Friday, November 11, 2011

Whisky: The Cure for Canker Sores?

This is a topic I seldom discuss because I feel a little embarrassed and worry that others will be grossed-out by it, but I feel its worth sharing if it can help someone else.  So here goes.

For as long as I can remember I have had canker sores.  What are canker sores, you ask?  Well, they are small, white ulcers on the inside of the mouth, and they can make you miserable.  They often come in pairs or triplets, and can make eating an exquisitely painful experience.  Doctors don't yet know what causes them or why some people get them and others don't.  They don't seem to be contagious, or be caused by any known virus or bacteria (though these causes haven't been completely ruled out) and there is no known cure.  While, many doctors recommend swishing salt water, avoiding toothpastes with SLS and spicy or acidic foods -all of which may aggravate symptoms, experience shows that none of this actually provides much relief for most people who get chronic recurring mouth sores.

I struggled with this problem for years.  In fact, I usually had at least four of these little white lesions in my mouth at any given time.  It made eating anything with tomato, vinegar, or spices intolerably painful.  Many of my favorite foods just stung too much for me to be able to enjoy them.  That meant no spaghetti, no Italian dressing, no Mexican food etc.  It was driving me crazy.  I spent hours online researching various treatments, things to avoid etc. all with no luck. 

But what could all of this have to do with Scotch Whisky?  Well, a while back some friends of mine introduced me to Single Malt Scotch Whisky and I fell in love with it.  I began sampling offerings from many different distilleries and taking notes on which ones I enjoyed the most and why.  It quickly became a passion and a hobby.  But, one day, a few months after trying my first dram of whisky, I noticed something unexpected; I suddenly became aware that I not only didn't have a single sore in my mouth, but what's more, I hadn't had any for some time.  I began thinking through any life changes I had recently made which might account for this and I came up with a few possibilities.  Then, one by one I began eliminating them to check which one might have wrought the change, and none had any effect.  none that is, until I tried eliminating whisky for a couple weeks, within a short time the sores returned with a vengeance.  So I went back to enjoying a dram or two in the evening and sure enough, the sores quickly went away again.  The whisky seemed to be the culprit.

I can't say exactly how the whisky accomplished this feat, but it did.  I don't know if its the alcohol itself, or one of the many other substances found in whisky, like the astringent tannins from the oak barrels, etc.  I don't know if it was the topical application of the liquid to the mouth or some internal systemic action. What I do know is that I as long as I continue to enjoy a dram or two a few nights a week, I remain symptom free.  After years of continuous stinging pain from these horrible little sores, it now seems I have now found the cure in the pursuit my favorite hobby.

Do I know if this will work for everyone with canker sores? No. But, by sharing this discovery with you all, maybe some canker sore sufferers reading this will try what I did and have similar results.  If so, it could spark further interest within the medical community and result in further testing or even the isolation of the chemicals responsible for the effect.  Maybe you don't even have to drink it, but only rinse and spit.  That would certainly be good news for under-aged sufferers.  Of course, it is also possible that I am completely wrong, or that this method only works for me.  Only time will tell.

But for now, what is important is to share my experience and see if others have similar results.  For those interested in which whiskys I drink: they are primarily Single Malt Scotch Whiskys, mostly Peated Islay Malts, and Malts matured in Sherry Casks.  I tend to enjoy one or two 25cl drinks at a sitting, and this three or four times a week.  I invite anyone who has chronic canker sores to try this out and see if it works for you.  If it does please email me and let me know.  I plan on compiling a table of results.  Thank you and Slainte.