Canker sores are small ulcers that can form on the soft tissue of your mouth, often at the base of the gums. The medical term for these lesions is aphthous ulcer. Although they may appear similar in nature to cold sores caused by the herpes virus, they are not contagious, are not caused by herpes virus and often disappear on their own, according to MayoClinic.com. A herpes cold sore can arise on the lips or the inside of the mouth but a canker sore will only appear inside the mouth. Lysine has been used for treatment and prevention of cold sores and some believe that it also helps with canker sores.
Lysine is an amino acid that is available in both food sources and in supplemental form. It is an essential amino acid, meaning that your body does not manufacture this amino acid from other sources and must get it from your foods, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It is one of the building blocks of protein and is necessary to produce carnitine, which is necessary to convert fatty acids into energy. It also helps to lower cholesterol. Lysine is also used to absorb calcium, and helps in the formation of collagen used in connective tissue, skin, tendons and cartilage.
Unfortunately, the cause of a canker sore is not as clear as the cause of a cold sore. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a canker sore can be triggered by a viral infection, emotional stress, menstrual period, hormonal changes, food allergies and lack of specific vitamins, namely folic acid, vitamin B-12 and iron. Canker sores can also be linked to problems with your immune system and can be triggered after an injury to the mouth or after dental work. Doctors at Whole Health Chicago, a center for integrative medicine, also list a lack of vitamin D, a deficiency in lysine and irritation from spicy or acidic foods as other triggers for canker sores.
Because a deficiency in lysine may trigger canker sores, it is important to maintain a balanced diet of lysine and arginine. Arginine is another amino acid which is used by viruses for cell growth and development. According to Drugs.com, the ratio between lysine and arginine is important in the prevention and treatment of viral infections. Arginine is useful in the treatment of other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction and as a growth stimulant. If you suffer from canker sores and are using arginine to treat other medical conditions, it is important to discuss supplementation with lysine or any other vitamin, mineral or herb with you primary care physician to ensure that there is no drug interaction or side effect to an underlying medical condition.
Lysine from your diet is considered safe, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, high doses of supplementation have been linked with gallstones, and people who have kidney or liver disease should take this supplement only under the advisement of their physician and with caution. Lysine has known interactions with arginine because they share a common pathway in the body. High levels of arginine will lower your levels of lysine.