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June 14, 2017

By Louise Carr,  Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors and
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of
our Editorial Board]

You don’t realize how much you use your lips until they
become swollen and painful. Your lips are involved in all
manner of everyday activities from eating to speaking to
kissing. Swollen lips are painful and embarrassing, and they
can be the sign of something dangerous.

Swollen lips, technically called "lip edema", occurs when
one or both lips enlarge beyond their normal size and
become puffy and distended. Swelling is caused by
inflammation in the lip tissue or by a build-up of fluid. Find
out how some illnesses, injury, medications, and allergies
can cause your lips to swell.

What Exactly Causes Swollen Lips?

If your lips are swollen the condition could have a number
of causes. Allergic reactions where there is contact with an
allergen like pet dander, personal care products, or certain
foods can cause swelling in the lips as the immune system
reacts in protection. Food allergies can cause swollen lips,
as can insect bites and stings and latex allergy.

Sometimes swollen lips are a symptom of angioedema. In
this case the swelling is not on the surface of the skin but
in the skin’s deeper layers. It may be caused by an allergic

Illnesses that may cause swollen lips include cold sores,
cheilitis, lip cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, fluid
retention, skin sores, nasal congestion, nutritional
deficiencies, malnutrition, or obesity.
Environmental factors like heat and cold make lips more
sensitive and vulnerable to harm from sunburn and
chapping, which can cause swelling. And one of the most
common causes of a “fat lip” is a direct blow to the mouth
from injury.

Are Swollen Lips a Sign of Something Dangerous?

Swollen lips can signal anaphylaxis, a severe allergic
reaction, which needs to be immediately treated.
Anaphylaxis is when there is swelling in the mouth, throat,
and lips as well as hives and breathing difficulties. It can
lead to an increased heart rate and death if not treated

But swollen lips are not always the sign of something so
severe. We looked at recent scientific studies to see how
you can remedy swollen lips and prevent the condition
from occurring.

Severe Allergic Reactions Can Cause Swollen Lips

Let's get rid of the obvious first. Anaphylaxis is a condition
caused by an allergy where the lips and mouth swell, and it
can result in medical complications. The condition appears
to be increasing among children, according to a 2016 study
from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health
Centre. Based on their data collected from the Montreal
Children's Hospital of the MUHC, the percentage of
emergency department visits due to anaphylaxis more than
double over four years.

Researchers point to a rising rate of allergies as well as this
increasing rate of anaphylaxis and state that the trend is
world-wide. Since anaphylaxis can occur in seconds after
contact with an allergen, suffered need to be equipped with
the drug epinephrine in order to reduce the swelling and
other symptoms.

The researchers looked at 965 cases of anaphylaxis in
Canada and found that the annual percentage of
emergency department visits due to anaphylaxis increased
from 0.20 percent to 0.40 percent between 2011 and
2015. The majority of the cases, 80.2 percent, were
triggered by tree and peanut allergies along with other
food allergies.

Food Allergies Result in Swollen Lips

Less severe reactions to food allergies can also result in
swollen lips. Some reactions to food can be delayed and
appear over a number of days or weeks. There is no
recognized effective natural treatment for food allergies
aside from removing the offending food from the diet.

Some experts believe that food allergies can be prevented
when pregnant women do not eat allergic foods. However,
a 1999 study from Tampere University Hospital at the
University of Tampere, Finland shows that “dietary
restrictions are in fact effective only in the treatment of
specific food allergies, not in allergy prevention. An
elimination diet of a child or a breastfeeding mother entails
a risk to normal nutrition and growth of the child.”

Swollen Lips Can Be Caused By Angioedema

Angioedema is a type of swelling in the deeper layers of the
skin that mainly affects the lips and eyes. It can affect
between 10 percent and 20 percent of people in their
lifetime, according to the British National Health Service.

Food allergies are the most likely triggers of angioedema
although the condition can also be caused by a reaction to
certain medications or to pollen.

A 2007 study from the University of Bari in Italy says that
sublingual immunotherapy therapy (SLIT) shows promise
for treating latex allergies that result in hives and
angioedema, and swollen lips.

Curcumin Can Heal Your Swollen Lips Caused by Cold

The herpes simplex virus results in the common condition
of cold sores. Cold sores can cause swelling around the
mouth, resulting in swollen and misshapen lips.

Recent research shows that curcumin, a compound in the
spice turmeric, helps to block the infection that results in
cold sores. A 2008 study from the Van Andel Institute and
Michigan State University found that cells treated with
curcumin did not support the virus very well.

However, researchers stress that applying curcumin to a
cold sore will not help reduce swollen lips. The research is
at the cellular level, to help bring about new treatments for
cold sores.

It's clear that, if you suffer from cold sores, curcumin
should be a part of your prevention strategy. How to add
more curcumin to your regular diet? Try adding curcumin
to your scrambled eggs, to your soups and stews, and as a
spice to your meats, poultry and fish.

Some people also take curcumin as a supplement. If you
prefer to take curcumin this way, make sure you don't
overdo it. Too much curcumin can cause internal bleeding.
You should avoid taking curcumin or any other blood-
thinning supplements if you are also on statins or other
blood-thinners. The best approach is to talk to your doctor
and share the complete list of supplements you plan to take.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease May Make Your Lips Swell

Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, two different
conditions within the category of inflammatory bowel
disease, can cause swelling of the lips.

If you're wondering what does an inflammatory bowel
condition have to do with swollen lips, you're not alone.
Scientists are not sure why these conditions cause lip
swelling but they have clues.

Generally, all inflammatory conditions in your body stem
from the same cause at the cellular level. Inflammation is
your body's response to an injury of some sort.

The general level of inflammation in your body can be
raised or lowered by the same factors, whether the
inflammation occurs in your organs or your lips. These
factors include lowering the levels of stress hormones in
your body as well as avoiding inflammation-producing
foods such as refined carbohydrates such as sugar.

As we said, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis sometimes
cause swollen lips. Other symptoms of these Crohn's
disease and ulcerative colitis conditions include abdominal
pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Essential fatty acids, such as the omega-3 fatty acids found
in certain fish, may be useful for reducing the symptoms of
inflammatory bowel disease, including swelling.

A 1992 study from Veterans Affairs Medical Center,
Martinez, California suggests that fish oil may be helpful,
and a 1993 study by St Thomas' Hospital, London in the UK
found that evening primrose oil was beneficial.

Though krill oil was not mentioned in the study, you may
consider trying this alternative source of omega-3 fatty
acids as well, for in many cases
krill has proven even more
effective than fish oil in reducing inflammation

Swollen Lips Come as Part of Fluid Retention

Fluid retention can be a problem, particularly for women at
certain points in their lives including during pregnancy and
around the time of the menstrual period.  And in general;
as we age, we are more prone to fluid retention and
electrolyte imbalances, according to a 2014 study from
Nottingham University Hospitals in the UK.

Fluid retention may make your lips to look swollen, too. In
a 1998 study from the University of Reading in the UK,
scientists discovered that magnesium supplements used
regularly could reduce the symptoms of PMS-related fluid

The study looked at 38 women who were given magnesium
or placebo for two cycles. At the end of the second cycle
magnesium had reduced bloating and swelling.

Trauma to the Mouth Can Cause Swollen Lips

A direct trauma to the mouth can result in swelling and
bruising. This could happen when playing sport or in an
accident and is very common. You may also have swollen
lips if you get bitten by an insect. Many people swear by
various natural remedies for treating insect bites, but
unfortunately research shows that not many remedies are
actually effective at reducing swelling from an insect bite.

A 2012 report contained in the April issue of the Drug and
Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) says that there is little evidence
that remedies like aloe, calendula and chamomile work.
However, the researchers also warn that antihistamine
tablets and steroid creams may also not help to reduce
swelling and ease inflammation. In most cases, the
researchers say, the swelling from the bite will resolve itself
without further help.


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Curcumin can help relieve
swollen lips caused by cold sores