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Diabetes and Dry Mouth: Natural Solutions

01/25/2023 | 5 min. read

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One of the most common symptoms of diabetes is dry mouth (xerostomia), affecting roughly 80% of those with diabetes. Dry mouth is obviously caused by a reduced amount of saliva. Lack of saliva leads to even more health issues, including:

  • Cracked and chapped lips
  • Difficulty talking, chewing, and swallowing
  • A rough tongue
  • Pain in the mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Taste impairment
  • Mouth sores
  • Infections
  • Bad breath

If the problem persists, it can result in gingivitis (gum inflammation). This may lead to periodontitis, where bacteria infect the tissues surrounding the teeth, resulting in bone and tooth loss. Gingivitis and periodontitis both allow pathogenic bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, creating a constant source of systemic inflammation. The end result can be very serious problems like sepsis, arthritis, and endocarditis. I strongly believe these two common chronic infections are partly why we see so many cases of cardiovascular disease these days.

Xerostomia Treatment Options

There are plenty of obvious recommendations for dealing with dry mouth:

  • Avoid becoming dehydrated. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and avoiding dehydrating diuretic drinks like alcohol and caffeine. Monitoring salt intake is also recommended.
  • Lozenges, gels, toothpastes, breath fresheners, gums, hard candy and tablets are available, but most of these are only effective if the salivary glands are working correctly, which most times they aren’t. 
  • Acupuncture. There a few small studies suggesting that acupuncture may help increase saliva production in some individuals.

However, two of the best natural remedies are ginger and aloe vera. Ginger and aloe vera mouthwashes are safe, effective and unlike most other over-the-counter remedies, they also help improve salivary gland function. Even better, they are inexpensive and very simple to make.

Studies have shown that ginger and aloe vera mouthwashes can be very effective in decreasing all the symptoms of xerostomia. Ginger in particular has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, and immunomodulating properties. It can eliminate S. mutans and lactobacillus ssp, the primary pathogens that cause dental caries. It is effective against Candida albicans and studies have shown it to be just as effective against periodontal disease as chlorhexidine. Plus, it stimulates salivary secretion when taken internally or applied topically.

Making your own mouthwash with either ginger or aloe vera is easy. Below are the recipes I use. You may find others online, but I would caution that many use essential oils, which may be fine in very small amounts, but I don’t recommend them for this purpose. They can be irritating to the mouth and gum tissues, especially when used regularly. Also, most are very strong antimicrobials and using too much could disrupt your oral microbiome.

This is not to say essential oils are useless. In a minute, I’ll explain how to best use specific essential oils as a xerostomia treatment option.

I recommend using the mouthwash of your choice at least twice a day and swishing the liquid, roughly 3/4 of an ounce, in your mouth for 3-5 minutes, if possible.

Ginger Mouthwash

  • 1" peeled and freshly grated ginger root
  • 1 1/4 cup of distilled water
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon of xylitol
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon and/or turmeric (optional)

Bring the water to a boil, add the grated ginger root, reduce the heat, and let the water simmer for 15 minutes. Strain off the ginger root and let the mouthwash cool. Store in glass jar in the refrigerator and shake well before using.

Adapt this recipe to your own taste by adding either the cinnamon or turmeric powder if you like, or none at all. Both have great antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. Also feel free to add additional ginger if you like. 

Aloe Vera Mouthwash

  • ½ cup of aloe vera
  • ½ cup of distilled water
  • 1½ teaspoon of baking soda
  • Xylitol crystals, powdered cinnamon and /or turmeric (optional)

Add the ingredients to a glass jar and shake well. Again, you can add one of the optional ingredients if you want to change the taste. Store in the refrigerator and use within two weeks.

Essential Oils for Dry Mouth

In one study out of Japan, researchers were looking for a way to increase salivary gland function in people with hyperthyroidism that had their thyroid glands removed or had been treated with radioactive iodine. Individuals with thyroid cancer or severe hyperthyroidism often have their thyroid removed and radioactive iodine is used to ablate or destroy any remaining thyroid tissue.

One of the most common complications of these procedures is inflammation of the salivary glands and a reduction in saliva production, leading to dry mouth. Outside of the thyroid, the salivary glands are one of the largest storehouses of iodine.

I find the idea of using aromatherapy to treat xerostomia very intriguing. Our sense of smell is closely linked to our physiology. Smell receptors are connected directly to the thalamus and hypothalamus portions of the brain. These areas are associated with eating behavior and the autonomic nervous system. Saliva is the only digestive juice regulated by the autonomic nervous system without the help of hormones.

In this study, researchers mixed essential oils of lemon and ginger together. Participants were instructed to inhale the mixture of oils for about 10 minutes before each meal, for a total of two weeks. Salivary gland production increased and their symptoms of dry mouth were greatly improved. There were no side effects.

An added benefit is stress reduction. When measuring stress levels, researchers often measure a cortisol stress hormone called salivary chromogranin A (CgA). Both ginger and lemon oils have been shown to reduce this stress hormone. However, inhaling other essential oils appears to be even more effective, including Yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), lavender, rosemary, and orange.

Orange essential oil was found to be especially helpful in children during dental treatment, reducing anxiety and pulse rate. In this study, the children were able to inhale the orange aroma during the entire dental procedure.

The Bottom Line

Dry mouth is a common complication of diabetes, but it’s easily treated using safe, natural solutions like ginger, aloe vera, and essential oils. The essential oils I discussed are readily available in health food stores and online. A small bottle of each would last months, if not years. If you suffer from chronic dry mouth, give these therapies a try.

 

 

Dr. David Williams

Meet Dr. David Williams

For more than 25 years, Dr. David Williams has traveled the world researching alternative therapies for our most common health problems—therapies that are inexpensive and easy to use, and therapies that treat the root cause of a problem rather than just its symptoms.

More About Dr. David Williams