Today I’d like to share with you some of the logistics of chemotherapy in hopes that it may help you or someone you know when dealing with the same situation.
Chemotherapy is intended to kill rapidly growing cancer cells, but unfortunately that means it also targets other healthy fast growing cells such as those lining your mouth and esophagus. This often results in terrible mouth sores during chemo treatment and unfortunately, I did not dodge that bullet.
A few days after my first chemo treatment I started to notice small cold sores on my tongue and inside my mouth. It was pretty unpleasant and I made it worse by eating a lot of spicy and acidic foods. I think I was in denial that I was actually getting mouth sores, so my first piece of advice is to please admit it when you are experiencing a side effect of chemo and immediately do something about it!
You need to get the mouth sores under control as quickly as possible so they do not become infected, since your immune system is compromised during chemo and an infection is the last thing you want. So I started researching all the things you can do, both topically and systemically, to combat chemo-related mouth sores. This is the list I came up with:
5 grams daily
From 1 day prior through 3 days after treatment, 10 grams 2x daily
If mouth sore occurs:
- Swish and spit 5 grams in small amount of water, swish for 45 seconds and spit, up to 5x daily
- Increase swallowed glutamine to 15 grams 2x daily for 48 hours
1 capsule 2x daily
Powder (mix with water and drink)
1 cup of tea daily strengthens gums
Fresh root held in mouth relieves mouth sores
Burdock root decoction
Swish 4 to 5 times daily
Salt/Baking Soda Rinse
Rinse with 1 cup warm water, ¼ teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Rough textures
Brush after eating with mild toothpaste
- Swish 1 tablespoon of coconut oil with 1 to 2 drops of clove essential oil in mouth, pulling vigorously through teeth, for 10 to 15 minutes
- Rinse with salt water after (~1/4 cup water + ½ tsp salt)
What Worked For Me
I tried all of these things and no one treatment alone did the trick. I finally landed on the right combination of oil pulling followed by salt/baking soda rinse and finally Magic Mouthwash, three to four times a day. I’m also taking Sea Buckthorn, Slippery Elm and Glutamine Powder daily just for good measure.
Magic Mouthwash is a special prescription mouthwash that your doctor will order and the pharmacist will prepare for you. It usually includes some combination of antibiotic, antihistamine, anti-fungal, antacids and/or steroids. Mine has Banophen (antihistamine), antacid and Nystatin (anti-fungal) and it tastes like some weird fruit cream, not fantastic, but another side effect of chemo is that you can’t taste much, so that’s a plus in this case.
I also highly recommend switching to a non-mint toothpaste since mint can be irritating when you have mouth sores. I’ve been using Tom’s of Maine Silly Strawberry Children’s Toothpaste and I love it!
Luckily I have things under control for now and I’ll need to stay on top of it through the rest of my treatment, but at least I have a plan. If you have any other advice on treating mouth sores during chemotherapy, please leave a comment on this post.