Coconut Oil- A Novel Approach to Managing Radiation-Induced Xerostomia
According to recent research, it has been found out that the use of coconut oil as a treatment strategy for xerostomia post- head and neck cancer (HNC) radiation is feasible, inexpensive, and safe, as published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology.
With cancer of the head and neck being the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, the burden of xerostomia on both patients' quality of life and the healthcare system should not be underestimated. Xerostomia is a common complication following radiation therapy for head and neck cancer (HNC), for which there is no single, universally accepted therapy.
Coconut oil has been anecdotally suggested to provide relief for this complication. The mechanism of xerostomia relief from coconut oil may be related to its ability to "coat" the mouth, forming a barrier to keep mucosal surfaces moist. Coconut oil has never been formally studied as a strategy for managing radiation-induced xerostomia.
Therefore, Alexandra E. Quimby and colleagues from the University of Ottawa, Department of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada carried out this study to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of coconut oil as a therapy for radiation-induced xerostomia.
The researchers performed a feasibility study among 30 patients with xerostomia subsequent to radiation for HNC. Coconut oil samples were provided along with a protocol for use over a 2-week period and the option to continue if they found it beneficial. Patients were also instructed to keep diaries to document their patterns of use.
The Xerostomia-related Quality of Life Scale (XeQOLS) was administered at baseline and 3-month follow-up. Descriptive methods were used to summarize patterns of coconut oil use and paired t-tests were used to assess changes in XeQOLS scores over time.
The interesting findings in the study were as follows-
- The mean total duration of coconut oil use during the study period was 16 days (1–71).
- The average number of uses per day was 3 (1–5), with an average amount per use of 5 mL (1.2–8.5).
- Twelve patients (41.4%) continued coconut oil use beyond the advised period.
- There was no statistically significant difference in XeQOLS scores pre- and post-treatment.
- There were no adverse events during the study period.
Hence, the authors concluded that "xerostomia is a pervasive problem following irradiation for head and neck cancer, with wide-ranging effects on patients' overall health and quality of life. Coconut oil offers a feasible, inexpensive, and safe alternative to the currently available, imperfect therapies for xerostomia."