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You Ask, I Answer: Canker Sores

canker-soreI am very susceptible to canker sores.  I know they aren’t solely caused by [nutrition issues], but can I do anything from a nutritional standpoint to reduce their frequency?

I have read that I should supplement lysine.  How much do I need, though?

– Roxana (Last name withheld)
Farmington, NM

Canker sores are indeed tricky because they can be spurred by a variety of factors.  Sodium lauryl sulfate (the compound in most toothpastes responsible for foaming), for instance, can trigger canker sores in individuals who are prone to them.

From a nutritional standpoint, supplementing lysine is only half the tale.

Alas, let’s start at the beginning.

Lysine is an essential amino acid found in high amounts in red meat, poultry, eggs, soybeans, cheese, and nuts.  Remember, “essential” means our bodies are unable to produce it, so we must get it from food.  Lysine is the only essential amino acid found in very low amounts in grains.

The bulk of research on canker sores and amino acids goes beyond simply getting sufficient lysine, though.  The key is to simultaneously restrict one’s intake of another amino acid, though one that is not essential — arginine.

Alas, peanuts, tree nuts and chocolate have very high arginine to lysine ratios.  While not everyone responds to this diet, many people are able to keep tabs on canker sores (both by reducing the number of outbreaks and by cutting short their duration) by drastically limiting their intake of nuts.



  1. gd said on July 5th, 2010

    interesting, ive never heard this info before about canker sores.
    ive been prone to them for many years.

    ive found that if i limit my sugar intake along with highly acidic foods (pineapple especially) that i get a lot less canker sores.

    peanuts and chocolate (very dark) don’t seem to cause canker sores for me much at all.

    but it could be also that im getting enough lysine in my diet too…..thanks for the info!

  2. Annemarie said on July 5th, 2010

    Years ago I read an article about the foaming ingredient found in probably 95% of all toothpastes: Sodium Laurel Sulfate. This ingredient was shown to have a direct link to the cause of canker sores in the mouth and gums – also known as aphthous ulcers. At the time, one of the few (if not only) toothpastes on the market that did NOT contain Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) was Rembrandt’s Toothpaste for Canker Sore Sufferers. To this day, I use this toothpaste exclusively. It has GREATLY reduced the number of aphthous ulcers that I get.
    I have also supplemented with L-Lysine for years whenever needed.

    * Keep in mind that most mouthwashes also contain SLS, so if you’re changing toothpastes, also look for an all-natural mouthwash, like Tom’s, to complement the Rembrandt. *

  3. Andy Bellatti said on July 5th, 2010


    I am aware of SLS, which is why I mentioned it in the blog post.

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