Crohn’s Disease and Canker Sores

The title for this blog post could very well be “Get to Know a Right Bastard.”

Crohn's disease and canker soresCrohn’s Disease, named after Dr. Burril Crohn, who first described the disease in 1932, is one of many conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), which stems from chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

It is also one of a handful of diseases that count canker sores as one of their symptoms. So if you’re an RAS sufferer, people with Crohn’s Disease are your unfortunate brethren.

Crohn’s mostly affects the area in the gastrointestinal tract where the small intestines and large intestines meet, and causes a number of symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal cramping, ulcers, blood in the stool, and weight loss.

Basically, in the Middle Ages, they would have assumed there was a demon living in your stomach.

Crohn's disease demon

Just chillin’ out by the pancreas.

Frequent readers of this blog know that canker sores have a foundation in the immune system and it’s main culprit is inflammation brought on by an acute phase reaction. So it’s no surprise that a disease that causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract would also cause ulcers in the mouth, which is the beginning of the gastrointestinal tract.

In a very real sense, Crohn’s is to the intestines what mouth ulcers are to the mouth.


Causes of Crohn’s Disease

Much like RAS, the two main culprits of Crohn’s Disease are the immune system and heredity. People with a family history of Crohn’s are much more likely to get it themselves, though it’s not unusual for people with no family history to get it, either.

It’s believed that a bacterial or viral infection may kick off the Crohn’s breakout by triggering an overactive immune system response that attacks the lining of the intestines. Sound familiar?

All of this is just further evidence that canker sores share a common culprit with many other conditions that cause the immune system to turn on the body in a way that creates inflammation. Consider some of the other symptoms of Crohn’s:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Arthritis
  • Eye inflammation
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin disorders
  • Inflammation of the liver or bile ducts

Almost all of these have an inflammatory factor involved. It’s reasons like this that I lean toward the immune system overproduction of cytokines theory of canker sore formation.


“Great, I’ve got friggin’ Crohn’s. Now what do I friggin’ do?”

Step 1: Curse the gods.

Crohn's disease and canker sores

“Shouldn’t have worn white today.”

Step 2: See your doctor, obviously. There are a variety of treatments available, including medication, nutritional supplementation, and in worst case scenarios, surgery.

There are a variety of anti-inflammatory drugs that are often provided for people with Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Often these drugs contain a form of mesalamine, such as sulfasalazine, Asacol, Dipentum, or Pentasa.

When these don’t work, immune-suppressing drugs may be an option, though you have to use these very carefully to avoid leaving your body vulnerable to infections. Other biological therapies such as Remicade and Humira, which are normally prescribed for arthritis and psoriasis related conditions, are sometimes recommended for Crohn’s sufferers because of their ability to bind to TNF substances in the immune system.

I, for one, am infinitely curious how these types of therapies would work for people with canker sores. Anybody out there have experience with these types of medications? Has anybody seen a difference in the number of canker sores? Let me know in the comments, I’d be extremely interested to know.

In the final wash, Crohn’s is an unfortunate condition that is the bane of the existence of millions of people out there. But it’s also a conduit to having a better understanding of chronic canker sores and what causes them. Luckily, medical research is constantly expanding our understanding of this disease and new ways of controlling it, so hopefully one day we’ll see a lot less suffering, and possibly those advances will open up new treatments for canker sores as well.

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