Have you ever had white lumps in the back of you throat? They can cause you to have bad breath, cause your lymph nodes & throat to feel swollen or sore. Pretty unpleasant to deal with! Well, you are not alone. They are called Tonsilloliths, or “Tonsil Stones.”
It was a bit challenging to find a lot of research on tonsil stones because they are not deemed a “hazardous condition.” I’d say they’re pretty hazardous to a happy social life! Who wants to deal with white lumps in their throat that make your breath smell terrible and glands swollen?!
What Are Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones are like a hardened collection of food particles, bacteria and other garbage that forms in the grooves of the tonsils. Some foods can cause the formation of these stones more easily than others, such as dairy.
- If you’ve had tonsil stones for most of your life, chances are that it can be a manifestation of a dairy sensitivity. Dairy can be a culprit because it is a mucus forming food. Even in Traditional Chinese Medicine, dairy is known to be a contributor to phlegm and “dampness.” In Functional Medicine, dairy has been proven to be inflammatory and can be the cause of osteoporosis, gastrointestinal issues, as well as allergies. So is it a far stretch to think that dairy could be the culprit of tonsil stones too?
- Our ancestors 100 years ago probably used cow’s milk products in lesser amounts, lesser frequency and the milk itself was prepared completely different than the way it is today.
- According to MayoClinic.com, milk is one of the most common food allergens that can cause a wide range of symptoms. During a milk allergy, immunoglobulin E antibodies and histamine are produced that increase the amount of mucus and swelling that develop in the throat. Excess mucus created in the sinuses can cause post-nasal drip, the constant dripping in the back of the throat that can lead to bad breath, sore throat and the feeling of a lump in the throat.
- It’s important to understand that tonsil stones are not simple inanimate masses; they’re living biofilms that have been shown to respire oxygen and nitrate. Tonsil stones have even been compared to sea coral, because they’re heavily composed of anaerobic bacteria. Dr. Harold Katz explains:
“These [anaerobic bacteria] thrive on sugars and food particles that are present in the mouth. This layer is called biofilm, which is a thick network of living microorganisms. Beneath this film, stones are made up of collagen and dead bacteria.”
*This is why it is important to have good oral hygiene – These anaerobic bacteria are thriving on the food particles in your mouth and the sugar you are consuming.
How Common Are Tonsil Stones?
Up to 46.1% of people have tonsil stones. They can be the reason for chronic halitosis, irritating cough, dysphagia, otalgia, foreign body sensation, sore throat, swollen glands, tonsillitis, earache or foul taste in the mouth. Sometimes the stones are too small for you to even notice, so a lot of times you could end up swallowing it and not even realize it! (BARF)
In a study conducted by researchers at the State University of Campinas in Brazil, tonsil stones were detected in 75% of tonsillitis patients who had bad breath but in only 6% of those with normal breath. So if you have unexplained bad breath, shine a flash light back there and check out your throat!
If you have recurrent strep infections that have left you with chronically enlarged tonsils, you are more prone to having tonsils stones as well. (If you get recurrent strep infections you need to work on improving your immune system.)
What You Can Do About It:
- The relationship between probiotics and a healthy gut microbiome has been well established. Everyone should definitely take a probiotic (Not cultured on dairy of course). But, probiotics don’t much impact the mouth – they impact the gut and intestines/colon more. Consuming fermented vegetables is a great way of getting flora into your mouth as well as your gut.
2. Cutting out wheat/gluten & Dairy from you diet for 30 days. Gluten can cause a lot of mucus and inflammation in the body, which can contribute to tonsil stones.
3. Drinking or Gargling with Apple Cider Vinegar diluted with water. Rinse your mouth out afterwards because it can damage your tooth enamel.
4. Oil pulling. Swishing coconut oil around your mouth for 10 minutes may help freshen your breath. One study found oil pulling is as effective as mouthwash at improving bad breath and reducing the microorganisms.
5. Eating more parsley or taking chlorophyll. This is an internal freshener which can neutralize odors from perspiration, menstruation, urine, and stools.
6. Cut out sugar from your diet. As mentioned above, the bacteria in these stones are thriving on sugar in your mouth. When I say sugar I mean processed sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, sugary coffee drinks, if you eat grains in excess, soda’s, agave syrup. (Substitute for stevia or monk fruit extract for sweetener).