Can drinking alcohol cause canker sores?
Yes, alcohol may contribute to these small, shallow ulcers.
After a night of drinking, some people may notice a canker sore or two - which are little round ulcers inside the protective lining of their mouths. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not caused by the herpes virus and are not contagious. Rather, they are auto-immune, which means that your body is essentially attacking itself.
An ulcer is an umbrella term for any hole in a bodily membrane. When it comes to canker sores, the top layer of the epithelial cells wears down, revealing the blood vessels and nerves underneath. You could think of it as a blister with its outer dome dissolved.
There has been much debate among doctors and dentists about what causes canker sores, and how alcohol plays a role. The first thing to mention is that if you get these sores following drinking beer, wine or liquor, you're not alone.
Folic acid deficiency
One explanation is that alcohol can lead to folic acid deficiency, which in turn can trigger canker sores. Folic acid, or folate, is a type of B vitamin that helps in the DNA repair process. By interfering with folic acid absorption and increasing folate excretion through urine, excessive alcohol intake may result in a mouthful of burdensome canker sores.
As a general trend, people who have nutritional deficiencies of folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron appear to develop canker sores more often.
Another possibility revolves around alcohol's ability to dry out the mouth, leaving it more vulnerable to these little infections. We all need saliva to moisten and cleanse our mouths and digest food. But one of saliva's little-known facts is that it prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. Alcohol, a drying agent, dehydrates the body's cells and decreases saliva production. Thus, dry mouth may provide an opportunity for canker sores to arise.
How to help prevent canker sores from drinking alcohol
Whether you're enjoying a glass of wine at home or a few beers at the bar, there are some ways to help decrease your chances of waking up with alcohol-induced canker sores - not to mention morning breath.
Drink plenty of water before going to sleep. Hydrating your body works to combat the effects of alcohol, replenishing cells and keeping the mouth moist during sleep.
Eat foods high in folic acid. Some breakfast cereals have an enriched source of folic acid. Leafy vegetables and legumes may be another good bet. Consider eating these foods before drinking.