What foods can cause canker sores?

If you’ve ever had a canker sore, you know they’re no fun. These pesky little sores can pop up inside your mouth and make it hard to eat or talk comfortably. But did you know that certain foods might be making them worse? That’s right, the things you put in your mouth could be contributing to those painful sores popping up more often than usual.

What Are Canker Sores?

Before we dive into what foods might cause canker sores, let’s take a quick look at what they are. Officially called “aphthous ulcers,” canker sores are shallow lesions that appear on the soft tissues of your mouth (such as your tongue, inner cheeks, gums, or lips). They typically feel like small lumps or bumps and can be incredibly painful for such tiny things.

Canker sores are pretty common – in fact, most people will experience them at some point in their lives – but scientists don’t actually know why they occur. Some possible causes include stress, trauma (like accidentally biting the inside of your cheek), certain medications/medical conditions affecting the immune system (for example lupus), and hormonal fluctuations during menstruation (ouch).

How Do Some Foods Make Them Worse?

Now onto the juicy stuff: which foods might be making those already-annoying canker sores worse? Unfortunately for many foodies out there (raises hand), some of the culprits are actually delicious items commonly found on menus all over town:

1) Citrus Fruits

Sorry folks who love their tart lemons and grapefruits – citrus fruits may actually worsen pre-existing canker sore pain because of their high acidity levels. The acid content could burn already-injured oral tissue more easily than other fruits with neutral pH levels.

2) Pineapple

Another fruit that may make canker sores worse is pineapple, due to its high acidity levels (seriously, nature? Why you gotta be like that). Pineapple also contains an enzyme called bromelain that some people have an allergy or sensitivity to. If you’re one of those folks, consuming pineapple could trigger a sore outbreak.

3) Coffee

Coffee-lovers might not want to hear this (weeps quietly into my morning latte), but studies suggest the caffeine and acidic content in coffee might actually exacerbate existing canker sore pain. Tea – particularly non-herbal – seems okay though (good thing I have a massive collection of teas at home too…I don’t have a problem…you do).

4) Spicy Foods

If your idea of cuisine excitement is dousing everything in hot sauce, it’s time for some bad news: spicy foods are often reported as being big culprits behind increased canker sore severity. When certain substances in spices come into contact with mucous membranes (like those lining your mouth), they can cause further irritation and inflammation.

Wait But What CAN I Eat?

Don’t despair – just because these items might worsen pre-existing sores doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of delicious options out there safe from ulcer wrath:

  1. Bananas
  2. Cooked leafy greens (spinach, kale)
  3. Yogurt
  4. Oatmeal / Porridge
  5. Soft-cooked eggs
  6. Low-Acid Vegetables (carrots, broccoli)
  7. Whole-grains breads/not heavily sugared cereals

Not only are all these ingredients gentle on the mouth tissue when preparing them well-cooked/mashed/blended/wet/oily/soft meals; They’re also packed with vitamins and nutrients necessary for overall health (double-win!)

Now granted if you ARE in the middle of an aphthous ulcer outbreak, it makes sense to avoid irritating foods for a few days. But if you aren’t currently experiencing symptoms, some of these items can even help prevent future sores by maintaining your oral microbiome (your friends over at Advil will be thrilled).

The Role of Nutritional Deficiency…

While it’s still debated whether vitamin or mineral deficiencies have any direct causation with canker sore outbreaks (as opposed to be just correlated); Some researchers suggest those who experience frequent canker sores might not be getting enough B-12 or iron (no pressure though).

For those on veggie-heavy diets, there are plenty of leafy greens they could consume for clean and healthy teeth such examples include spinach and kale which also provide calcium; And contrary to what carnivores believe, vegetables like brussels sprouts have more protein per serving than beef.

Final Thoughts

This isn’t meant to make folks feel like they need to march home from work today and throw out every acidic food product from their fridge (I mean…you do you), but just remember: take care when choosing what snacks go into one’s mouth. Rejoice in knowing that hummus + crudités is always a great snack choice anyways!

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