Cure your canker sores with diet?

It’s a great idea.  Cure your canker sores by simply eating differently.

But to me, it’s a matter of what that means exactly.  If that means avoiding any of the dozens of foods that people believe cause canker sores, then my answer would be an emphatic “no”.  I’ve always resisted – strongly resisted – the advice that says to avoid this food and that food because they cause ulcers.  To me, a life of avoidance of food is no life I want to live.

But what about INclusion instead of EXclusion?  What if we’re talking about eating foods for the types of nutrients they provide that can help prevent canker sores?

Food for Canker Sores

Eat all of this.

That’s the very question that is posed to Martica Heaner, Ph.D, M.A., M.Ed. (can you find some more letters?) recently on the MSN Health page.

While she does get one tiny fact wrong in her article (she states that smoking exacerbates canker sores, which the opposite is paradoxically true), she does reference some very interesting studies that find a link between canker sore sufferers and deficiencies in Vitamin B12, Iron, and Folates.

One study from 2002 took blood samples from 61 people who have had three or more canker sores in the last year.  The results showed a minor tendency for deficiency in Iron and Folates, but it was statistically insignificant.  The B12 findings, however, were much more pronounced:

On the other hand, levels of vitamin B12 in the blood of those with canker sores were significantly different than those of healthy subjects. This suggests that low levels of B12 in the blood, or deficiencies, may play a role in getting canker sores. Of course, this study doesn’t prove that people low in vitamin B12 will get canker sores, it only shows that people who had canker sores tended to have low levels of vitamin B12 in their blood.

As always, you have to make the difference between correlation and causation.

She goes on to cite another study that attempted to deduce nutritional deficiencies by studying what canker sore sufferers were eating.  This one was much larger and more widespread with over 1,000 participants who filled out a dietary questionnaire to ascertain any nutrients they could be deficient in:

Dietary software then analyzed the information to estimate the average daily intakes of certain vitamins obtained from what they ate. These scores were compared to similar data on over 9,000 subjects from a nationally-representative database known as NHANES (the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey). The comparison was used to assess the nutrient intakes of those with canker sores compared to a typical sample of healthy adults. Results showed that those people with canker sores actually ate lower amounts of vitamins B12 and folate than average.

Again, with the B12.

I’m experimenting with 5000 mg/day of Vitamin B12 to see what kind of difference it makes for me.  It’s too early to tell right now, but I can say I don’t have any canker sores at the moment. I for one prefer to just take supplements because then you know exactly how much you’re taking and can experiment with different levels to see what works.  But if one were to craft a diet around lowering canker sores, it might look like this:



Sorry, vegans.  Steak, liver, tuna, cod, eggs, and milk are high in Vitamin B12 and Iron.  If you aren’t an animal eater, there are supplemented soy milks and yogurts that are high in Vitamin B12, and white button mushrooms have been found to contain B12.  But if I were you, I’d supplement.



All kinds of beans and lentils are high in folate and iron.


Fruits and Veggies

Spinach, broccoli, and tomato juice are high in both folates and iron, while orange juice and green peas are folate-rich.

Oatmeal, tortillas, raisins, sunflower seeds, tofu, parsley, and artichokes are all high in iron.


All of these foods are good for a variety of reasons.  Now you can add canker sores to the list.  And kiss the Taco Bell goodbye.

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