Getting Rid Of Cold Sores And Canker Sores| Dr. Elizabeth Boham on The Doctor’s Farmacy

Key Takeaways

  • Canker sores and cold sores are different
  • Canker sores are non-infectious ulcers that usually appear inside the mouth
  • Cold sores are a physical presentation of infectious herpes simplex virus which can spread through kissing, sharing cups or straws and sexual contact
  • Frequent cold sores (5-6 times per year up to a few times per month) signals something deeper needs to be addressed
  • Both cold sore and canker sore sufferers should look to diet first: could be celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, intolerance to additive or chemical, vitamin deficiency


Dr. Elizbaeth Boham (@DrBoham) is a physician and nutritionist who uses a functional medicine approach to prevent and treat the underlying cause of disease.

Cold sores and canker sores are an indication of an underlying imbalance in the body. In this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Elizabeth Boham discuss the causes of frequent cold sores or canker sores and the Functional Medicine approach to treating them.   

Host: Mark Hyman, MD (@drmarkhyman

Canker Sores Versus Cold Sores

  • Canker sores: non-infectious ulcers in the mouth, usually on the side of the mouth, inside the cheek, or under the tongue
  • Infrequent canker sores are not a huge deal but frequent sores (a few times per month or 5-6 times per year) should signal something deeper is going on
  • Cold sores: infectious herpes simplex virus (HSV) sores which often appear on the lips or nose and can be transmitted through kissing, sharing cups or straws, sexual contact
  • Herpes remains dormant in nerves until the next flare-up
  • It is possible to transmit cold sores asymptomatically
  • Cold sore triggers: stress, fatigue, nutritional depletion, dental work

Potential Root Causes of Canker Sores

  • Canker sores are not the diagnosis – they’re the symptom
  • Could be many things: celiac disease, dysfunction in the immune system, food sensitivity, intolerance to food additives or chemicals, B vitamin deficiency, non-celiac gluten sensitivity
  • More rare situations: autoimmune disease, lupus, nutritional deficiencies
  • Often, canker sores clear up when gluten is removed from the diet
  • When the digestive system is out of balance, the body’s ability to absorb and digest nutrients is less so sores are a physical sign of nutritional deficiency  

Treatment and Prevention of Cold Sores

  • The risk of recurrent cold sores is directly tied to the immune system’s state
  • Functional medicine approach always starts with food first: check the adequacy of vitamins, minerals, well-rounded diet
  • Standard necessities: we all need exercise, sleep, time in nature, stress reduction
  • Consider supplementing with lysine which prevents and controls cold sore outbreaks (500-1,000mg for prevention; up to 3,000mg for an active flare up)
  • Foods with high lysine: quinoa
  • Keep track of foods with high arginine: arginine has an inverse relationship with lysine
  • Last resort: antiviral medication
Doctor's Farmacy with Mark Hyman, MD : , , , , , , ,
Notes By Maryann

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