Painful canker sores (also known as mouth ulcers or aphthous ulcers) are a disruption in the oral membrane characterized by an oval shape with a grey or white center and a red border. The causes of canker sores are varied. They can start with a small injury in the mouth, or they can be caused by food sensitivities, Helicobacter pylori (the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers), Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, poor diet, or just a depressed immune system. Although they’re not contagious and will usually go away on their own in a few weeks, canker sores can be irritating and sometimes painful. Thankfully, you can use a number of home remedies to help heal canker sores faster and relieve pain.
Natural Home Remedies for Canker Sores
Take probiotics. Useful for treating stomach ulcers, probiotics can also help get rid of canker sores caused by H. pylori bacteria by helping to restore the balance of bacteria in the body. Take a supplement with at least 4 billion active cultures twice daily, or eat probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt.
Supplement with B vitamins. A diet lacking in vitamin B-12 can contribute to the development of canker sores. If you think low vitamin levels might be contributing to your canker sore, consider supplementing your diet. A 2009 study found that a nightly dose of vitamin B-12 can help prevent reoccurring canker sores.
Brush with SLS-free toothpaste. Sodium lauryl sulfate, a foaming agent common in most toothpastes, can contribute to canker sore irritation. To help get rid of canker sores faster, switch to an SLS-free toothpaste and brush gently to avoid further damaging the already tender area.
Make a homemade mouth rinse. A mouth rinse is a great home remedy for canker sores. Many different ingredients work well in a homemade rinse: salt, baking soda, goldenseal, calendula and more. Just dissolve ½ teaspoon of your ingredient of choice in one cup of warm water, rinse and spit. Rinsing with aloe juice can also help heal canker sores.
Practice healthy lifestyle habits. Stress, fatigue and poor diet all contribute to canker sores—giving you just one more reason to take care of yourself! Ensure you’re getting a full night’s sleep, and work on reducing your stress levels.
Avoid certain foods. Both spicy and citrus foods can aggravate canker sores, as can rough or abrasive foods like nuts.
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.