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Burning Tongue May Signal Vitamin Deficiency

Vitamin supplements may be needed to reverse burning tongue resulting from a restricted diet.

Q. I adopted a vegan diet early this year, and now I have begun experiencing a burning sensation on one side of my tongue. It is quite uncomfortable.

This happened once before when I was single and not eating well. Could this be related to my diet?

A. Sometimes a vegan diet does not provide adequate vitamin B12, which is found only in animal products or yeast. A deficiency of this essential nutrient can cause problems with the nerves, including burning mouth or tongue.

Ask your physician for a blood test to check your level of vitamin B12. A methylmalonic acid test (MMA) may be helpful along with the B12 test. If your vitamin B12 level is low, supplements may be needed.

Drugs May Contribute to Deficiency

Certain medications such as metformin or omeprazole can also deplete vitamin B12 levels, so if you are taking such drugs, they may exacerbate the problem.

Another Approach

We also heard an intriguing remedy for burning tongue from another reader:

“I have read letters in your column from people suffering with burning tongue. I too had this problem once and the pain drove me crazy. I tried all kinds of vitamins and nothing seemed to work.

“I finally mixed some apple cider vinegar into water and drank it down. My burning tongue went away within minutes!

“It came back a few times, but the apple cider vinegar worked miraculously each time. Eventually I was cured, and the burning never came back. I have no idea whether this would work for anyone else.”

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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