Mouth Ulcers

Mouth Ulcers  – A traditional Chinese medicine approach.

Mouth Ulcers can be very tiny, yet they are powerful enough to disturb your whole day and every day, that you suffer them. Every time you eat, especially acidic, hot, sour, and spicy food, when you brush your teeth or even talk to someone, the pain reminds you that these little ulcers can prevent happiness and a sense of wellbeing. It cannot be over emphasised how destructive these can be.

According to Western Medicine, the causes of Mouth Ulcers include impaired immune function, infections, nutritional deficiency, and Vitamin B Group insufficiency. In general, they can be healed in seven to 10 days.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), views the body and illness differently. It’s just a difference of culture, communication, understanding and Yin Yang logic. TCM considers that all our internal organs including our facial organs are connected.  Take tongue and mouth for example, while the Heart opens into the tongue, the Spleen leads to the mouth, signifying that tongue and mouth diseases are mostly related to Heart and Spleen.  In fact, the mouth as a whole is the sensory organ linked to the spleen and actually a branch of the spleen meridian extended to the bottom of the tongue.  As for the tongue, in particular the tip, is connected to the Heart.

The TCM Practitioner collects a lot of information from the patient to form a holistic picture. In fact because of this, sometimes it seems they are looking in the wrong place for the presenting complaint. However the clinical picture or pattern of disharmony is the way out ancient teachers and healers provided treatments and “cures” for the various health issues that have beset humans and animals alike. With this holistic picture the practitioner determines by the Eight Principals  Yin, Yang, External, Internal, Cold, Hot, Deficiency, and Excess, if the condition is excess or deficiency.

Mouth Ulcers can be either Excess or Deficiency, the symptoms that patients experience vary from patient to patient.  Excess-type Mouth Ulcers is red in colour and painful, it has swelling around the rim with yellow discharge.  In addition, patients usually are accompanied by bitter mouth, bad breath, constipation, swollen gums, etc. This type of Mouth Ulcers likely is induced by heart/spleen accumulated heat due to improper diet such as excessive spicy and deep-fried food, or staying up late.”

As for deficiency-type Mouth Ulcers, it mostly is caused by a weak Stomach and Kidney function.  Despite the ulcer area has little pain and colour, it persists for a long time and recurs constantly.  Sufferers generally are accompanied by loss of appetite, lack of energy, and insomnia.

TCM theory states that Mouth Ulcers is an indicator that the energy in our body is unbalanced. TCM is usually used as a complementary medicine to existing prescribed medications. The patient’s lifestyle, diet and exercise regimes will be looked at and some advice is offered.

Home Advice

In addition to treatment, there are two home remedies that are suggested that have been shown to heal these troublesome Mouth Ulcers.  The patient can choose between the salt or tea treatment and both are simple and convenient.

Both these suggestions help reduce inflammation and kill bacteria, which are able to ease the pain of the ulcers and speed up healing.

Salt Wash

Add five (5) teaspoons of salt to a cup of boiling water. Add the juice of one lime. Use a metal spoon to mix the concoction. When the concoction is warm, you should rinse your mouth.  Twice per day, one in the morning and one at night.

Black Tea Wash

Add one (1) teaspoons of Black tea to a cup of boiling water. Add one (1) spoon of honey. Use a metal spoon to mix as above. When the mixture is warm, you should rinse your mouth.  Twice per day, one in the morning and one at night.

If the condition is more serious, rinse can be done a few more times a day.  However, if the ulcers show no sign of improvement over a week, one should go to seek medical treatment immediately as it might be a warning of a more serious condition.

Tea to drink:

Chrysanthemum Tea is one of the best teas to drink to cool the body and especially the mouth. Drink it warm or cool but not with ice.

Foods to Eat.

Root vegetables: Due to the healing “Yang” nature of these foods in traditional Chinese medicine, and their tendency to be more rich in minerals than many other vegetables, it may be safe to say that you can’t get enough of them. Look for radishes especially (black, red or white), as well as beets, carrots, turnips, horseradish and rutabaga.

Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts are great to alkalise the body in case of mouth ulcers.

Leafy greens: kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens and spinach, which may be the best of the pick. Rich in vitamin K and folate content, spinach is also packed with vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, antioxidants and fibre.

Garlic: A true miracle food, garlic appears at the top of innumerable lists of foods that encourage overall health, and it is also suggested for mouth ulcers. Among its other benefits are its ability to promote immune health by lowering blood pressure, cleansing the liver and fighting off disease.

Lemons: are a natural disinfectant, it can heal wounds while also providing potent and immediate relief for hyperacidity and virus-related conditions. Lemon also works to energize the liver and promote detoxification.

Foods to Avoid

Chocolate: Bad news for chocolate lovers: Chocolate seems to cause more acidity than any other food.

Fizzy Drinks: and other carbonated beverages also cause acidity. Fizzy drinks with caffeine are even worse.

Fried food: is a major cause of acidity and upsets our digestive metabolism. In addition to the usual dangers of fried foods.

Alcohol: Beer, liquor, and wine are believed to contribute to acid build up in the stomach. Many alcoholic beverages are not very acidic, however alcohol is very hot in nature and should be avoided by suffers of canker ulcers.

High-fat dairy products: All high-fat foods e.g. butter or cheese, should be reduced and a diet of moderate fat taken instead. It is important to state here that hydrogenated fats, spreads and margarine are no better in treating or avoiding canker ulcers.

High-fat meats: beef, pork, lamb, stay in the stomach longer that other foods resulting ion a build up of acidity.

Caffeine: One cup of coffee or espresso a day is fine, but people who drink coffee all day long are sponsoring reoccurrences of canker sores.

Some other foods that should be reduced or avoided if possible are ginger, banana, and concentrated juice including orange, cranberry, apple, etc.

We also have a number of Acu points that you can stimulate yourself on a daily basis. See image above for locations. Please only stimulate these moderately and for no more than 5 minutes each. LI-04 is contraindicated during pregnancy.

James O’Sullivan from Galway is a credible and engaging speaker, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving his patients, his students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is a respected author and has appeared on many public media.