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Aphthous ulcers, also known as canker sores, are shallow, small lesions that form on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums. Unlike cold sores, they don’t develop on the surface of your lips and are not contagious. Recurring canker sores is the single most common inflammatory and ulcerative conditions of the mouth, affecting as many as one in five people.

Similar to other chronic inflammatory conditions, DNA damage due to oxidative stress is thought to play a role in canker sore formation. Normally, free radical production is balanced with antioxidants, but, if free radical concentration gets too high and if our antioxidant enzymes and the antioxidants we get in our diet cannot adequately compensate for these free radicals, the balance is shifted in a pro-oxidant direction, which can lead to oxidative damage within our body.

Indeed, those with recurring canker sores have more pro-oxidants, more oxidative stress in their bloodstream, lower antioxidant status, and more DNA damage. So, might supplements help?

When subjects took 1,000 micrograms of sublingual vitamin B12 each day for six months, the duration of canker outbreaks, the number of ulcers, and the level of pain were reduced significantly after five months, regardless of initial vitamin B12 levels in the blood.

Diet may also play a role. Studies have examined the role of cow’s milk proteins and wheat proteins in recurrent aphthous ulcers and found that dairy, not gluten, had an effect. In one trial, two-thirds of the recurrent canker sore sufferers had high levels of anti-cow’s milk protein antibodies in their bloodstream. The thought is that the dairy proteins themselves penetrate deep into the lining of the mouth, inducing a major immune disorder where our body attacks the foreign cow proteins, and, in doing so, ulcerates our mucosal lining.

The information on this page has been compiled from Dr. Greger’s research. Sources for each video listed can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab. References may also be found at the back of his books.

Image Credit: Practical Cures. This image has been modified.

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