A well-planned vegan diet is typically rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds – high in natural fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients that promote heart health, while low in saturated fats and cholesterol.  

The rise in popularity of the vegan lifestyle has led many to question the potential health benefits and risks behind it. The vegan diet is touted as good for weight management and digestion. However, one small concern that can be raised, is whether vegans are more predisposed to canker sores.  

This blog post will look into the vegan diet, the causes of canker sores, and whether vegans face a greater risk of developing them. Read on. 



What Are Canker Sores? 

Small, shallow, inflamed, and painful lesions that develop inside the mouth are called canker sores or aphthous ulcers. These lesions are usually round with a white interior and pink or reddish border.  

They can appear on the soft tissues, such as the tongue, inside the cheeks, lips, and on the base of the gums. They’re called tongue cankers when found on the tongue, usually on the underside. This condition can be excruciatingly painful because the tongue is used for eating, talking, and moving numerous times daily. 

Canker sores aren’t contagious and are different from cold cores caused by the herpes simplex virus. It’s believed that about 10% of the population is affected and may get it three to six times yearly with no serious sequelae. Yet if the sore takes a long time to heal, it should be differentiated from precancerous lesions of the mouth, which are highly curable when discovered early. 

Though the exact cause is unknown, several factors are believed to contribute to their development:  

  • Genetic predisposition:

    Some individuals may have a genetic tendency to develop canker sores.  

  • Nutritional deficiencies:

    Deficiencies in specific nutrients, such as iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and folic acid, have been linked to canker sores.  

  • Stress and hormonal fluctuations:

    Emotional stress and hormonal changes, such as during menstruation, may trigger canker sores.  

  • Food sensitivities:

    Some people may develop canker sores in response to specific foods, such as citrus, acidic or spicy foods, coffee, or chocolate.  

  • Trauma to the mouth:

    Accidentally biting the inside of the cheek or brushing too hard can cause canker sores.  

  • Oral hygiene products:

    Certain toothpaste or mouthwashes containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can trigger canker sores in some individuals. 


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Understanding The Vegan Diet  

A vegan diet is a plant-based way of eating that excludes all animal-derived products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. Vegans often choose this lifestyle for ethical, environmental, or health reasons.  

Vegan diets can provide all of the much-needed nutrients for good health, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. Nevertheless, vegans may need to supplement their diet with certain nutrients, like vitamin B12, to ensure optimal health.  

Are Vegans Predisposed To Canker Sores?  

No extensive scientific evidence proves that vegans are more prone to canker sores than non-vegans. 

Yet a limited study revealed that the oral mucosa of vegans showed signs of thinning, possibly due to decreased amounts of iron and vitamins. This implies that some vegans may risk developing nutritional deficiencies if they do not carefully plan their diets – which could lead to canker sores.

For example, vitamin B12 is naturally found only in animal-derived products, so vegans must consume fortified foods or supplements to meet their needs. Similarly, vegans should ensure they consume adequate amounts of iron, zinc, and folic acid from plant-based sources to reduce the risk of canker sores associated with nutritional deficiencies.  

Vegans with sensitivity to citrus or whose diet often includes strawberries, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, and food that’s acidic or high in natural sugar, all staples of a vegan diet, may not be aware that these could lead to frequent episodes of canker sores. 

Vegans must plan their diets to avoid nutritional deficiencies carefully. By consuming a balanced and varied plant-based diet supplemented with vitamin B12, vegans can maintain their overall oral health and minimize the risk of canker sores.  


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If you’re a vegan experiencing frequent canker sores, large ones, persistent sores lasting over two weeks, high fever, or experiencing pain that interferes with eating or drinking, consider consulting a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to help identify the underlying cause and recommend appropriate dietary adjustments.  


A vegan diet has many advantages, but if you have frequent episodes of canker sores, you may need to plan your diet to prevent sensitivities and deficiencies carefully. It’s vital to ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, and other nutrients, to avoid thinning and an unhealthy state of mouth mucosal cells.


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