Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing is really common with chemotherapy patients and those that have had radiotherapy on their neck and mouth region. You can expect to have ulcers, lesions, dtysfunctioning salivary glands for up to 12 weeks post treatment. This makes it incredibly difficult to eat food that will help nourish you, and regenerate your cells. If you don't eat well, how can you repair? Most health professionals will suggest a mouth wash or some type of oral regime that is riddled with chemicals which can aggravate the symptoms even if they provide initial temporary relief. My mother experienced extremely dry mouth due to radiotherapy on her neck, as well as ulcers from the chemotherapy. In fact, the medication she was on caused severe dry mouth, which. meant she had to endure the torture for 4 years of her life.
She was prescribed 3 products for her mouth, and she used them only a handful of times, because
1. the smell and taste annoyed her so much
2. the chemicals in the products burned her mouth and ulcers even more
3. she detested the list of ingredients on the pack
She was prepared to put up with the pain rather than use the products. She asked me to find a more natural alternative, and after researching the ingredients used in those products, I am so glad I was able to offer a better solution. Let's examine the ingredients in the commercially available products you'll find at your supermarket and pharmacy...
Parabens - used has preservatives, paragons are found in so many household products from shampoos, moisturisers, makeup, toothpaste, and so much more. These group of chemicals, (methyl - ethyl - propyl- butyl- and heptyl-) are controversial and as they are found in almost everything in your home, there is substantial evidence around the concern of cancer development. However, this could be because multi-billion dollar companies make sure research on these products don't happen - but let's be honest. We all know that preservatives are nasty... in it's most mildest form of reaction, humans have developed allergic reactions, including dermatitis, rosacea and hives. Due to this chemical compounds ability to mimic oestrogen, it is known to be an xenoestrogen and possibly linked with initiating and promoting breast cancer. If you're interested in this topic, I strongly suggest reading a book that has captivated me, Clinical Environmental Medicine; Crinnion & Pizzorno.
Propylene Glycol - it's used to as a preservative, humectant and a sweetener. In cosmeceuticals it's used to help to help ingredients penetrate the skin (think face serums and creams). This ingredient actually helps all the nasty ingredients penetrate your oral mucosa. Sounds fun *eye roll*
I find it interesting that in 2018, the American Contact Dermatitis Society named PG as their number one allergen of the year and yet it's still in everything!
Hydrogen peroxide - also used as an antiseptic. I have to mention that a particular product on the market that has this as their active ingredient doesn't use the term 'hydrogen peroxide' rather, stating oxygen as the hero, "the release of oxygen bubbles helps remove mouth debris". I wonder, are they actually afraid of saying 'hydrogen peroxide'? Of course they wouldn't mention it, HP sounds horrific, and it is! Central nervous system damage, skin blistering, skin damage, respiratory problems, abdominal pain, oral burns...must I go on?
Sodium Benzoate - preservative, can cause hyperactivity if mixed with a colour (which most mouth washes do contain) and proven to be oestrogenic, promoting breast cancer cells.
--- ** At this point, I'm really angry, and I've only done 4 commonly found ingredients.... Is this not enough to stop using chemicals? **---
poloxamer 407 - used extensively in mouthwashes and toothpastes, it has been reported and researched that this compound causes high cholesterol.
benzoic acid - is used as a preservative (in food you'll notice them as E-numbers, e.g. E210). Its main role is to inhibit mould and bacteria. This compound has been researched extensively in the 1990's in the way it affects our immune system. In some people it has caused uticaria - skin rashes - and prolonged exposure may lead to lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
sodium fluoride - Used to prevent tooth decay - but it's highly toxic and there are other substances you can use to prevent decay. Fluoride has been recognised as causing adverse neurodevelopment in children; weakened bones in adults with an increase in hip and wrist fractures; kidney damage; thyroid dysfunction leading to metabolism disruption.
Triclosan - used as an antibacterial and anti-fungal. However, this chemical disrupts hormones and alters thyroid function as well as accelerates tumour development.
Honestly, I could keep going with the list of ingredients, but I could be here for a long while and I believe you have enough information to determine whether or not these products are doing harm or good to your body. The choice is yours....
Honestly, it's hard to avoid chemicals, they're almost in everything you put on your skin, in your mouth, wherever. But why does it bother me so much that I have to write a blog about it regarding dry mouth? I'll tell you why - the oral mucosa (skin inside your mouth) is so permeable due to low amounts of keratinisation (compared to your hands or feet...agree?). The skin is so thin and the blood vessels are so close to the surface of the skin. Go ahead, find a mirror and look under your tongue and inside your cheeks, see all those blood vessels? See how close they are to the skin? This makes an ideal environment for optimal chemical absorption. New medical technologies actually prefer this route of drug administration because a) the medication is absorbed so quickly into the blood and has quick effect; b) the medication doesn't have to undergo metabolism via the liver and therefore has a higher bioavailability to the body. You may find sublingual or buccal administration of some medication, and in the future there will be more. So, this is fine if you're on medication, you need to take a particular drug. But it ain't so great if you're trying to keep your oral cavity clean - and the only ridiculously toxic options are concoctions riddled with chemicals which will end up doing more harm than good. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason I am so annoyed with the multibillion dollar companies that continue to use chemicals in products that are NOT DESIGNED TO BE CONSUMED and yet they're allowed to have them in products that will be in contact with our blood supply.
Now you're probably thinking, "Okay, so you've listed all the bad guys, what choices do we have?", Well, I'm glad you asked. Because there has to be another way? There has to be a better way! We need something that will fight tooth decay, repair the oral mucosa/ulcers/sores, as well as be pleasant tasting.
I had to create my own concoction which would tackle decay, repair and sooth damage and be healthy enough you could drink it without worrying about toxicity. I used these products, and you can buy them from my store.,
Olive Leaf Mouth Wash - mix 10ml with the zinc status and swoosh in mouth for 20-30 seconds.
Grants Natural Mouthwash - mix with the zinc status as above
Berringa Manuka Honey Lozenges - Manuka has wonderful healing properties for ulceration and helps boost immunity. Dissolve in your mouth as you feel you need it.
Fulhealth Industries Zinc Status - always mix 10ml with your mouth wash to help repair ulcers. Zinc Sulfate is BRILLIANT for healing wounds. If you swallow this by mistake, don't stress. It's great for your immunity.
Grants Xylitol Toothpaste - use in place of normal toothpaste. Xylitol helps prevent tooth decay so don't feel guilty,
Epic Xylitol Dental Fruit Mint or Spearmint Drops - Xylitol is clinically proven to fight tooth decay, and inhibits the bacteria. So enjoy these as you need. Just be warned excessive xylitol can give some people diarrhoea. However, you'd have to consume a lot to get that side effect. Otherwise, enjoy these drops during the day especially after a meal.
Spry Xylitol Chewing Gum - Fruit or mint helps keep your mouth moist and cool while fighting decay.
So there you have it, my more natural alternatives. I suggest the following regime
1. 10ml Olive Leaf Mouth wash or Grants Natural mouthwash, PLUS 10ml Zinc sulphate, and swoosh in your mouth for at least 20 seconds. One minute is ideal. Do this 3-6 times a day.
2. Manuka lozenges with the highest MGO are great for wound healing and antiseptic properties. Dissolve slowly in your mouth as you desire. Up to 12 a day.
3. Have gum or drops with xylitol after a meal to prevent decay
4. Brush your teeth with a toothpaste that has no nasties 3 times a day.
This helped my mother a lot - especially the wash and Manuka lozenges. Good luck!
As you may know, my mother lost her battle to this terrifying disease in mid 2017, and during the whole process I completely lost my faith in the hospital system. Now, don't get me wrong, my mother's oncologist was and is, one of the best doctors I have ever dealt with. Not only was he optimistic (when he clearly knew the outcome) but he was always prepared to go over and beyond for my mother. For that I will be eternally grateful. However, it's not the doctor I have concerns with, rather the hospital system and how the so called 'food specialists' known as dieticians aimed at helping my mother. I was mortified.
Let me break this down.
Imagine you are in hospital. You are lying in bed waiting for your meal to arrives it's dinner time or breakfast or lunch. You can hear the food trolly makes its way down the corridor and edging closer to the room. Finally the hospital worker brings the tray of food to the table over the bed and you remove the plastic or metal cloche to reveal.....unappealing, unappetising slop. Reluctantly, you consume a few mouthfuls, and then give up. Some time passes, and the doctors and nurses notice that meals are left half eaten, and report this on your patient card. A dietician is booked to see you as everyone is concerned. The dietician takes some notes about your likes/dislikes and suggests a 'high protein' diet, or maybe a 'pureed diet' or whatever it is they suggest for you, it's wrong. Let's just say it's wrong. Because inevitably it is.
In the coming meal trays, you notice with your meal a bottle of 'liquid food' - suggested by the dietician to be consumed 1-2 times a day. It's a high protein drink. Or it's a high calorie drink. You know you have to drink it, you trust the health professionals. And so, along with your tray of slop, you consume the drink. But what are you really consuming?
I see this all too often. Innocent patients drinking a meal replacement/calorie drink/ protein drink but no one actually cares to ask what is in this product? And why do dieticians continually insist on suggesting this rubbish to their patients?
Now, I am not going to name brands or tell you what the names of these drinks are, but I'm sure with very little investigating you could find these online, or maybe you have seen them in hospital. I want to look at some of the ingredients....
INGREDIENTS (VANILLA): WATER, CORN SYRUP, CANOLA OIL, CALCIUM CASEINATE (MILK), SUGAR AND LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM CASEINATE, POTASSIUM CITRATE, DISTILLED MONOGLYCERIDES, MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, CELLULOSE GEL, SODIUM ASCORBATE, SODIUM CITRATE, CHOLINE CHLORIDE, CITRIC ACID, SOY LECITHIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, ALPHA-TOCOPHERYL ACETATE, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, MALTODEXTRIN, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SALT, CELLULOSE GUM, FERROUS SULFATE, ZINC SULFATE, NIACINAMIDE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, COPPER GLUCONATE, MANGANESE SULFATE, VITAMIN D3, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID, CHROMIUM CHLORIDE, BIOTIN, POTASSIUM IODIDE, SODIUM MOLYBDATE, SODIUM SELENITE, VITAMIN K1, VITAMIN B12
Essentially this drink is a fake glass of milk with added fats and sugars. you could take a multivitamin, crush it and use 1/10th of it, add it to a glass of water, add a whole lot of glucose syrup and then more sugar and about 2 tablespoons of milk and don't forget to add 4 tablespoons of canola oil .
Every 236ml of this drink, 162 ml is plain water, the rest of the fluid is made up of sugar syrup, oils and milk powder. RIDICULOUS. This is considered food by the hospital.
It is 480 calories of rubbish. And yet, patients are consuming this.
let's look at one more example of a very high calorie and protein drink provided by hospitals to patients.
INGREDIENTS (VERY VANILLA): WATER, CORN SYRUP, CANOLA OIL, CALCIUM-POTASSIUM CASEINATE (FROM MILK), SUGAR, ISOLATED SOY PROTEIN, CORN OIL AND LESS THAN 2% OF SOY LECITHIN, CALCIUM CITRATE, MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE, POTASSIUM CITRATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, SALT, SODIUM CITRATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOLINE CHLORIDE, CITRIC ACID, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, TAURINE, ZINC SULFATE, ALPHA-TOCOPHERYL ACETATE, NIACINAMIDE, CARRAGEENAN, FERROUS SULFATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, MANGANESE SULFATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, RIBOFLAVIN, VITAMIN D3, COPPER SULFATE, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, FOLIC ACID, BIOTIN, POTASSIUM SORBATE, SODIUM MOLYBDATE, POTASSIUM IODIDE, CHROMIUM CHLORIDE, SODIUM SELENATE, VITAMIN K1, VITAMIN B12
This last item, also very well known and used in hospitals throughout Australia - designed to help patients gain or maintain weight. They do this by loading the product with corn maltodextrin (CM) which acts as a thickener and is highly processed form of polysaccharide. This ingredient has a high glycemic index and a poor choice for diabetics and those with insulin resistance. It has double the glycemic index of sugar. Research has shown CM to directly interfere with gut health, and disruption the natural balance of good bacteria in our digestive system. CM promotes the survival of salmonella which is directly responsible for inflammatory diseases in the gut. Thirdly, this product is manufactured from genetically modified corn (I am pretty confident I could say that none of the ingredients are organic), Finally, CM has zero nutritional value. It has zero benefit for your body, and yet it's the second ingredient in this product. The next item is more sugar. After that it's a cocktail of vegetable oils to keep the calories high and then there's some protein in the form of milk and soy, followed by token amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Now, this infuriates me. Because either one of three things is happening
1. The person in charge of hospital food ordering these products is an idiot who needs to go back to university and study basic biochemistry. Even a person who has no formal qualification in this area of study, could look at the ingredients and say "Wow, this is really crap. Surely this is not going to help my body recover at all".
2. The person/people in charge of ordering these products gets a HUGE kick back from the manufacturer of these horrific drinks/foods.
3. No one wants to change anything because it's too hard, would cause disruption to the supply chain and disgruntle the upper echelon staff...
The way I see it, there is no way that a decent human would think these items are healthy and safe for sick people to consume.
Let me put it this way, would you take a 250ml jar, and add 160ml of water, 30ml of canola oil, 60ml of sugar syrup and an 1/8th of a spoon of vitamins? Would you shake that up in a jar and drink it? I wouldn't - never. I would much prefer a fresh fruit and veg juice or a good quality non GMO fermented plant based protein with added nuts, dates as a sweetener and whizzed in a blender, and yes, I'll even take a good quality multi.
It's about time we took control of our health, because if we don't, then our life is in the hands of people who really don't know or care about us. And I ask you, what are we afraid of? Why are we afraid to ask the question to the dieticians, "What is in this that will benefit me?", "How will this drink make me feel better?", "Can you please explain to me, why all the cancer literature explicitly states to avoid sugar and refined foods and highly fatty foods, and yet you're giving me this drink which is high in both the ingredients I've been told to avoid?"
Why aren't we asking? Why are we trusting?
Alternatives to powdered drinks
As you know I'm big on nutrition from food, but if you need it in liquid form, add a combination of the following in a Nutribullet. Oh and don't forget to wash thoroughly, were appropriate.
2 florets of broccoli
Handful of raspberries
1/2 and avocado
2 tbsp MCT, coconut or Hemp oil
1 cup chopped kale
1 small cucumber
1/2 peeled lemon
1/2 cup kefir or yogurt of choice
I'm obsessed with collagen and protein powders and my favourites are in my store. I have great alternatives for vegans.
NES Grass Fed Collagen Hydrolysate
NES Marine collagen
NES Joint Formula Cherry Collagen Hydrolysate
Vivo Alkaline protein (vegan)
Amazonia Raw prebiotic multi for Men and Women
Melrose MCT oil
Mad Millie - Make your own Kefir Kit
and much more....
I recall my mother's dealing with this horrendous side effect. For some patients it's 'stuck' for others they can't hold it in before disaster strikes. This can be painful, embarrassing and distressing.
Depending on your medication, you may suffer either constipation or diarrhoea or both at different times of treatment, and each has its own set of concerns.
Constipation can be painful, you may tear the gentle skin are of the rectum making it unbearable to go to the toilet. On the other hand, if you suffer diarrhoea, you may find yourself unable to go out of the house for fear of making a mess in public. Believe me, I've helped patients on both sides of the spectrum.
Depending on the level of knowledge of your health practitioner, they may suggest something as simple (yet quiet complicated) like 'take fibre' or 'drink water', without considering the follow on effects of their advice.
Let's explore and discuss this further.
Fibre - In my experience, very few health practitioners understand the differences between the fibres that are available in our diet. I've done a great youtube video on this topic, and feel free to view it.
There are different types of fibre and they each have their own role to play. Soluble fibre softens the stools. Insoluble fibre provides bulk to the stool. There are other types but for the purpose of this blog and recipe, we'll just keep to these two.
If you're constipated, you'll want the fibre that SOFTENS the stools. People will often go for bran, whole grains, seeds and these are completely the opposite of what you want to consume if you suffer constipation. Those that suffer diarrhoea may end up eating more fruit and vegetables which will worsen their symptoms. As you can see, you must consume the right type of fibre for the desired effect. Otherwise you will exacerbate your condition.
Water - Oh gosh, if I had a penny for every time I heard a health professional suggest this. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge advocate of water and believe we do need to consume enough for our body, however if you're suffering from lack of appetite or diarrhoea the last thing you will want to consume is water. Water will cut your appetite at a time you need the most nutrition. So, please be wary of consuming water if you suffer from low appetite.
How to resolve the issues? Here are my top tips
Consitpation - get the bulk of your fibre from SOLUBLE fibre. These include oats, barley, beans (think lima, black, kidney, chick peas), lentils, peas, chia seeds, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, pears, figs, especially the dried ones, stone fruits like apricots, nectarines and mangoes and flaxseeds. The addition of INSOLUBLE fibre in the form of fruits and vegetables is also ideal. These include fruits with skin on, green beans, rice, pasta and potatoes.
Ideas - have a chia drink 2 times a day (recipe below), have a bowl of fruit from the list above, have a couple of dried figs as a snack, instead of pasta or potatoes with dinner, try beans, barley or lentils.
Diarrhoea - get the bulk of your fibre from soluble fibre whilst limiting the insoluble fibre. Avoid nuts, seeds and green beans, whole wheat products, brown rice, broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, Soluble fibre absorbs excess fluid in the bowel and can firm up a loose stool. Choose from the list above, but remember if you're going to have fruit, avoid stones fruits and always peel the skin off the pear and apples.
Ideas - enjoy a chia seeds in your porridge, a peeled piece of fruit as a snack, instead of a meat dish consider having white rice with some cooked kidney beans flavoured to your liking.
Fibre Supplements - there may be times your health practitioner suggests a fibre supplement, but do remember that they can make you feel full, and don't contain any other nutritional value. Try food first, always.
Super Easy Chia Seed Drink
Once you realise how easy this is, you'll make it in advance and have it every day. In our house, my children have a few spoons with their breakfast, because they love the taste and it keeps them full, is loaded with fibre and omega fats. My husband has it as a filler in his smoothie or açai bowl. I have it as a sweet treat in the evening to keep me from snacking, because I'm a real snacker!
You will need
1 Can Organic Coconut Milk (preferably coconuts from Thailand as they have the nicest taste)
4 Tablespoons Chia seeds
1/2 can water
1 tight fitting lid container. I use glass jar with a secure lid as you will shake this around a couple of times and if your lid is dodgy, disaster strikes in your kitchen.
In the jar/container, place the ingredients then tighten the lid and shake vigorously. Pop in the fridge for an hour. Shake again, and if necessary open the jar and use a spoon to mix thoroughly. Leave for 4 hours or overnight and then consume over the next 2-3 days. Admittedly, this doesn't last more than a day in our house.
To sweeten this up, use maple syrup, stevia, honey, rice syrup, fruit puree, and then for extra oomph, add MCT oil or collagen powder to up the protein content.
Melt through some high quality dark chocolate or add mango pieces with cinnamon. YUM