What do low estrogen, low calcium, dry throat and dry mouth have in common? At first it doesn’t seem like a lot. But a recent study published in the journal Menopause showed that women in menopause who have a dry mouth are at increased risk of low calcium and osteoporosis (brittle bones).
Here is what the study showed. First the doctors made sure the women didn’t have a medical reason for a dry mouth such as one of the following:
- Medication (an antihistamine, diuretic or medicine for urinary incontinence)
- Conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome (includes dry eyes and dry mouth)
- Damage to the salivary glands from surgery, medical treatment or radiation
- Excessive sweating
- Nerve damage from head and neck injury or surgery
- Dehydration from excessive exercise, fever, burns or diarrhea
Then they tested the saliva. Women who had none of the reasons above for a dry mouth or dry throat had higher amounts of calcium and also higher amounts of the adrenal hormone cortisol and parathyroid hormone in their saliva. These two hormones become higher in menopause with low estrogen. Women who did not have a dry mouth had normal levels of calcium, cortisol and parathyroid hormone in their saliva.
Here is why it matters to you. The women who had mouth symptoms were also very likely to have brittle bones. So here’s what to do. If you are in menopause and answer “yes” to three or more of the questions below, talk with your doctor or dentist and see if you need a bone density test to find out if you have osteoporosis or brittle bones. There are many medications to treat thin bones or brittle bones to help you prevent breaking your hip.
Dry Mouth Questionnaire
- Does your mouth feel dry when eating a meal?
- Do you have difficulty swallowing any foods?
- Do you need to sip liquids to aid in swallowing dry foods?
- Does the amount of saliva in your mouth seem to be reduced most of the time?
- Does your mouth feel dry at night or on awakening?
- Does your mouth feel dry during the daytime?
- Do you chew gum or use candy to relieve oral dryness?
- Do you usually wake up thirsty at night?
- Do you have problems in tasting food?
- Does your tongue burn?
On another note, in an earlier blog post I wrote about the stress and excitement of the troops coming home for Christmas and included a new Christmas song for military families called Daddy’s Coming Home. Here is a link in case you didn’t see it before or want another look and listen.