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I get mouth ulcers from eating red fruit and veg; ME & MY HEALTH: JENNY ECLAIR.

Comedian Jenny Eclair, 55, lives in London with her partner Geof. This autumn she is touring with her self-penned one-woman show and has just published her latest novel. Today the mum of one tells us about suffering from painful aphthous mouth ulcers - and their curious trigger.

"I suffered from mouth ulcers when I was a child and thought I'd grown out of them. But in my late 40s they returned with a vengeance. This time they're different.

They last anything from three to seven days and are no bigger than a pin-head but are so painful. It's like someone is holding a staple-gun in my mouth and forcing staples into my cheek and gum.

One in your mouth is enough, so I feel like knocking myself unconscious if I get more than that at the same time. They look inconsequential and if I were to pull my gum down and show someone, they'd say: 'So?' They're not impressive visually but hurt like crazy.

Aphthous mouth ulcers can occur for various reasons. For example, they can be genetic. My mother, who's 86, always suffered from mouth ulcers but is so stoic that she never talked about them.

So I'm not sure if she suffers from the same kind as mine.

I get one or two every couple of months but there was a point when I became rundown and four appeared. Worse still, they joined up, became ulcerated and bled. I remember sitting in a dressing room during the tour of my show, Because I Forgot To Get A Pension, thinking: "This is the last straw, I've got to do something about them."

I questioned why they kept recurring. Perhaps it was diet or lack of sleep? I had to find out.

I went to the dentist but he was rather dismissive. He had no idea why I was getting them or how to prevent them but suggested mouthwash. But I soon stopped using it after learning from internet forums that mouthwash can contain chemicals that upset your mouth's pH balance.

My doctor wasn't much help either. He conducted several tests but none were conclusive. I tried some medication - but no success. The next step would have been to see a specialist but I decided against that. Instead, I carried out my own research online and discovered others sufferers.

It seemed that getting them in my late 40s/early 50s meant they could be linked to hormonal change due to the perimenopause. Other causes might be genetic, stress or a food allergy.

Frustratingly, an over-the-counter steroid ointment, Adcortyl in Orabase was discontinued in the UK in 2009. I first used it waiting for a train at Leeds station.

I bought a tube from Boots and it was like discovering a miracle. As long as I had some with me, I knew I'd be fine. A year later, it was discontinued. The UK freaks out at the thought of steroids. But it's available in Australia and New Zealand so I stock up when I'm there.

People ask if I've tried Bonjela and I feel like slapping them hard. In my opinion, Bonjela is for babies. It's useless for me.

I tried another medication which is applied with a little stick and supposedly burns the ulcer. I started worrying it was hardcore stuff and could cause scarring if I wasn't careful. But I couldn't rely purely on the ointment. I needed to prevent them in the first place. Through a process of elimination and checking many websites, I started thinking about what foods I'd eaten just before the ulcers appeared.

A pattern soon emerged with certain foods - and, bizarrely, they were all red. Now, I avoid any red fruit or veg, which is very boring but seems to have solved the problem.

Tomatoes, whether they're raw, pureed, ketchup or even in baked beans and pizzas, are the biggest culprit so I haven't eaten any for four years. But it's other kinds of red fruit, including strawberries and raspberries, and anything citrus that seem to cause me problems.

It's a bore at dinner parties because often I'll take a microwaveable meal with me in case I can't eat what's dished up.

Compared to what people can suffer from they're excruciatingly painful but not debilitating. The problem is, my job is all about communicating, which can be tough with a mouth full of ulcers. Thankfully, they haven't stopped me performing on stage.

Although I probably get around three ulcers a year now, largely due to eating something I haven't noticed contains tomato, I've virtually got rid of them. Altering my diet has been key.

Strangely, I can drink red wine, although it's made with red grapes.

In terms of foods I can and can't eat, I probably ignore more than I need but would rather give myself a margin of error. Overall, I eat lots of raw veg and enjoy a healthy diet.

To keep fit, I swim occasionally and do Pilates once a week. Pilates is good for anything needing realigning and, in my opinion, the best exercise for women in their 50s.

But I'm really out of condition. I don't like gyms, cardio workouts or walking up hills. I'll do the occasional aerobics class when my daughter, Phoebe, marches me down to the local fitness centre.

That gives me the chance to show off by bending in all directions. I've got joint hypermobility, which means I'm super bendy. Trouble is, you've got to be careful as you get older because your knees can slip out of their sockets.

Mine haven't done that - thank goodness!

AS TOLD TO RICHARD WEBBER

Moving, the new novel by Jenny Eclair, is published by Sphere. Jenny's new show, How To Be A Middle Aged Woman (Without Going Insane), kicks off this week. Visit jennyeclair.com for details

APHTHOUS MOUTH ULCERS

Marco Carrozzo, Professor in Oral Medicine at the University of Newcastle, says: Oral aphthous ulcers are recurrent, painful ulcers usually affecting otherwise healthy patients.

They characterise a disease called Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis, or RAS, arguably the most common inflammatory intraoral ulcerative disease in the world.

The cause is not clear but patients very likely have a genetic predispos-ition and several factors, for example, iron, folic acid or vitamin B12 deficien-cies, local and physical traumas (eg, dental issues), certain medication (eg, pain killers, beta-blockers), hormonal imbalances (eg, menstrual cycle), common bugs (eg, helicobacter pylori) and certain foods could trigger the onset of the ulcers. Some patients correlate the onset of ulcers with exposure to certain foods but studies have failed to prove this.

Rarely, oral ulceration similar to RAS can be a feature of coeliac disease or even Crohn's disease. Thus, any additional gastro-intestinal complaint should be properly considered.

Treatment for RAS aims to relieve discomfort and encourage ulcers to heal. This can be achieved using topical corticosteroids, analgesic mouthwashes, antiseptic alcohol-free mouthwash, tetracycline (antibiotics) mouthwashes and covering agents."

For more information, The British Society of Oral Medicine has a leaflet. Search bsom.org.uk

It's so painful, as if someone is firing staples into my gums

CAPTION(S):

LAUGHS Jenny with partner Geof

MOUTHY Outspoken comic and novelist Jenny was in agony
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 22, 2015
Words:1194
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