Monday, January 10, 2011

Apple #501: Milky Taste in My Mouth

For the last several weeks, I've had a persistent milky taste in my mouth.  As if I'd just drunk a big glass of milk and really needed to brush my teeth.  But brushing my teeth or chewing mint gum had no effect.  The inside of my mouth also felt tacky or sticky.  I was also pretty thirsty, but again, no amount of water that I drank had any effect on the milky taste or that stickiness.  Very mysterious.


My mouth has tasted as though I've been drinking a glass of milk like this every five minutes. But I haven't had a glass of milk in years.
(Photo from Teacher Art)


So naturally I did what any good Apple Lady would do, I looked online for answers.

I found out that a lot of people have experienced a similar situation. "This weird milky creamy taste has been driving me crazy," said one person. "Everything tastes creamy and nothing I do changes it. It's weird as I don't drink milk as I am lactose intolerant."  A woman named Katy said, "It won't go away, there is no discharge, or discoloration to my saliva...it just tastes milky--everything! even water!"

A number of people suggested brushing your tongue to get rid of the taste.  Since I do that every morning, I doubted that doing it again would make any difference, but I tried it.  No difference.

People also suggested rinsing with mouthwash.  Tried it.  No difference.  Then I read elsewhere that you should avoid mouthwash under these circumstances.  Oops.  Brush with baking soda.  Tried it.  No difference.  Rinse with salt water.  Tried it.  Slight improvement, but the milky taste came back within a few hours. 

But of course these suggestions weren't a diagnosis, and to find the effective treatment, you really need a correct diagnosis.  Again, lots of people had lots of different ideas about what might be causing the persistent milky taste.

You must be pregnant, several people said.  Not possible in my case, and it was also not possible for a member of the male sex to whom this was suggested.  Here are some other suggestions people had, which also did not apply to me:
  • Diabetes
  • Sinus infection
  • Neurological issue
  • Side effect of birth control
  • Burning mouth syndrome -- feels like your mouth has been scalded when it hasn't
  • Dysgeusia -- sense of taste gets confused by any number of conditions, including:
      • too little Zinc
      • too much Vitamin A 
      • too little thiamine
      • Chemotherapy medications
      • Blood pressure medications
      • Formaldehyde inhalation
      • Alzheimer's, strokes, Parkinson's disease
      • Multiple sclerosis
      • Diabetes
These possible illnesses were getting way too exotic to be correct.  The only other condition that kept popping up all the time and seemed like a possibility was oral thrush, or candidiasis.

(Normally I would insert a picture here, but I find the photos of this condition to be really unpleasant.  I don't want to inflict them on anyone who doesn't want to see them, so instead, I'll provide links to a few photos.)

  • Here's a photo of thrush on the tongue (it's #25 of 40), with a tell-tale smooth red patch in the middle.

Thrush is really a yeast infection. This yeast is different than the kind of yeast used to make bread or beer.  Unpleasant though this sounds, it's actually a fungus. Its scientific name is Candida albicans. It's a permanent resident in our mouths and in women's vaginas, but it's usually kept in balance by the equally always-present bacteria.  Sometimes, though, the balance between the bacteria and the yeast gets thrown off and the fungus gets out of control.  Hence, yeast infections, or oral thrush.

All this sounded like it might apply. But as I read on, it sounded less and less accurate.  The people who get it most often tend to be
  • very old or very young
  • immunocompromised which means people with HIV or on chemotherapy
  • people taking anti-bacterial medications
  • people taking cortisone-type drugs or birth control pills
  • people who have diabetes
  • people who smoke
  • people who wear dentures, especially if the dentures don't fit right.
None of those things applies to me.  [Update: Another thing that should be on that list is people who are very stressed out or tired or haven't been eating properly lately.  Anything that can put your immune system under strain can make you susceptible to this sort of thing.  So if you've got the thrush in your mouth, that doesn't necessarily mean you have some terrible immune disorder. First thing to do, get more sleep! Eat healthier foods! I say this as much to me as anybody else.]

Most of the medical sites about this condition also say that it's characterized by
  • white cottage cheese-like lesions or bumps on the tongue or inside the mouth
  • when scraped off, they are painful and may bleed
  • cracking at the corners of the mouth
  • painful swallowing
  • stomach ache
I did have the stomach ache, but only for a little while after eating.  I did not, however, have the white bumps or cracked lips, which seemed to be the primary indicator, so I thought it couldn't be thrush after all.

To be on the safe side, though, I tried some other things that people suggested for warding off thrush.  I read that sugars, bread, beer, or wine will only feed the thrush, so it's best to avoid those. Since so many foods seem to have either sugar or carbs in them, this was difficult to do but I did my best.  I didn't see much difference in the milkiness in my mouth, though.


Drinking beer or wine while you've got thrush will only feed the yeast in your mouth. You also may experience huge amounts of flatulence as the yeast in your mouth is essentially partying way more than you are.
(Photo from The Caterer's Blog)


I also read that the active cultures in yogurt may help fight the thrush, so I did try eating some.  I ate what I had in the fridge at the time, which was a typical variety with fruit, but my stomach hurt as usual and it otherwise didn't seem to have any effect.  As the days passed with no change in the milkiness, I continued to search online, hoping I would find a different answer that seemed to fit better.

Then I remembered.  Some time back, my dentist told me it looked like I've been grinding my teeth, so I got one of those over-the-counter bite guard things that you mold out of plastic.  I tried them, but after a day or two they felt like they didn't fit right.  I cleaned them by brushing them with toothpaste as directed, but when they became too irritating to wear, I set them aside.  Weeks passed.  Then I thought, eh, I'll give it another try.  But they still didn't feel right and the next day I put them away again.  They aren't dentures, but maybe these bite guard things could cause thrush like dentures do.  And if I remember correctly, I think it was shortly after this that the milky taste showed up in my mouth.


I can't remember now if this was the brand of bite guard I bought or not. But it was something like this, anyway.
(Photo from Amazon, where you can buy a set of bite guards like these for around $19)


So.  It is my theory that I did have the oral thrush, but it wasn't advanced enough for the white bumps to show up.  [Update: my theory was correct; I did have thrush.]  The sites I read online said that oral thrush is pretty easily treated with antifungal medications which a doctor can prescribe.  I was all set to make an appointment, but then I thought, let me see if I can make it go away on my own.

I decided to eat yogurt.  This time, instead of eating one with fruit in it I decided to look for a kind that had the least amount of sugar possible.  I compared the labels of the various brands at the grocery store, fully expecting that I would wind up with Plain and Boring and Terrible.  But, I told myself, if it makes this milky taste go away, it will be worth it.

The brands with the least amount of sugar were those that had sugar substitutes like Nutrasweet.  I didn't want any of those.  The variety with the next-lowest amount of sugar was actually semi-flavored. It was Stonyfield Organic French Vanilla, with 24 grams of sugar.


At 24 grams of sugar, this was the winner of the Yogurt In My Grocery Store With Low Sugar competition. I've more recently discovered that some of the Greek yogurts have less sugar per container, between 16 & 18 grams.
(Photo from Green Mountain Vermont


The label also boasts that it has "six live active cultures: S. thermophilus, Bifidus, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. acidophilus, L. rhammosus." All the yogurts I've ever encountered have at least the L. acidophilus.  I had no idea whether it would matter or not that those other 5 are in this yogurt, and I still don't know whether it makes any difference.

I bought a few 6-ounce containers of it and gave it a try.  It was actually pretty tasty, not bland at all.  I ate one container with my dinner that night.  The next morning, the milky taste was still there, but quite a bit less than it had been before.  So I had some with my breakfast.  By the time I had the third one with my dinner that night, saints be praised, the milky taste was gone!


Keeping in mind the fact that the medications doctors prescribe to knock out things like this are supposed to be taken for at least a week to have a lasting effect, I went back to the store and bought all the rest of the containers they had.  I have been eating this yogurt with breakfast and dinner for the past four days or so, and the milky taste is still gone.  I have been feeling very smart and self-reliant.  I did eat a few cookies tonight -- lots of sugar -- and I can feel the milky taste threatening to come back.  Which means more yogurt is in my future!

[Update: While the yogurt got rid of the milky taste, that was only fleeting.  The milky taste came back after I ate some cookies -- sugary stuff -- and though the taste went away again after more yogurt, I then noticed some very small white patches on the back of my tongue.  They looked as if the tops of my taste buds had turned white.  Very distressing.] 

The "live active cultures" in yogurt are actually good bacteria.  The word that's really in right now and which means essentially the same thing is "probiotics."  These bacteria in yogurt -- L. acidophilus and the others -- will increase the amount of bacteria present in your mouth and they may be sufficient to get that out-of-control fungus back in balance.  By the way, if you're lactose intolerant, it's possible that these bacteria, the Bifidus in particular, may help make your digestive system more lactose-tolerant.

I do need to point out that my oral thrush -- if in fact that's what it is and I'm 95% sure that's what it is -- is very mild.  No white spots or anything like that. My guess is that if you've got the white spots like mad, yogurt might not be enough to handle the problem. If the thrush has started creeping down your throat and you're experiencing pain when you swallow, for sure skip the yogurt plan and go straight to your doctor to get the anti-fungals ASAP.

Medical websites disagree about yogurt's effectiveness.  Some say that yogurt might help, and others say that yogurt is no better than placebo and you're better off getting yourself to a doctor to get the special anti-fungal medication that will get things under control.

I want to be very clear that I am not saying or guaranteeing or anything-ing that if you eat this (or any) yogurt, you will be magically cured.  All I'm saying is that this is what happened to me, this is what I tried, and these are the results I've seen.  I am also not ruling out the possibility that I may have to go see the doctor and get a prescription after all.

[Update: I did go to my doctor to get a prescription. The yogurt was keeping it at bay, but it wasn't knocking it out and I suspect if I let things go on much longer, the yogurt would have lost the battle entirely.]

But if you've got the milky taste in your mouth and you want to give the yogurt a try, give it a shot and see what happens.  Be sure to choose a very low-sugar kind, though, or you'll only be feeding the thrush.  Alternatively, you could take acidophilus tablets, though I've never seen any in a typical grocery store.


L. Acidophilus tablets. See how they've added the hip new word "probiotics" on the label? This stuff has been in yogurt for decades.
(Photo from Amazon, where you can buy these tablets for $7.94)


Apparently, there are also anti-fungal mouth washes like Lotrimin or Diflucan or Mycostatin which can help if the yogurt of tablets do not.  I think those mouthwashes are available over the counter, but I'm not sure.

[Update: those mouthwashes are available by prescription only.  My doctor prescribed Nystatin, and though the label boasts "fruit flavored," and though it's thick and bright yellow which seems to promise that it might be banana-flavored, it actually tastes like very strong cough syrup. Very terrible.  You have to swish it around and keep it in your mouth as long as possible, and then swallow it.  You have to do this five times a day.  It tastes horrible, but it's working.]

Last Update, I promise: I posted this in the comments but I'm going to put it in the body of the entry too because sometimes people skip the comments.  Neither the yogurt, the mouthwash, or even prescriptions were effective enough to get rid of the problem. It turned out, the only thing that was truly effective was not giving the little buggers any sugar at all whatsoever.  That meant changing my diet pretty extensively to avoid all sugar and carbs.


If you've got the same kind of milk mouth I had, it won't work to only reduce sugar.  You have to cut it out of your diet completely.
(Image from the Weight Loss Blog)


It was hard to do, but it was the only thing that worked.  It's known as the candida diet. It is extremely restrictive and not easy to follow, but doing so is the only thing that made the milky mouth go away. If I ate anything on the Avoid list, even a little bit of it, the milky taste came back.

http://www.thecandidadiet.com/foodstoavoid.htm

A side benefit was that, after a few months of avoiding sugar, I lost nearly 30 pounds.

After a few solid months of being on the diet, when the milky taste had been gone for a good long while, I slowly and very gingerly started trying a few foods that contain sugar, to see if the milky flavor would come back.  The first thing I tried was ketchup.  No milky taste.  Good.  After another few days, I tried eating a hot dog with half a bun.  No milky taste.  Good.  So you see, bit by bit, and very slowly in case it showed any signs of coming back, I stepped back into the waters of a more regular diet until I was sure the dang condition was gone.

Eventually, I went back to my previous eating habits.  All the weight I'd lost came back, and then some. :(  But the milky taste did not return.


One final note to all interested readers: there's no point describing your symptoms to me in a comment and asking me to give you a diagnosis.  I am not a doctor, and I can't help you with that.  If you're at all in doubt about what's going on with your body, whatever it is, the best idea is always to go see your doctor and let him or her diagnose the situation and prescribe treatment.


Sources
Blurtit, I Have Had a Milky Creamy Taste In My Mouth For The Past Week
suite101, Bad Taste In the Mouth, February 2, 2009
NetWellness, Dental and Oral Health (Adults), Milky saliva, May 19, 2008
Questionland, Bizarre rotten milk taste in my mouth
Yahoo!Answers, I have had a milky taste in my mouth for almost a week? HELP!?
Mayo Clinic, Oral Thrush
American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Burning Mouth/Burning Tongue Syndrome
and Oral Candidiasis
University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Health Topics, Thrush
The Straight Dope, What's with the "live active cultures" in yogurt?
National Yogurt Association, Live and Active Culture (LAC) Yogurt FAQ's

15 comments:

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience. I am going through exactly what you described, no visible signs on tong or mouth but consistently have a milky taste in my mouth. After reading you post I decided to schedule a visit to my doctor and I will be asking specifically about "Thrush". In meantime, my wife handed me Voskos greek yogurt, Turns out it's labeled to include "live and active cultures"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Best of luck to you, Anonymous. As it turned out for me, the prescriptions weren't enough to take care of the problem. I read some more things online and found out about the candida diet. It is extremely restrictive and not easy to follow, but doing so is the only thing that has made the milky mouth go away. If I have anything on the avoid list, even a little bit, the milky taste comes back.

    http://www.thecandidadiet.com/foodstoavoid.htm

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for such a thorough report! I am experiencing this now and am quite certain to have oral thrush. I will try the yogurt cure first, as it is the easiest to do by myself without doctor intervention.

    I hope your situation has subsided now that it's months later!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you so much for your detailed review. I have been getting the same weird milky taste in my mouth and was 40% sure that it was oral thrush, now im almost 100% sure it is. i will give yogurt a go!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I had red cracking around my lips for a few months, and then I developed a milky taste in my mouth plus a gassy stomach. So after reading this and then looking into the symptoms of oral thrush I was sure I had oral thrush or at least a mild candida overgrowth.

    So I started eating yoghurt (the greek kind that has little sugar and lots of active cultures) and cutting out bread, sugar etc. didn't do anything to dull the milky taste (it actually caused me to get a cold as I was cutting out a lot of fresh fruit I normally ate and instead of eating a healthy sandwich for lunch I ate food from the canteen). Anyway so I went to the doctor, he said it couldn't be thrush because I didn't have any white spots on my tongue or mouth (yet he suggested an anti-fungal cream for the cracking around my lips - used it for a week and it didn't help at all). I went to a different doctor and he thought it might be acid reflux. By this stage I was getting really frustrated as I just wanted the anti-fungal mouth wash and rid myself of the milky taste which I'd had for three weeks now!

    The third doctor I saw agreed to prescribe me Nystatin. After quite a few days of taking it still didn't seem to be doing anything to the milky taste, and instead was progressively making me feel more tired and fatigued each day, so I had to stop taking it. My frustration was now at an all time high!

    I googled the red cracking around my lips and someone suggested using a diff brand of toothpaste - bizarrely in just a few days of using a diff toothpaste it completely subsided! (I'd had that for months, how did someone figure that out!)

    So now I was happy to have taken care of one problem but was still stuck with the milky taste. So I tried to think back to when the milky taste started, and if I started to eat anything different at that time. Then I realised I started adding coleslaw to my sandwiches. I also decided to cut out dairy to see if that would work - when the milky taste started I initially thought it could be because I was eating too much dairy (I love my cereal!) but I read someone who was lactose intolerant developed the milky taste so thats what made me lean towards candida. So I stopped the coleslaw, no cheese in my sandwiches and toast instead of cereal for breakfast and within a week the milky taste was gone!

    My case is unique, but I was definitely convinced I had candida. I was quite stressed (so immune system was weakened) due to a new job when the milky taste appeared, and it seemed whenever I ate bread or drank beer it would disagree with my stomach (a very tough period cutting out sandwiches and beer! lol), so it all seemed to make sense. So I was very surprised when the Nystatin didn't work. I guess my advice would be to try everything, cut out dietary factors that you think may have caused it, try limiting stress, try a number of things just change it up. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't know if you all have heard but there are these new acidophilus pearl probiotics which should also help. I'm trying them now so I'll let you know if it works to get rid of the candida in my throat as well. I was taking it for a while and it definitely helped my stomach, however, I stopped taking it a weak or so before this milky taste appeared. I will begin taking it again soon. Hopefully it will help to rid my mouth of the milky taste.

    http://www.pearlsprobiotics.com/Products/04293-Acidophilus-Pearls.aspx

    ReplyDelete
  7. 1 year and a half later and your blog has helped me tremendously. Thank you for writing about your experience in detail.

    ReplyDelete
  8. thanks man that actually helped knowing their is selotion for this annoying thing

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fage greek yogurt, plain, is nothing but milk and culture, no added sugar. It is quite easy to eat, tastes quite a bit like sour cream, but not as sour. Eating that regularly might help prevent a recurrence. Plus it is really good for you. The fruit flavors are also very good, but there is sugar added to the fruit topping. And I'm not at all connected to Fage, I'm just a big fan.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was looking for causes for this horrible taste in my mouth and suspected candidiasis as I am having stomach pains and IBS as well.

    However, have tried pro-biotics and these haven't worked. Going to the Doctors is not an option as internal candidiasis is not recognised as an issue in the UK. Looks like its going to have to be the diet

    ReplyDelete
  11. To everyone who is experiencing a milky taste in your mouth no matter what you try or do to get rid of it...

    quick answer:
    Basically if you have milky taste in your mouth then something is affecting your saliva glands,
    good chance it could be puss filled abscess or spot that is the culprit and it may be hiding nearby,
    if it's not teeth, gums, sinus, fungal infection or diabetic issues

    My experience was of a bad puss filled spot / abscess hiding in my ear cartilage.

    Tracing everything back it went like this -
    began to notice milky taste in mouth 1 week ago (I do not drink milk)
    within a day or 2 of noticing milky taste, my left ear started slowly leaking blood
    cleaned it up and kept an eye on it as I get random spots like that from time to time
    constant bathing with warm water and checking with finger pressure found the culprit
    after a few days a head formed and eventually it popped, this spot was a through and through
    which explained why my ear bleed on the inside and not the outside.
    what I did not realise was this spot had caused a lot of pressure in my head which I only noticed on the first release of yuck
    another week later and changing my diet to include lots of the good stuff and dropped all sugar in take,
    (lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, scotch bonnet(small) coconut oil, lots of garlic - lighted fried and added to soup is nice and effective)

    Essentially I tried to give my body the tools to fight this infection off itself, before I went to the doc's
    During all of this I suffered the milky taste, only now is it starting to fade.

    In short the pressure in my head and ear area is now hardly noticeable
    and the milky taste (in my case) is associated with a bad puss infection which is near
    to my saliva glands thus affecting taste

    so for all you people out there with milky taste, check the following
    Abscess in gums or teeth or recent dental work, fungal infection?
    if you have no obvious saliva issues associated with diabetes, oral thrush
    then check for any bad / sore areas or spots in or around the jaw, ear or sinuses
    don't forget the possibility of diabetes too

    Oh if you still have no idea be sure to visit the doc's to get treated, hopefully the above info maybe of help to your doc to help diagnose :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for telling us about another possible cause, and other signs to look for.

    I'm glad your pus-related condition is clearing up.

    And yes, it's always best to check with a doctor before assuming you've made the right diagnosis or starting any kind of treatment program.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have had this milky, salty taste for over two months now. Have been to primary care doc, dentist, and ENT. The ENT prescribed Nystatin and I am on my second bottle of it and it seems to be doing nothing. ai guess I need to try the diet. This is driving me crazy as it only seems to get worse. I don't anything noticible on my tongue. It did have a sore on the side when I first noticed the bad taste. It started right after my grandkids got out of school.The reason I went to the doc at first was a sore throat which I thought was strep because my g-daughter had strep but I tested negative. It got worse and I was back at the doc less than a week later. He gave me something called Magic Mouth Wash but it did not work. Then went to dentist and got mouth guard because of teeth gringing. Then went to ENT and the only thing he could figure was yeast but did not test for it just gave me Nystatin, which has done nothing for it.It just seems to get worse and worse. It is driving me crazy. Help!

    ReplyDelete
  14. 24g of sugar is the same as two Twix cookie bars.

    ReplyDelete

If you're a spammer, there's no point posting a comment. It will automatically get filtered out or deleted. Comments from real people, however, are always very welcome!