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Monday, February 2, 2015

Canker Sores—ouch!

When clients come in who admit to eating sugar but have no outward signs of excess sugar consumption (like breakouts, for instance), I will not only ask if they get frequent headaches, which many times is a side effect of excess sugar, but also do they get canker sores inside their mouth or on their tongue? Your body simply cannot throw off sugar into thin air. The toxic residue from this “white devil” has to be eliminated somehow, some way, somewhere.

I believe these inner-mouth sores (sometimes called ulcers or technically aphthous ulcers) are actually similar to blemishes—like a zit inside your mouth. Why? Once again, from my own life experience, these sores arise in relation to the amount of sugar I have consumed. I am not saying that every canker sore’s appearance is due to sugar. I am simply trying to give you my own personal experience with these problem spots and why I have discovered they occur. You may find other offenders and have a different experience than I have had.

Other causes may be vitamin deficiency, stress, or even a poorly functioning immune system. Since sugar depletes both vitamins in your body and immune function, sugar could very well be the culprit. Also, eating too much citrus can cause problems inside your mouth as well as little sores on the corners of your mouth. Some people think wheat or even dairy products could be to blame.

Be sure to notice why you think the sores are there. Sometimes I will get them but cannot find where I have had obvious sugar in my diet. Then, after really analyzing everything I’ve eaten, I usually can find a cause. It may be something as benign as a new brand of crackers or even a pasta dish I ate at a restaurant that probably had added sugar in.

Regardless of why they have appeared, canker sores are painful little beasts. There are several remedies I have found to be effective for relieving the pain of these irritated sores as well as helping them to go away faster. I don’t have a lot of time or a lot of special ingredients in my home. I want to reach for something, apply it, and be done with it. So the following are simple and easy treatments to help the pain and suffering of canker sores.

Try rinsing your mouth with tepid salt water. Mix 2-3 teaspoons of table salt, or better yet, sea salt in a glass of warm water. Stir the salt until it dissolves, then swish in your mouth, paying attention to the location of the canker sore(s). Keep swishing for about 15-20 seconds, then spit and repeat. Salt water helps to reduce the swelling and irritation in these open sores. Do this several times a day for several days until the pain begins to subside, letting you know healing is starting to occur.

A less time-consuming treatment is to simply apply a drop of peppermint essential oil to the spots. Do this with a Q-tip. Otherwise, if you use a finger, you run the risk of accidentally putting that same finger with peppermint oil on it in or near your eyes later on. (I have done this in the past—use a Q-tip!) I recommend getting the oil on one end of the Q-tip first; then get a grip on your lip or mouth. Take the other, dry side of the Q-tip and place gently on the sore to dry it off. Next, put the peppermint on the area. Then, keep holding onto the skin to keep the area just treated from getting wet. Why? Because closing your mouth will cause the essential oil to mix with your saliva, rendering the treatment less effective. Keep the area open for 10-20 seconds so you can keep the treatment oil on the spot—alone—before it gets mixed into your mouth. Peppermint is powerful so do be careful when using it. One side benefit will be fresh—very fresh breath!

Clove oil can be an effective numbing agent for canker sores. Also used on toothaches, this essential oil has a strong analgesic (pain relieving) action. It, unlike peppermint, tastes horrible!

Something else you could use to treat canker sores is aloe vera juice. Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory as well as antibacterial properties, which makes it a soothing yet effective treatment for canker sores. This remedy can be found at most health food stores and is fairly inexpensive. (Use aloe juice not the gel, like you’d use for a sunburn.) Simply gargle (swish in your mouth) with the aloe, concentrating on getting the juice where your sores are. Try to keep swishing for 20 seconds or so, spit and repeat—two or three times, several times a day. If you work outside the home, take some aloe juice with you so you can swish during the day.
The Healing Properties of Aloe Vera

Another remedy I used as a child and sometimes still reach for today if a canker sore appears is Campho-phenique®. This is a “pain relieving antiseptic liquid” that can be found in any drug or grocery store. It contains 10.8% camphor and 4.7% phenol along with eucalyptus oil in a light mineral oil base. Although the package says it is for insect bites, scrapes, and minor burns, ever since I was a kid this is what I used on my canker sores. It tastes horrible (see ingredients), but it will numb the area as well as help the healing process. Use the same application technique that I recommend above for peppermint oil. Don’t get this or any product in your eyes; read the directions and warnings on the label.

Whatever treatment you decide to use, don’t forget to look to your diet and stress level to see if there are things you can do to help your body relax and defend against breakdown. Treating the symptom only does little to treat the system as a whole—your body.

A note of caution: If you have an oral lesion that you think is a canker sore but doesn’t heal after 2 weeks time, it could be a sign of trouble. Even left untreated, an inner-mouth canker sore will usually heal completely within that 2-week time frame. Please see your doctor if your supposed canker sore persists.

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