Does Coconut Oil Work for Chemo Mouth Sores?
Finding ways to treat mouth sores caused by chemotherapy can be difficult for many patients, since most common remedies only offer mild relief from the pain, inflammation, and dry mouth that together constitute oral mucositis (the medical term for chemo mouth sores). From mouthwashes to essential oils to honey, patients may try anything and everything they can get their hands on to help with this debilitating condition, with varying degrees of effectiveness. One of the more popular home remedies involves using coconut oil to treat mouth sores, but does this method really work? To find out, read on as the people from Chemo Mouthpiece™ explain.
The Cause of Chemo Mouth Sores
It’s no secret that patients undergoing chemotherapy have to contend with a number of chemo side effects ranging from minor discomfort to life-threatening infections. The medications used in chemo are designed to target cells that quickly divide and grow, a distinguishing characteristic of cancer. However, healthy areas of the body that exhibit similarly rapid growth are also vulnerable to these drugs, namely the hair, nails, mucous membranes, and bone marrow. Once they reach the mouth, the toxic chemicals begin breaking down the mucous membranes there, causing the development of oral mucositis – a condition characterized by painful lesions, ulcers, inflammation, and dry mouth.
Oral mucositis is ranked by many patients as one of the worst side effects they faced during chemotherapy, placing it above the hair loss, nausea, nerve pain, and other, better-known conditions that people associate with chemo. That’s because mouth sores are more than just painful or unpleasant; these open wounds in the mouth make it difficult to chew or swallow solid foods, and they represent a potential avenue for bacteria to enter the body – a potentially deadly development, given that chemo can also compromise a patient’s immune system.
A 2008 study published in the journal Dental Clinics of North America reported that an increase in the severity of mucositis symptoms often led to longer fevers, additional days on powerful addictive painkillers and IV nutrition, more than double the risk of serious infection, extra time spent in the hospital, and a big jump in a patient’s 100-day mortality risk. The financial toll of these complications can be more than $25,000 per patient, according to the study, making mucositis as much a monetary concern as it is a health issue.
Can Coconut Oil Help with Oral Mucositis?
With its relatively recent uptick in popularity, coconut oil is used for more and more purposes, from greasing pans to aiding the body’s healing process. While this may seem like just another health fad, preliminary reports indicate that coconut oil may be able to provide a number of benefits, and not just when consumed.
For one thing, the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil have demonstrated some antibacterial properties, making it potentially useful for fighting infection. The oil also contains antioxidants that have been shown to help manage inflammation, and its ability to moisturize skin could make it a powerful weapon against dry mouth. There is even some evidence that coconut oil may speed up wound healing, making it a helpful addition to a good oral care routine for chemo patients.
Unfortunately, the majority of coconut oil’s healing properties have yet to be studied in depth; most of the research that has been conducted was done in test tubes or using animal subjects, such as rats. Giving coconut oil a shot might be worth it, but don’t expect a miraculous remedy for your mouth sores. As long as the chemo treatments continue, there isn’t much that coconut oil can do to significantly help with the problem.
Using Cryotherapy to Fight Chemo Mouth Sores
Just about the only treatment that has shown substantial promise for preventing the symptoms of oral mucositis in certain chemo regimens is oral cryotherapy. A 2015 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that cryotherapy could be effective at fighting the appearance of mouth sores during chemo, calling the treatment “readily applicable” and “cost-effective” for some patients. The science behind this type of treatment is surprisingly simple, too: applying freezing or near-freezing temperatures to the inside of the mouth causes the blood vessels in the area to shrink (known as vasoconstriction), which means that less of the chemo drug can reach the vulnerable tissues of the mouth.
In most cases, cryotherapy takes the form of ice chips or popsicles that are distributed in cancer centers as patients’ treatments are administered. However, ice chips are only so effective due to their limited reach. By comparison, an oral cryotherapy device like the one from Chemo Mouthpiece™ is much more effective because it can cool the entire oral cavity uniformly. By simply freezing the mouthpiece at home and bringing it with you to your treatment, you can receive superior cryotherapy treatments during chemo through one easy-to-use device.
Oral Ice Pack for Cryotherapy Treatments During Chemo
No longer must patients resign themselves to the painful mouth sores that so often follow chemo treatments. With powerful cryotherapy delivered by an innovative device like the Chemo Mouthpiece™, you can cool your mouth and prevent much of the harmful drugs from reaching the oral cavity, fending off the worst of the mucositis symptoms in the process. To learn more about how the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help you or a loved one who is undergoing chemo, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.