I wrote this a while back for healthline.com but now want to repost it here because I just got a mouth ulcer and had to put medicated gel on the inside of my cheek last night. Not fun!
My father recently read a fascinating study done on patients with gluten sensitivity who experienced recurring mouth sores. Whether it is Celiac Disease or just a intolerance to gluten, different symptoms can arise in different people. Of course, as you all know, my personal Celiac symptoms include headaches, brain fog, mood swings, severe stomach pain and cramping, diarrhea, and weight loss. However, this study done on mouth ulcers shows how gluten intolerance can present itself in strange and unusual ways. Though my experience being a Celiac can be most closely described as food poisoning to the average healthy person, only oral sores can be the experience for others.
After speaking to my father over the phone, I went and found the research article online to learn more.
Aphthous stomatitis, as it is medically coined, is defined as a painful open ulcer known to many Americans as a canker sore. Previously associated with stress and infections, ulcers can now be connected to gluten as the body attacks its own tissue as a result of an immune system response. What is so interesting about this research is the fact that a person may experience many mouth ulcers a year, and show absolutely no other symptoms, but still have a gluten sensitivity.
Though a positive blood test and a biopsy (showing the blunting of the vili in the small intestine) are the only ways to diagnose Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance can cause just as much annoyance and confusion and is much harder to diagnose. When left untreated, people can suffer for years with symptoms not commonly related to the protein intolerance, leaving doctors and patients alike perplexed.
My father has experienced frequent mouth ulcers for the majority of his life, and I too had some trouble with reoccurring sores when I was little. I remember my father putting ulcer ointment on the inside of my cheek more than once before bed. My father may or may not have gluten intolerance, but when I was diagnosed in high school, I inadvertently made my family more aware of gluten in our diets.
For the past few years, my father has experience fewer sores; granted, he may be less stressed out, but I feel strongly that it is connected to his gluten intake. The amount of bread, pasta, and flour our family ate was dramatically reduced while I lived at home and continued after I moved out. Who knows, but maybe my father has been gluten intolerant all these years and mouth ulcers were his only symptom.