostomia as a result of cancer treatments? What remedies for dry mouth worked best for you? Please share in the Comments section below.
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Dry mouth (Xerostomia) is one of the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Having a dry mouth affects more than just eating. You need saliva to talk, swallow, taste, and digest food and to protect the mouth from infection.
Xerostomia can lead to to a number of issues including:
- gum and oral health problems
- difficulty talking
- cracked lips
- difficulty chewing
- incomplete digestion
- diminished taste
Some herbal remedies that may relieve symptoms of dry mouth are:
- Chaga mushroom tea
- Plantain tea
- Burdock Root extract in Sweet Red Clover Blossom tea
- St. John’s Wort oil and tea
- Echinacea tincture
Foods that can have a beneficial effect on dry mouth include:
- Dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables
- Garlic, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and fermented foods
- Fresh celery juice, cucumber, avocado, and pineapple
- Creamy vegetable soups
- Smoothies, including green smoothies, oat smoothies, and superfood smoothies
See the article for a special recipe to help alleviate dry mouth
Silvia Logan says
This cauliflower soup looks delicious except that I use vegetable broth instead of water because it gives more flavor than water.