Those of us of who have suffered from regular mouth ulcers will probably be familiar with the feeling of frustration from not knowing what causes them. The clinical name for recurring mouth ulcers is aphthous stomatitis, often referred to as canker sores. Not a great deal is understood about the causes and the painful red sores in the mouth are the only detectable symptom. However, they are very common, affecting anywhere between 10% and 25% of the population.
Whilst sometimes it may be possible to trace the origin of an ulcer back to accidentally biting your cheek or lip, just as often there seems to be no apparent trigger. In such cases it is suggested that this is the result of the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking its own cells within the mouth. This has lead many of us to consider and rule out a range of possible causes such as an underlying condition, iron deficiency and even psychological factors such as stress- all of which are common causes.
Can an allergy cause mouth ulcers?
Given the lack of any cast iron cause many people a left scratching their heads as to what might be causing these recurring mouth ulcers. As someone who has been afflicted by various allergic reactions over the years I thought it might be worth investigating whether allergies might be a possible cause.
What I found was it is possible for various sensitivities, intolerances and indeed allergies to cause mouth ulcers, although the latter are the least likely. The main culprits are sensitivities, particularly to acidic foods such as strawberries, tomatoes and pineapple, spicy foods and other triggers like chocolate and coffee. However, it is very unusual for an allergic reaction to cause the level of erosion seen in ulcers, but not completely unknown. Generally speaking the symptoms of a food allergy affecting the mouth are limited to tingling and itching.
A known example of an allergen that is capable of causing mouth ulcers is Balsam of Peru, a plant extract that is commonly used as a fragrance and flavouring in a range of products. Rated one of the top 5 allergens throughout dermatology clinics, oral contact with Balsam of Peru can cause mouth ulcers in allergic individuals.
One of the most widely suspected causes of mouth ulcers is a chemical sensitivity to one of the common ingredients of toothpaste, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS is a foaming agent which is not actually an active ingredient to the toothpaste and there are several SLS free products available. However, over the years several studies have been carried out into this with no conclusive findings one way or the other.
So, as you can see, whilst certain allergies can cause mouth ulcers it is technically food intolerances that are the most likely trigger. Whilst most people do not make a distinction between intolerance and allergy there is an important clinical difference with only a true allergy involving the immune system. Unfortunately, if you suspect a food intolerance is causing your mouth ulcers the only reliable way to identify the trigger is via elimination diets, and this should only be carried out with qualified medical supervision.