Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
April 1, 2019
I’m dealing with my personal, unconventional journey to treat bone marrow cancer. While in the Cancer Clinic waiting for my scheduled appointment, I met a young man dealing with an aggressive form of mouth cancer. He already had extensive chemotherapy and is now having radiation treatment for his oral malignancy. His treatment may have damaged his healthy gut bacteria, but now he is dealing with painful lesions in his mouth called oral mucositis.
Cancer treatment can damage the gut, the overall immune system, and the oral microbiome. It also can create serious and painful mouth ulcers. However, there are a couple of natural protocols that could be helpful.
He and I had a discussion about the relationships of some types of cancer treatment and the potential effects to his gut and to his mouth. I shared some of the research I have read and some methods I believe could help him heal his gut and mouth.
Oral mucositis is a lesion in the soft tissues of the mouth. These sores can become infected and extremely painful. Mucositis is one of the most common, debilitating complications of cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy and radiation. Oral mucositis can make it very difficult to eat and can affect the patient’s quality of life.
Healing the Gut and Mouth
Two natural food substances that may be able to prevent and also heal damage to the gut and mouth are spore-based probiotics and raw honey.
Medical research has shown that chemotherapy and radiation therapy can damage the healthy balance of the bacteria in the gut. Once this balance is disturbed, unhealthy populations of pathologic bacteria in the gut can decrease the health of the immune system and create chronic systemic inflammation. When the immune system is compromised and systemic inflammation becomes chronic, ulcers can develop in other mucosal tissues. These include the soft tissues in the mouth.
Spore-based probiotics, unlike regular probiotics, are resistant to the acids in the stomach. So, these healthy spores can survive stomach acids and can germinate and repopulate in the intestines. In addition, they can increase the diversity and quantity of other necessary gut bacteria. A well-established balance of friendly bacteria in the gut can improve the gut lining and the immune system. Since there is “crosstalk” between various microbiomes and mucosal tissues throughout the body, repairing the gut may help other mucosal tissues to heal.
The use of raw honey has been studied and reported for healing wounds since ancient times. It is a powerful medicine chest of biologically active compounds. Honey applied to sores in the mouth is highly beneficial in healing the lesions of oral mucositis. Also, honey acts as a prebiotic. It contains oligosaccharides that are used by healthy oral and gut bacteria as a food source.
Protocol for Prevention & Healing
My recommendation to help prevent and heal the lesions of oral mucositis would be to incorporate a regimen of taking spore-based probiotics daily as well as rinsing with raw honey as needed and swallowing it.
For honey, I recommend local raw honey. Rinsing with and swallowing about 1 teaspoon of honey several times a day could be soothing and healing to the oral tissues and also promote the healthy growth of oral and gut bacteria. Be sure you purchase raw honey ideally from a local bee keeper. I get my local raw honey from various Farmers’ Markets in my area.