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Picture - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouth_ulcer
Summary - Mouth ulcers result from a breach of the mucous layer that protects the lining of the mouth and an underlying inability to repair the mucous layer quickly. Taking Vitamin U in the form of fresh vegetable juice and/or supplements is a great way to naturally heal mouth ulcers. Talk to your doctor or dentist.
Mouth ulcers (aphthous ulcers or stomatitis) are small, painful, circular sores that form in the lining of the mouth. They are very common. Right this minute, 1-2% of people have a mouth ulcer. Over a lifetime, about half of the US population will get at least one if not many. They mainly afflict teenagers. Ulcers normally heal spontaneously in one to two weeks, although they can reoccur many times. Recurrent ulcers indicate an underlying health problem. Sores in the corner of the mouth or outside the mouth are not ulcers and should be treated differently.
Why do I have a mouth ulcer?
The lining of your mouth is covered by a thin layer of mucus. The main purposes of this mucus is to protect the lining of the oral cavity from physical and chemical damage, infection, and to help digest food. Mouth ulcers develop when the protective mucus layer is breached and the body shows a delayed repair response with non-specific oral bacteria infecting. The integrity of the mucus layer is a function of constructive vs destructive factors.
Biting your mouth while eating or from a nervous habit is probably the most common way ulcers start. Physical or chemical damage from food is another very common cause -
- Crusty food like bread or toast
- Crispy food like chips
- Salty food like pretzels
- Sweet food like candy
- Sticky food like cookies
- Sour food like vinegar
- Hot food like coffee
Abrasive, salty and hot foods/drinks physically damage the mouth. Sour foods/drinks chemically burn the mouth instantly. Sweet and sticky foods burn slowly by feeding oral bacteria, which metabolize sugars to produce corrosive acids.
Drugs are another destructive factor. Alcohol is oxidized by oral bacteria to acetaldehyde, which is toxic and a carcinogen (Tagaino et al, 2019). Some acetaldehyde is even produced from sugar by oral bacteria. Acetaldehyde is also found in cigarette smoke (Sprince et al, 1975). As with peptic ulcers, NSAIDs like aspirin inhibit prostaglandin E2 synthesis which reduces mucin secretion. People swishing aspirin in their mouth to quell inflammation are actually slowing down ulcer healing (Slomiany and Slomiany, 2000).
Poor dental hygiene is yet another destructive factor. Harsh brushing makes tiny holes through which corrosive agents can meet the cell surface. Ineffectual or nonexistent brushing leaves food and bacteria in position to generate more organic acids and acetaldehyde.
The major factor protecting the mouth is mucus. There are five kinds of mucin produced in the mouth - MUC5B and MUC7 being the most important (Frenkel and Ribbeck, 2015). MUC5B is a very long protein rich in serine and threonine amino acids to which glycans attach. These glycans attract water to form a gel and gives your mouth that slippery feeling. The protein overall looks likes a bottle brush with one end attached to the cell. MUC7 is similar, but is unattached and therefore flows freely aiding in formation of the soft bolus from food. MUC5B proteins form polymers via disulfide bonds. Cysteine is unusually common in MUC5B and is essential for disulfide bond formation.
A shortage of many dietary factors have been suggested to cause mouth ulcers. Examples include vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium. All play a role in antioxidation, and it makes sense that these nutrients are low in ulcers as the environment shows signs of oxidative stress (elevated malondialdehyde and depressed glutathione)(Arikan et al, 2009).
Despite this speculation, however, the evidence has been inconclusive. There are certainly some patients who respond well to supplementation with one or another of these micronutrients. However, many times mouth ulcers occur in people with no apparent deficiency and/or supplementation has no effect. Considering that some of these micronutrients work in some cases, it's possible that they help in an indirect way, or that chronic mouth ulcers are indicative of a systemic redox imbalance. For example, chronic ulcers are more prevalent in those with other problems in their digestive tract (Brailo et al, 2007).
Can Vitamin U help heal and prevent mouth ulcers?
The use of Vitamin U to treat or prevent mouth ulcers has undergone little investigation (Kato and Takayasu, 1961). Vitamin U has been shown to be a useful treatment for gum disease (Sulym, 2016), and sulfur compounds like cysteine are effective in quenching the damaging effects of acetaldehyde in the mouth, particularly when combined with vitamins B1 and C (Sprince et al, 1975; Syrjanen et al, 2016).
The fact that Vitamin U has been shown to heal and prevent peptic ulcers by stimulating the release of mucin suggests that it may also have this function in other parts of the digestive tract which also secrete mucin (Watanabe et al, 2000). One can't help but wonder whether mouth ulcers have a similar etiology to its more dangerous relatives. If this is indeed the case, one may speculate as to whether Vitamin U or a metabolic derivative could have this effect on the release of mucin from not only the mouth or other parts of the alimentary canal, but even other epithelial tissues, including the lungs, trachea, nose and eyes.
Vitamin U may also support mucosal function in indirect ways. Firstly, Vitamin U yields cysteine, which is the rate-limiting component of glutathione, the master antioxidant that fights oxidative stress. Secondly, the relatively large amount of cysteine required to tether mucin to the epithelial tissue means that extra cysteine in the form of Vitamin U may prove useful. Thirdly, much of the glycans that attach to mucins are themselves sulfated, requiring more sulfur.
Many people, especially those whose diet is low in the sulfur amino acids methionine and cysteine, have limited antioxidant capacity due to having low levels of glutathione. For those people, alternative sources of sulfur amino acids like Vitamin U are an important alternative source. Drinking freshly-made vegetable juice or taking Vitamin U supplements in combination with the cessation of destructive practices will probably help clear up your current mouth ulcer and help prevent future ulcers.
Take care and good luck,
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