Recurring oral aphthae, more commonly known as canker sores is a condition in which small, round, painful sores develop in the mouth. Normally, they disappear in a matter of few weeks, even without treatment, but due to their location there are some types of food that can slow down and even worsen the recovery.
Even though canker sores and cold sores are frequently confused with each other, they are not the same condition. Unlike canker sores, cold sores or fever blisters are caused by herpes simplex virus and are highly contagious. The symptoms include clusters of painful blisters filled with liquid that appear outside the mouth, usually around the lips, under the nose and under the chin.
Canker sores, on the other hand, appear only on the soft tissues inside the mouth, at the base of the gums or on the tongue. They can be round or oval, mostly white or yellow, with a red edge. You might experience a burning sensation in the mouth, day or two before the sores appear. Certain types of food, namely acidic or citrus vegetables and fruits such as lemons, oranges, limes, apples, strawberries, figs, pineapples and even tomatoes have been linked to development of cold sores and can even worsen the existing condition. To minimize further irritation and the time needed for the sores to heal, you should avoid eating them and drinking juices that come from these fruits.
Other acidic foods you should try to avoid if you have canker sores include
- Milk and dairy products such as hard and soft cheese, processed cheese, buttermilk, ice cream, soy milk, yogurt (sweetened)
- Vinegar and any pickled food
- Soft drinks
- Jams and jellies
- Brown sugar
- Sunflower seeds
- Olive oil
- Wheat and whole wheat foods
- Breads and
- Foods with high levels of salt and sugar
Besides acidic foods and beverages, you should also avoid spicy food, food that is too hard or crunchy and chewing gum.
A lot of people are eating and drinking acidic foods and beverages without ever having canker sores. This means that it is not one, but a combination of different factors that contribute to this condition. Possible causes may be:
- Injury to the mouth due to sport accident, vigorous tooth brushing, dental work such as dentures and braces or unintentional cheek bite while eating
- Food allergy
- Allergy to specific bacteria in the mouth
- Diets low in iron, zinc, folic acid or B12 vitamins
- Emotional stress
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- HIV/AIDS and
- Any disease that targets the immune system
Although the sores will heal all on their own in a matter of days, they are known to reappear, by themselves or with some other viral infection. You can prevent the recurrence of canker sores by avoiding foods that may have previously caused the outbreak and brushing your teeth gently, using a soft bristle brush. If they are caused by increased levels of stress in your life, you can try stress reductions techniques such as meditation and deep breathing.
Also, consult your doctor about tests to find if you have any allergies, vitamin deficiencies or a problem with your immune system.