Volume 5, Issue 42 October 18, 2012
Don’t let radiation therapy
destroy your mouth
Conventional treatment for cancer of the throat, tongue, or neck is radiation. Everyone knows radiation has side effects. But treating this area with radiation causes real problems. Two of the common side effects are inflammation and ulcers occurring on the inside of the mouth. The technical $10 term for this problem is oral mucositis. Regardless of what you call it, it’s very irritating. The good news is that there’s a safe, easy, natural, and inexpensive way to keep this to a minimum. It’s called glutamine.

Glutamine is an amino acid that’s critical in the repair processes of the body. When you have damaged tissue, your body uses glutamine to repair and replace the tissue. Some studies have shown that patients with cancer are frequently deficient in glutamine. They just can’t get enough. I find that this is almost always the case. So I routinely supplement my patients with glutamine. It helps them maintain their weight and heal faster. It makes sense that it might aid the body to repair the damage that happens to the mouth and gums during radiation therapy.

Researchers at the Department of Radiation Oncology at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan looked at 17 patients who were getting radiation therapy in the head and neck area. They told half of the patients to rinse their mouths four times a day with a solution of glutamine. The solution consisted of 16 grams of glutamine in 240 ml of normal saline. They gave the other half a placebo solution.

It turned out that the glutamine solution worked pretty well. The oral mucositis was about half as severe in those who used it. And it also cleared up faster. I wish that the study had also given the patients glutamine to take internally as a supplement. I’m sure it would have been even more effective. Oral glutamine works well all by itself. The usual dose that I give to adults is 4-6 grams per day.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

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Huang EY, Leung SW, Wang CJ, et al. Oral glutamine to alleviate radiation-induced oral mucositis: a pilot randomized trial. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2000 Feb 1;46(3):535-9.

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