Doctor's Note

For more on health concerns related to dairy, check out these videos:
Formula for Childhood Obesity
Childhood Constipation and Cow’s Milk
Prostate Cancer and Organic Milk vs. Almond Milk
Cow’s Milk-Induced Infant Apnea
Skim Milk and Acne

And check out my other videos on dairy

For additional context, also see my associated blog post: Do Vegans Get More Cavities? 

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  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on dairy. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Hi, I am a Vegan but keep getting ulcers in my mouth lately (last 2 weeks). Im not sure but it’s been since I stopped eating lot’s of white bread and switched to brown and I also drink 4-5 cups of coffee a day and eat a far amount of pasta (brown). Any ideas Michael?

    • Toxins

      Perhaps you should not drink so much coffee. Caffeine is not a health promoting substance.

    • DrDons

      Mouth ulcers are a challenge. The studies show clear link to milk products. People due have reactions to plant foods which can be difficult to figure out. Dr. McDougall’s December 2002 newsletter(available for free on website) contains an article, Diet for the Desperate. Below is a quote from that article which talks about the plant foods most likely to cause allergic problems. Hopefully by now the problem has vanished and is no longer an issue but if the problem has persisted you might consider avoiding some of these foods. “If the elimination diet seems too severe for you right now, then follow the McDougall Program, which eliminates six of the leading causes of food allergies: dairy products, eggs, chocolate, nuts, shellfish, and fish. If your problems persist, then the next suspects to eliminate are wheat, corn, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and strawberries–the most frequent causes of adverse reactions among foods in the vegetable kingdom.”

      • DStack

        What would you suggest if I already abstain from all those products and still get ulcers?

  • I have found that using a toothpaste without sodium laurel sulfate completely prevents these ulcers. There is clinical evidence for this as well, though I don’t have a citation off the top of my head. Rembrandt made a SLS free toothpaste for this very reason- not sure if they still do. I just look in the “natural” section of my grocery store for a toothpaste with fluoride, but no SLS. Nature’s Gate, Jason, and Trader Joe’s all make them, but you need to read the labels.

    • R. Leip

      I have had great success using Rembrandt Canker Sore Toothpaste.  It does not have sodium lauryl sulfate in it.  My local stores no longer carry it so I order it directly from the company.  I think it may also be available on Amazon.  While it is expensive, it is worth the cost to avoid the terrible pain.  I stumbled on it in a magazine article about 10 years ago at my doctor’s office.   Before I found this special toothpaste I had suffered with frequent canker sores for years (since my teens), often with several at once.  They wouldn’t heal on their own but had to be cauterized with silver nitrate sticks I got from my family doctor–a painful process in itself.  I got them whenever I injured the inside of my mouth–biting my lip or cheek or scraping the tissue somehow.  Now I almost never get the sores, and if I do they heal up promptly.  What a relief!  I will consider the milk angle, but since this toothpaste has virtually eliminated my problem I’ll probably just stick with that.  I highly recommend that all canker sore sufferers try Rembrandt’s Canker Sore Toothpaste.  Don’t just look for Rembrandt though–several of their varieties have SLS–get the Canker Sore type!   : )

  • cool thanks I use co-op tooth paste cos it’s vegan but i’ve never read the label properly. Why is coffee bad for you? I gave it up this week and am feeling pretty good for it and I feel like I can think much better too. :-)

  • Cindy

    I’ve suffered with mouth ulcers my entire life.  I’ve never found a dentist or doctor who had an answer to the cause.  Eleven months ago, I started a whole foods, plant-based diet (thus, eliminating all animal and dairy).  I was still getting the mouth ulcers.  In January I was searching the internet for causes for mouth ulcers (as I have done many times before) and found an article about SLS in toothpaste as a cause.  I switched to a natural toothpaste and the ulcers went away.  That is until June when I spent a month traveling Europe.  The interesting thing about this is that I decided not to be plant-based while I traveled (I wanted to eat what the locals eat) and I ate dairy.  I also ran out of my natural toothpaste and switched back to SLS toothpaste for a couple of weeks.  By the time I got home, I had mouth ulcers once again.  So, was it the dairy or was it the toothpaste?  I’m back off of both, so perhaps I will never know for sure, but I suspect it is the SLS in the toothpaste since I was still getting them after several months on a non-dairy diet. They are sooooo painful and frustrating!

  • Afastidle

    Not a single canker sore in my mouth since avoiding all dairy years ago. I had forgotten all about them until I saw this video. Pleasant change explained!

    • Tino

      I can confirm, since I switched to a dairy-free diet 1 1/2 months ago, no signs of canker sore anymore… completely disappeared!

  • Ute

    Dr. Greger,

    My husband, a sufferer from recurring, painful canker sores, is inclined to try eliminating dairy, after seeing this video. My question: Is cows’ milk the only dairy source that could trigger this condition? Does goat milk have the same negative effect; or could he consume goat milk products in exchange? He is having a hard time giving up cheese…

    Thank you!

    ~ Ute

  • Sahithi rajgopal

    Hi, I am Sahithi,i am suffering fro mouth ulser from 2 weeks.I am getting mouth ulcer after eating food made up of chick peas powder,i wonder what is the cause of it.

    • Mirko Vojvodic

      chick peas powder is procesed food like enithing else form modern style life. Try to eat chick peas raw…very healthy!!! ( my experience)

  • No Cankers For Years Now

    Hi everyone,
    I suffered with these horrible canker sores for years, never knowing what was causing them, a hapless victim of their merciless pain that often lasted for two weeks. Sometimes the pain was so great I could not even sleep or eat normal food. I finally saw a world reknown dermatologist who advised me to eliminate one of the possible food groups that cause them at a time, and for me it was the dairy products.
    Here’s the thing: I thought I was doing everything right and I was still getting them, until I found out the margarine I was using contained whey which is a dairy product. Ever since then, I began looking at food labels, avoiding the whey and have rarely had a problem.
    I found that the more concentrated forms of dairy such as butter and cheese were the worst causes, as well as milk chocolate, moreso than regular milk. If you’re searching for a solution as I was, try eliminating ALL dairy from your diet, which you really have to watch food labels (and ask annoying questions at restaurants) to do. Best wishes everyone.

  • kassy

    Makes sense. I wasn’t vegan til I moved out of my parents house. The whole time at my parents’ house I had recurring mouth ulcers. I thought it was because I started cooking on my own and reduced my salt intake, but this could make sense too! Either way, just another victory of a healthy diet!

  • mreyn

    Would the dairy issue with the body attacking itself ..autoimmune… cause the same problems in the gut.. as in crohns disease? And if so, what is the best way to test to see if your body fights against dairy like this?

  • Mirko Vojvodic

    Michael, I have seen huge progress from that expo in Chicago….just go, an go….I’m 100% on Your side…we have to change the world…and I think we allready did!!!

  • Mirko Vojvodic

    P.S. Sory about My broken English ;)…because, I’m actualy from the road to no where!

  • Mirko Vojvodic

    And, You never answer that question about “smoke is healthy”?….more than 78% smokers have no simptoms of AH decease…no parkinson, and very low level of alergy sensitive between smokers?!

  • Barton van Buskirk

    allergies antibiotic ointment
    will help

  • Chris g

    I have never had ulcers until I became a vegetarian .My body was clean of meats,dairy for months at a time.Once in a blue moon I would
    eat a cheeseburger and get a ulcer on my tongue right after eating it.This happened 3 times.This must be a signal of rejection of my body.

  • Leki Dorjee
  • Dwight Jones, DDS

    After watching this video, I have been recommending it to my patients. The results have been very good! Unfortunately, the dentists I have shared it with are not willing to give it a try. Old habits die hard.

    • Lawrence

      Dr. Jones, I would like to chime in here re mouth (tongue) ulcers. I have been vegan for a few years now and was taking 2000 ug B12 once a week. I have also experienced ulcers mostly on my tongue every so often going way back. I also have a history of Crohn’s going back 30 some years. In the past year I started experiencing other symptoms like fuzzy thinking, fatigue, moodiness and just overall yuckiness. Long story short, I kept digging for a solution and the only thing that put it all together was a vitamin B12 deficiency! So, knowing you can’t OD on B12 and that massive oral doses could be just as effective as intramuscular injections, I started taking daily 5000 ug sublingual methylcobalamin. Within two weeks my symptoms cleared up and I haven’t had any tongue ulcers again even though I drink coffee and eat a lot of tomato paste.

      • Thea

        Lawrence: Great problem solving. Thanks for sharing.

        • Lawrence

          Thanks for being here. Dr. Greger and the entire NF Team are a national treasure. For the sake of brevity, I did not mention a confounding factor in my ‘race for the cure’ of my myriad symptoms, that of my recent serum B12 lab work indicating a normal level (568 pg/ml in a range of 239-931). I have come to learn that the serum tests can be misleading for a number of reasons and one needs to see their homocysteine and MMA levels as well, tests that were not ordered at the time. In addition to all the excellent B12 videos here, Dr. Greger has a great lecture on Youtube called ’40 Year Vegan Dies of a Heart Attack’ that is well worth the time of anyone who frequents this website, and especially for vegans. Another outstanding resource is the CDC continuing education course for healthcare professionals on B12 deficiency. It is suitable for lay readers and will assist the public with being more proactive when interfacing with their health care providers who may not know about the myriad problems associated with B12 deficiency and the dangers of misdiagnosis. Here’s a link to the course:

          www dot cdc dot gov/ncbddd/b12/documents/b12-030910.pdf

          • Thea

            Lawrence: I’ve seen that other Dr. Greger video too! I agree, it’s great.

            And thanks for the additional info, re: CDC continuing education course.

            Take care.

      • DStack

        Thank you for this! Have been taking 2000 ug once a week. I will step it up to 2000 a day and see if my ulcers heal. I am vegan, eating whole foods mostly fruit and low fat. I can’t think of any reason why I should be getting ulcers other than B12 deficiency, if it is connected as you suggest. Thanks again!

  • Shinar Stephens

    My son is 11 and for the past 4 years he keeps getting painful red and often bleeding sores on his lips and the edges of his mouth we ruled out lots of things but it seems he gets them especially if he drinks cow milk the kind given out at school or milk i buy at the store after switching him to coconut milk its completely. Stopped why does this happen? What is it called in medical terms it does not happen when he eats cheese or icecream

  • margo

    Like others here i have had apthous sores my whole life.
    I have eaten dairy my whole life.
    But when i stopped eating nuts, 30 years ago – no more sores.
    I still eat dairy.
    I’d say the immune response like people in general are different.

  • disqus_pv774DfEEq

    Thank you for this Video Dr Greger. It was quite a revelation to discover that it was caused by dairy. I just did not make the connection between Dairy and Oral health.
    I am wondering now if some people have a kind of an allergy or an immune system issue which makes them prone to these painful oral health issues more than others, when consuming certain foods. It would be great to see more videos like this, since people with oral health issues tend to have suffered from it for a very long time, even with regular check ups and cleaning they receive from dentists and periodontists .

  • Arjan den Hollander.

    Never been prone to acne but had those apthous sores my entire youth. Do kids showing these sores have higher ADHD prevalence, anybody here privy to this? Scored unusually high 38/40 on a test 20 years back, with all the exorphin talk out there and now this sensitivity linked to milk again.
    I wonder….. , could I have had a normal life?

  • Arwen Carlin

    Is there any link between stomach ulcers and dairy?

  • sam

    I am a vegan (vegan 2 years, 6 years vegetarian) who has recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 4 months ago. I have been getting canker sores for the last 4 years, I follow a strict vegan diet and every month I get these sores? Is this related to my Crohns?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Hey Sam. Ughh, sorry to hear about the Crohns. Luckily symptoms can be heavily managed sometimes by diet and lifestyle. Not sure about the canker sores or if they are related. A quick search did find some common themes. One study Oral manifestation in inflammatory bowel disease: a review. And another that discusses From aphthous ulcer to full-blown Crohn’s disease. This is a serious condition and I highly suggest discussing diet with your doctor and even seeing a dietitian. There are many herbs, foods, vitamins that may be a good option for you. Let me know if I can do more. I have a few freinds with crohns and anecdotally I can say a few things really triggers flares : refined carbohydrates (soda and fruit juice), some beans (but not many of them), and raw cruciferous veggies. Funny though he dies fine with spicy foods, homemade breads (but not commercially bought), and most all other foods. Very individuals, hence why seeing a dietitian could be super helpful!

      Best to you,

  • Christine Kirby

    Just returned from Holistic Holiday at Sea. (Great presentations from you, Dr. Greger) One presenter, Dr. Blyweiss, addressed the treatment of Aphthous ulcers as including Lysine and “the clyclovirs”. I can’t remember what he attributed as “cause”, but I hope to receive the powerpoint slides for review soon. All my life, I have gotten random single or double “simple” sores. I usually gargled with salt water and used “Kank-a” (brand) topical solution, which burns it to numbness. About 18 months, several sores erupted simultaneously and then flared into a massive sore that spanned the length of my tongue and gums on one side of my mouth. I have never been in so much pain. It hurt to talk, and eating was out of the question. I sought out an oral specialist, and after careful interviewing and listening and the use of many reference materials, the doc cited the presence of Herpes in my system, due to past diagnoses of Chicken Pocs, Shingles and Mono. He said that the virus remains dormant and then it is activated when immunity is low. While I had already practiced healthful eating (vegan), and he was happy to hear it, I went totally sugar free and took his prescriptive action, which started with a Medral Pak 5-day steroid blast, followed by a group of things: an Rx”Acyclovir” and another Rx for Miracle Mouthwash, and over-the-counter: “Lysine”, “ACHH”, “Colostrum” and “ViraStop” as a full scale treatment. Since that time, my canker sores have appeared about every 4 months. (No regularity, no rhyme/reason) I cannot, for the life of me, figure out a true cause-and-effect for the occurrence of canker sores for me. I get more than one at a time, usually. There is no specific thing I am doing that suddenly brings them on…ie I used to think it was because of a random sugary dessert, but other times, the same dessert does not cause a break out; I have purchased natural, Laurel Sulfate-free toothpaste, and I still get them randomly; I am almost 100% vegan, with only one exception: half-n-half in my daily coffee. (I know that “needs to go” for many reasons), but still, it’s perplexing to me that, if dairy is a culprit, note that I have 1-2 TSB of half-n-half every day in my morning coffee, (for years) and I only randomly get canker sores. Is there any updated information on aphthous sores these days? It has been 5 years since this video… Anything you can present would be greatly appreciated. I have been on another dose of Acyclovir (“every 6 hours”) for about 10 days. The original canker sore on my tongue has gone away, and now I have two more getting started on the roof of my mouth and where my gums attach to my upper lip. I am willing to do anything to make them stop coming. HELP!

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Hi Christine. Thanks for your comment and glad you were able to connect with Dr. Greger and others on the cruise! I suggest avoiding the dairy for a bit and see if it helps? The association between canker sores and dairy seems to remain.

  • Alison

    I used to get canker sores when I was little and didn’t consume any dairy products.Now I eat a lot of dairy foods but hardly get any mouth sores anymore.I just hope they don’t come back to haunt me:/

  • Kamen

    Thank you for this Video Dr Greger!

  • The Jerusalem Chiropractor

    As a Chiropractor and an occasional canker sore sufferer, i have seen that stress is my trigger. And always in the same spots. I think they are mediated thru the nerves AND Cow Milk Protein antibodies.

  • Nancy

    I had these ulcers for years. I did an Internet search about 5 years ago and read about vitamin B deficiency as. A. Possible cause. Since I eat little meat, I decided to try Vatamin B supplement. I don’t recall which B it is( not folic acid) but ever since I started on a small ( once per week) virtamin B supplement I have had no problem. BTW the mouth ulcers are not like just a small thing. They are extremely painful so that during a bout( which would last up to a week) I could barely eat. Vitamin B was my savior!!! I drink milk- always have and I love it!

  • Michael Gmirkin

    A friend recently commented on this, and wondered is there’s any difference between pasteurized milk/dairy and raw milk/cheese. In case there’s any change/damage to the milk proteins involved in Pasteurization, such that [possibly speciously] “Raw is better.”

    I’m dubious on any distinction. Casein is casein is casein, right?

    Are there any studies that would tell one way or the other? OR has anyone even looked into this distinction? Most milk these days is Pasteurized, and “raw” is all but banned in most areas, right?