Q. My 37-year-old daughter has battled canker sores her entire life. It’s not unusual for her to have more than 10 at a time. She’s tried a lot of different treatments over the years with little success.
Recently she had a baby and did not have one sore the entire pregnancy. Six weeks after delivering, the sores came back in full force. Her doctor prescribed oral corticosteroid, which cleared her mouth sores up temporarily. They returned as soon as the steroids wore off. Incidentally, she is a nurse but she has yet to find any help. She’s willing to try a home remedy if you can suggest one.
A. The medical term for canker sores is aphthous ulcers. Doctors don’t know what causes them or why some people are especially susceptible. They can show up after you’ve bitten your cheek or for no apparent reason. A bad case can make it hard for a person to eat or talk.
If there is no underlying medical problem, sauerkraut juice is a home remedy worth considering. A tablespoon of juice gets swished around the mouth a few times a day and then swallowed. One doctor who, like your daughter, suffered recurrent severe canker sores was skeptical when we suggested this, but found it worked extremely well. He was so pleased he and his chemist son are doing some research on its ingredients.
If sauerkraut juice is too weird or unpalatable, there are a few other options. Some readers recommend a pinch of alum on the sore; others prefer tannin or instant iced tea. L-lysine and acidophilus supplements from the health food store also have their supporters.
We also heard about this unusual remedy:
Q. I’ve read with interest suggestions for treating canker sores. About 35 years ago my son’s school nurse recommended swishing buttermilk in the mouth. It helps heal them fast!
Another reader wrote: “Someone wrote to you about cold sores. This person derided the use of “silly” remedies like lysine.
I know from experience that lysine works, but plain old buttermilk works just as well and even quicker.”
A. Why buttermilk might help is beyond us, but we cannot think of a safer solution for a common problem.