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A race to the cure

Last week, I was in the kitchen munching on a carrot listening to my wife talk about her recent tennis match when I unexpectedly bit into the side of my mouth. The pain was immediate and intense, so much so that it dropped me to my knees.

My wife stopped talking and asked what was wrong, but she knew immediately when I stood up holding my cheek.
After a moment or two of wincing, I just stood there and shook my head. We both knew what this meant: In a day or two, that trauma in my mouth would develop into an irritating canker sore.

Canker sores (also called aphthous ulcers) are small, shallow lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums. They are usually caused by stress, trauma, or illness and can range from matchstick size to the size of a dime.

I have suffered with canker sores throughout my life. Nowadays, when I feel one coming on, I know I’ve either had trauma in my mouth, I’m about to get sick, or I’m under a lot of pressure at work. However, as a child and teenager, it seemed like anything could trigger an outbreak.

Over time, I noticed correlations between certain foods and the formation of a sore. Walnuts, cinnamon, and orange juice were definite triggers for me. But even when I avoided those items, I still managed to get them.

My mother was good about buying me the newest over-the-counter remedies, but ultimately nothing worked. Some medications alleviated the pain long enough so you could comfortably eat, while others were borderline useless. Most claimed to limit the severity and/or foster faster healing, but I never noticed a difference.

Sometime in my teenage years, I decided that enough was enough, so I began an earnest quest to discover my own remedy for canker sores. Each time I had an outbreak, I would try a homemade concoction that I had either heard about, read about, or produced on my own.

I tried caking salt and baking powder into the wound to burn the virus out (all that ever did was cause immense pain and then leave me with a worse sore). I tried eating exorbitant amounts of weird foods like chickpeas or olive oil thinking that would somehow build up a natural immunity (nope). At one point, I even tried to glue the sores shut (that was just stupid).

And then, in my 20s, I heard that eliminating dairy products (specifically whole milk) would lessen outbreaks. I was a prolific milk drinker, so this was a painful decision. However, when I switched to almond milk, my outbreaks noticeably lessened.

To this day, I have rarely had a glass of whole milk or used milk in my cereal.

But while the outbreaks diminished considerably, they did not entirely disappear. I try to be careful brushing my teeth but sometimes I slip and jam my toothbrush into my gums and then two days later, a canker sore appears. I try not to stress about work, but when a big project is building in intensity, two days later, a canker sore appears. And no matter how much I run, I still get the occasional cold and then two days later, I get a canker sore.

However, there is a “happy-ish” ending to this story.

Several years ago, I was at the dentist and during my checkup, he noticed a canker sore in my mouth. He then asked if he could try a new product on it, to which I willingly agreed. A few moments later he placed a Q-Tip into a small vial of fluid and then applied it to my canker sore. The pain was immense but two minutes later, the area was numb. By the next day, the sore had almost completely healed.

The product is called Debacterol and it’s a life saver for people who suffer with this affliction. When applied to an open sore, the fluid cauterizes the wound and sends it immediately into the healing phase. But the best part is that the pain associated with canker sores dissipates within a minute, making life much more manageable. I rarely recommend a product, but if you suffer with this condition, it’s worth purchasing the applicators.

In this week’s feature, “The Wonder” we meet a young woman with an even stranger affliction. Set in the late 1800s in an antiquated Irish village, Anna is a young woman who has convinced everyone around her that she can survive without eating. However, when a young English nurse is sent to investigate, many more questions arise.

This is an interesting and quixotic period piece that will have you wondering whose intentions are just and who is up to something devious. Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a consuming psychological thriller without the bells and whistles of modernity.

A famished “B-” for “The Wonder,” now available for streaming on Netflix.

Got a question or comment for Dom?
You can email him at [email protected]

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