A friend has strange, painful mouth sores.

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I have a friend that has suffered her whole life with strange, painful mouth sores. They are shallow, canker-like sores that appear weekly. They present themselves in the typical areas like inside the cheek and lips, but also, strangely, on her gums and roof of her mouth. Not a day goes by that she does not have at least one in her mouth and it has been as bad as 15 at one time. The pain can be so severe that she can’t speak.

The mouth ulcers are single or clustered shallow painful ulcers found anywhere in the oral cavity. The lesions are from 1 to 5 millimeters in diameter, have fairly even borders, are surrounded by a reddened area and are often covered by a white membrane. Lesions usually resolve themselves in 3 to 10 days but are recurrent.

She has seen both medical and dental specialists about this problem and nothing has been found. Cultures have revealed nothing. Poor sleeping habits cause these sores to flare up. When she is sick with a cold these sores also will flare up. Any changes in her life, be it sleep, nutrition or stress are guaranteed to bring a heavy onslaught of the sores. Still, when her life is “normal” she still has one to three in her mouth.

Her diet is fairly normal. The only thing that stands out is that she drinks a lot of milk and eats a lot of grapes. Other than that, it is normal, mixed, North American diet.

Under the guidance of a doctor, she previously attempted a food elimination process for a short period of time with no positive results. Her oral hygiene is very good. She brushes two to three times a day and flosses once a day. She changes her toothbrush frequently.

Any suggestions on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Your friend may have canker sores which are caused by a herpes virus. She can get immediate relief by mixing equal parts of Maalox and liquid Benadryl. (Buy Benadryl that is meant to be taken internally usually a children’s version, not the kind you spray on your skin.) She should swish this mixture in her mouth and then spit out. She shouldn’t rinse mouth afterward or eat to keep her mouth coated. The Benadryl will numb her mouth and the Maalox helps to coat it.

Unfortunately, this combo won’t “cure” herpes caused canker sores. I am very surprised that doctors and dentists don’t know what a canker sore looks like or that they are caused by the herpes virus. It remains dormant in a person’s body until something causes a flare-up.

If your friend eats typical American foods, does she eat foods high in vitamin C? I am guessing if the mouth sores bother her continuously, she may be avoiding citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime) and tomatoes which are good sources of vitamin C. Tell her she should make sure she gets at least her RDA of vitamin C daily (Recommended Dietary Allowance for women 19 to 70+ years is 75 milligrams) since it is a water-soluble vitamin and not stored in the body. Non-citrus foods that are high in vitamin C are frozen sliced peaches, red or green peppers, papaya, cranberry juice cocktail, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, grape juice, broccoli, edible pod peas and kiwi fruit.

Another issue she could consider is a riboflavin (vitamin B2) deficiency tho the sores you describe would not indicate riboflavin because she drinks milk which is a good source of riboflavin, I don’t think she has a riboflavin deficiency. If however, she abuses alcohol, she could be deficient in thiamin (vitamin B1), another B vitamin.