Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


The Hidden Dangers of Dry Mouth

Man getting back from vacation and switching gears makes it hard to get in a groove, and it seems nothing is right until about the second week you are back 2 weeks and everything falls into place and the fires go out. Halloween and holiday season is gearing up, and then our wedding anniversary snuck up on us and another weekend was lost to fun and relaxing times. Not that it was a bad thing but that definitely took a chunk out of my writing time ūüėÄ

I had a major blow to my pride recently, for almost 33 years I kept my pearly whites pearly, and the only work I had done on them was braces. I found out this week I have my first cavity and 2 trying to start. The dentist’s first question was –

“Do you have a really dry mouth?”

Well, I never used to, but the pain medications I am taking now definitely makes me dehydrated, but I hydrate with lots of water all the time (was my answer). It turns out that dry mouth is a lurking side effect that we all take as minor, when it really turns out to be a major issue.

I had no idea! I knew good oral hygiene was vital and I attempted to keep up my routine as best as possible. I¬†brush and floss as regularly as I can, despite my work from home jim-jams lifestyle, and the days where I am crippled in pain I can’t do anything but throw up and tell myself “this one will pass right? the others have…” I try to not let painOral hygiene is important but if you are suffering from a chronic pain disorder a lot of the medications will dry your mouth out. So big deal, just a little dry mouth right? Totally wrong.¬†

Oh so very wrong!

Oh so very wrong!

I thought I was safe and doing the right things, until my recent dentist check up. The previous question was asked, and I got the bad news that my teeth had been compromised. The Dentist told me that I had fantastic teeth and it was just the dry mouth that had led to my predicament.

Dry mouth is, I suspect, a major reason I see so often on support boards and support groups that “teeth are destroyed” or “major dental issues” are happening to a lot of the people with chronic pain disorders since a lot of medications dry you out or have dry mouth as a side effect.

I have great teeth I always thought, of course I won’t have dental issues. I have never even had a cavity, and I take calcium, I won’t be like one of the people I see posting about losing teeth. Plus I hydrate! Well friends, just that is not enough! Dry mouth removes the natural defense of your mouth, saliva is part of the constant cleaning system that helps prevent bacteria from over running things and attacking your enamel. Swallowing and the action of the tongue during swallowing is all part of this cleaning system. So, if there is no saliva, there is basically no vinegar¬†on your windows, and you are left scrubbing away with only newspaper. If you have ever cleaned windows, or mirrors, without some sort of chemical solution, you find quickly it doesn’t work very well. And same goes for saliva missing from the mouth, this constant washing mechanism helps prevent bacterial or worse, fungal (like Thrush), outbreaks as it¬†cleans it¬†keeps everything in check.

High bacterial outbreaks mean they produce more acids, bacteria sort of “poos” acids, which breaks down the enamel in your teeth. Teeth are the hardest substance in the body, so much so that often Anthropologists and Archaeologists only have teeth to go on for extinct hominids and primates since that is all that lasted in the harsh environments to exist in the fossil record. They are incredibly strong, and their outer coating of enamel is what makes them so time proof. This enamel though, is weak to acids, and long term exposure makes the teeth tacky and this is pretty much the start of a cavity. This tacky state can lead to deep cavities, tooth breakage, painful and expensive dental procedures, and in the worst cases dentures.¬†For a simple explanation, here is a little video.

So if you have a chronic pain condition brushing isn’t enough to combat the dry mouth symptoms, and could even aggravate it further!

“So what do I do?”

Well right off my Dentist suggested a product that you can get at most drug and grocery stores called Biotene. I got a sample and it seems to work OK, it doesn’t completely fix my dry mouth but hey, it was free! The best price! It IS expensive to keep using, and the mouthwash I find feels like minty saliva from a bottle. Plus, it isn’t the most natural thing to do. So I thought I would find my own way to treat my dry mouth and did a lot of research.

So here are a few diet and habit changes you can make to help combat dry mouth:

  • Hydrate! –¬†You should be anyway but keep as much water in you as possible
  • Avoid alcohol – alcoholic drinks, mouthwashes, anything with peroxide in it, any of these can dry the mouth out. Avoid them when making or purchasing oral care products.
  • Avoid salty foods & spicy foods – salt drys things out, and so does most spicy food.
  • Avoid caffeine – same as salt, its a diuretic.
  • Wear lip balm/chap-stick – it helps soothe things and ease dry mouth irritation. I have a special lip balm I have made that helps a lot that I will post about later.
  • Avoid acidic things – pineapple juice, grapefruit, tomato, anything that stings if you have a cut in your mouth is what you want to avoid.
  • Chew sugar-free gum, suck on ice or hard candy/lozenges – these help to stimulate saliva flow, any sucking or chewing motion will stimulate the salivary glands.
  • Use a humidifier – they are great to have and help with migraines, get one or two!
  • Soft toothbrush! – Gentle, gentle, gentle with your mouth, treat it softly. Think about getting a waterpik/water flosser too!

Being the curious sort though, I did talk to a lot of women that I know that has gone through “the change” and asked them what they use to treat their dry mouths, and others that had problems with dry mouth due to medications. A lot of them told me “Oh I tried that Biotene stuff, and it never worked!” So of course the follow up was, “What do you use?”

Number one answer was! *drum roll*

Oil Pulling!

Now I must say I am not advocating oil pulling just on it’s own, you need to combine this with brushing your teeth with a non-irritating tooth powder¬†or paste. You can make home made (another post), or you can use pre-made like Biotene, Tom’s, or even the YL product line.¬†Which¬†I have heard¬†good things on all of these toothpastes for dry mouth treatment, though Tom’s seems to be the bottom of the fan scale, with biotene in the middle, youngliving products and oddly old fashioned tooth powder as the most preferred. The only requirement of the tooth cleaning material is that it is non-drying, non-irritating. Then, after you brush and of course floss, you do your oil pulling. Think of it like sweeping your floors before you mop.

Now if you are a novice in this the first thing you need to know is you can NOT spit your oil in the sink or toilet, it goes in the trash. DO NOT swallow the oil either, it will contain all the gunk you are trying to get out so putting it further in the body only makes things worse. Also it needs to be done for at least 20 minutes, so¬†it is best to do it with your teeth routine since I learned you can do it on the go. A lady I spoke to who is a huge fan of oil pulling said she just takes an old grocery bag with her in her pocket if she leaves the house and will go shopping while she swishes! Then when done she just nips into a restroom, spits it out into her bag, and done!¬†Oil pulling won’t cure cancer, like some people claim, but I know that a good friend of mine use it to help treat her wisdom tooth pain, and she swears by it for all sorts of mouth related issues.

The reason this works is that bacteria generally have a membrane surrounding them that is made of lipids, which is fat. Oil is made of lipids (also fat) and you are basically swishing bacteria glue around in your mouth, they can’t help but bind to the oil. Then when you spit it out you are removing that bacteria, as well as moisturizing the delicate¬†skin of your gums and mouth. You can even rub vitamin E oil directly on your gums to help with inflammation and healing! Though this is an ancient remedy, dating back possibly about 3,000 years or more, it is still relevant and shown by the limited clinical studies that there is a real value to using this Ayurvedic traditional cure.

You want to use about a tablespoon of oil and swish it around in your mouth, if you can’t take that, its fine use less it is just enough for you to swish around easily. There are some oils that work better than others studies have found, Sunflower, Sesame and Coconut seem to be the top three oils that work the best for this sort of thing since they remove plaque, and help heal and clean the teeth. Also vitamin E oil and Olive seem to be close followers to the top three. You can buy pre-made Ayurvedic oils for pulling as well, that are sort of like a prescription for your body type (which I found to be highly spoken of). But you can probably get your hands on one of the above a lot easier (and sometimes cheaper). You don’t have to swish hard either, just a gentle swish from side to side in the mouth, occasionally sucking the oil through the teeth. The longer time spent swishing, the more gunk you pull out, so try to go as long as you can the first time since it can take some building up to go the full 20.

But, like Levar Burton says, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

You can read more from WebMD on oil pulling here and you can watch this video on oil pulling.

Fermented Foods!

Yup they aren’t just good for helping you get your vitamins¬†or helping you go by putting good bacteria back into your gut. This bacteria is also good for your mouth, and it can help if you have chronic bad breath that isn’t related to your teeth (gut smell can do that).¬†This can also help prevent outbreaks of fungal infections like Thrush, which no one wants Thrush. Plus it is an excuse to eat sauerkraut and kimchi all ¬†you want! wooo!

Again, the best thing to do is keep your teeth clean, brush regularly, after meals too. Floss gently, preferably with a water flossing device. Use no alcohol or peroxide mouthwashes, see your Dentist regularly. Watch your diet and add in some of these easy additional care steps and you should be able to be happy and healthy even without a pain condition.

Remember everyone’s body is different, experiment find the oils and combinations that work best for you and your body. Educate yourself, no one is going to do it for you and if you are in doubt at all in the slightest, ask a professional!


Best Homemade Deodorant!

I guess you could say I have gone fully crunchy? I think that’s the term those wacky kids use these days *curmudgeons and shakes cane.* But mostly, I am thrifty, read as “cheap.” Making deodorant is super cheap, doesn’t take much time at all, and if you don’t want to bother with hand applications you can put it into twist-up tube for as good as store bought goodness. Best part is you can customize the smells to you as well as add in oils that will help you out. You know how I love efficient & double duty things! Also – huzzah making everything!


Make all the efficient things!

When I tell people I make my deodorant they always joke about smell, but none of them noticed I had made the switch…this time. I had previously tried different things, I really did not care for the Tom’s deodorant – I felt like it was too thin and wore off after just an hour and it was smell city after that. I have tried a few other products and the two I have found work best are spray deodorants, and deodorants I have made myself. You need some basic ingredients and¬†knowledge of the simple chemistry behind why they work. The husband has obligingly sniffed my armpits and he has given the full approval of no smells for these recipes (which Tom’s got a horrible face and a “UGH” so this has to be a good sign).

Deodorizing – Baking Soda

This is your friend if you don’t want to smell, no one likes being smelly. But why do you smell? Well your body sweats to cool itself, and in the armpits there are 2 types of sweat glands the eccrine¬†and apocrine. Eccrine are the normal cooling sweat, mostly water and salt comes out of them and they help with evaporation. Apocrine glands generally are around hair follicles, and these release a more oily, or a sweat that has fat in it. They also happen to be those sweat glands that kick in when you are stressed out or nervous.

This oily sweat is a good food source for some single celled organisms, and bacteria in our armpits start to consume it. As they eat and the fatty substances are broken down they make waste which is acidic, and this starts to smell (the nasty smells in decomposition are from the production of acids from fats breaking down). So washing is always your first defense against armpit funk, no scent will mask this odor no matter how much you use. I am looking at you I-wear-too-much-patchouli person, thinking “I don’t smell like horrible.”

You do, you smell like a locker room full of teenage boys that have been sweating all day and then rolled about in a vat of patchouli. You aren’t fooling anyone.

Stop it you are only hurting the good name of patchouli.

So why baking soda? Or sodium bicarbonate as it is known in the chemistry nerd talk. If you remember your school days chemistry, baking soda is a base. If you mix a base and an acid, in the right amounts, they can neutralize each other that means the pH becomes closer to water, or neutral. You also get chemical reactions (think what happens when you add baking soda and vinegar) which creates new chemicals that are detrimental or unusable to bacteria attempting to chow down on your oily sweat. Baking soda has been around for ages, it was part of natron used to mummify bodies in ancient Egypt, and is naturally occurring. It has been used for ages to clean bodies, hair (great for dry shampooing), homes (baking soda will clean just about anything), and in modern times it even helps prevent a smelly fridge just by sitting around. It has also been well known for more than 50 years as being a great way to deodorize lots of things especially stinky humans. I even use it in my cat boxes and boy does it help! So baking soda is one of the best ingredients to add to a DIY deodorant. It is also Рsafe, (again) naturally occurring, cheap (3 $US for a giant box) and it mercilessly starves and slaughters stinky bacteria. Woo slaughter!

SensitiveSkinProTip: If you have sensitive skin, baking soda can be irritating you may need to increase your thickener or reduce the baking soda if you have irritation. You can make up for the loss of this bacteria fighting power with essential oils.

Absorbent Powder –¬†Corn Starch or Arrowroot Powder

These are more than just thickeners by adding corn starch or arrowroot powder to you baking soda mix it helps ease some of the irritation that baking soda could cause to the more sensitive skin types. This also helps absorb sweat as well leaving you feeling dry and comfortable, when water and these powders mix you get a non-Newtonian fluid. This is some wibbly-wobbly, slimey-wimey stuff. It is a solid and a liquid, all at once! And loads of fun to play with, but is also fantastic at absorbing moisture from your armpit areas. That means that you should stay dry and comfortable all day. And, may I just say, if you never did it in school, mix water and corn starch (or arrowroot powder) and let the fun begin! If you are too lazy to do so watch the video and be amazed! SCIENCE!

Science overload bitches!

Science overload bitches!

Essential Oils

Basil, eucalyptus, orange, lemon, lime, lemon grass, frankincense, tea tree (melaleuca), peppermint, thyme, oregano, lavender, geranium, marjoram, clove, rosemary, clary sage, bergamot, pine, black pepper, sage, cedar wood, vanilla,¬†sandalwood and of course, patchouli. All of these oils work well on their own, or blended together. Really this is up to you, what smells good to you, or if you want to add in some oils that help with pain or anything else (skin conditions, etc). You can make a chai smelling one, which can help with antibacterial as well as smelling fantastic (for chai equal amounts of black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, optionally add star anise or other anise-like oil). Or manly smells like frankincense, cedar wood, lemon grass, black pepper and sage can be mixed and matched into a deodorant that doesn’t smell “girly.”

But wait! There’s more! These oils I listed don’t just help make you smell nice, they all have anti-bacterial properties, so that means they can also help to keep body smells under control. So you read that right, they help you smell good, they can help with pain, AND they can keep you from smelling like a comic book store on table top gaming night.

Fancy Stuff

This is where you get to add that fancy pants stuff in, things like oils (coconut works best due to its going solid at room temperature, but you can use small amounts of others for moisturizing) cocoa butter, shea butter, clay, beeswax and anything else you would like to add. Aloe can be added to create a more gel like deodorant, I am working on a gel that can work for a twist up tube as well. Butters like shea and cocoa help with moisturizing and keeping irritation from baking soda or from shaving down, coconut oil does the same as well, and all three help form a convenient paste with the powders for ease of application. You can also use things like bentonite clay, which is highly absorbent if you are one of those that sweats a lot, beeswax helps to sort of bind things like coconut oil and makes it more solid for ease of application if you are going with the twist bottles. Beeswax also helps retain shape if you live in a hot place like Texas!


Lets start with the harder ones, which will be followed by ones that anyone can make from things that you would likely have around the house.

Spray Deodorant

  • Spray bottle
  • 2 parts Witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or grain alcohol
  • 1 part aloe vera gel
  • 10 drops Essential oils per ounce of liquid
  • Baking soda –¬†¬Ĺ teaspoon per 1 cup of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or grain alcohol)

For a spray bottle, check out your local stores travel section there are lots of empties around there that are great for spray deodorant, but a spray bottle with a mist setting is just as good. Mix the baking soda and witch hazel (or alcohol) well, make sure to crush and completely dissolve all lumps. Combine liquid with aloe vera, if you are using natural aloe from the leaf (or even if not) you may want to give it a blitz in your food processor or blender. Add essential oils, and put in a spray container. Spray on and allow to dry, if you don’t like how long that takes, omit the aloe. This works very well with vanilla, cedar wood, and lemon grass scents since they can stand well on their own. Frankincense, lemon, and clary sage are also good.

Jar or Stick Deodorant

  • 1 part Baking soda
  • 1 part Corn starch or arrowroot powder (see directions¬†for clay modifications)
  • 1 part “Fancy” stuff (see below for breakdown)
  • 10 drops Essential oil per ounce

Mix the powders well, if you want to include clay reduce the corn starch or arrowroot to a half measure and make up the rest with clay. Then add 1 part “fancy” stuff, that would be coconut oil, or other items to the mix. This is where it gets a little more complicated.

If you want to form these into cakes or into a twist up bottle you will need add something that solidifies things more what I use is shea butter (or cocoa), coconut oil, and beeswax all in equal amounts to make this last 1 part. That means if you have 1 ounce baking soda, 1 ounce corn starch, then you will need 0.3 ounces of shea butter (or cocoa), 0.3 ounces of coconut oil, and 0.3 ounces of beeswax. Melt the beeswax and the oil and shea butter (or cocoa) in a double boiler (I like the mason jar in a water bath idea, since any that doesn’t fit in the containers¬†can just be stored with the lid on for later use) once melted and blended well, add in the powders and combine thoroughly. Add essential oils, allow to cool slightly and then pour into your twist up container. If you are making a cake sort, pour into a muffin tin dusted with corn starch.

If you want to use a jar for this, you may want to reduce the amount of beeswax and increase the oil or butters you are using so that you have a creamy paste you can apply to your under arms. You make it the same way as the stick sort just with less, or without the beeswax. You can add aloe to this one too just make sure its pureed well if you are using it straight from the leaf.

ProContainerTip: You can order empty deodorant bottles online (BPA free even), or you can just wash and reuse one you have already. Jars are also easy to get and you can reuse pretty much any convenient container to hold this deodorant. I find the easiest way to figure out how much volume each container has is to fill it with water and weigh it, or pour the water into a very precise measuring cup.

Some of my solid twist up deodorant with some oils :)

Some of my solid twist up deodorant with some oils ūüôā

Now on to the easy ones that you can make from things you should have just around the house.

Lazy Dry Deodorant

  • 1 part Baking Soda
  • 1 part Corn Starch or Arrowroot powder

Put it in a container and shake well, apply with talcum puff, cotton balls, old baby powder bottle, or the good old hands. This works if you are desperate, but it doesn’t make me feel secure about not being smelly which is more mental than the actual performance. You do need to reapply though I feel since it just doesn’t do the job for an extended period of time.

Lazy Spray Deodorant

  • Witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or grain alcohol, enough to fill your container
  • 10 drops Essential oils per ounce of liquid
  • Baking soda (slightly optional)
  • Spray container

Mix the baking soda with the liquids, you don’t have to use it if you have sensitive skin, or you just don’t like it. But I suggest using it since it really does a great job at odor control. Add essential oils, pour it all in the spray container and you are good to go!

If you don’t want to bother making¬†it and are in the Austin area support local Green Skunk¬†they make a great product I have tested them out and they really work and are all natural.

Lazy Cream Deodorant

  • Coconut oil
  • 1 part Baking soda
  • 1 part Corn starch, arrowroot powder

Mix the powders well, and heat coconut oil, you want 2 tablespoons of oil per 1 cup of the soda and starch mix. Mix well until you have a uniform paste, you can increase or decrease the oil to reach a consistency you like. Pour into a jar, and apply with fingers.

There is a lot of stuff added to deodorants these days, and¬†while the scientific juries are still out on just exactly how bad a lot of that stuff is for you, why not know all the things in your deodorant? Plus it is really satisfying to make it yourself. Did I mention it was cheap? It also usually doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to whip up a batch. ūüôā

Remember everyone’s body is different, experiment see what works for you and what scents and products work with your body best!