Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJ) affects the muscles in your jaw associated with chewing and the joints connecting your lower jaw to your skull. As a result, eating tougher, harder foods can cause irritation, leading you to limit your options at meal times.
The fact is, however, your TMJ symptoms needn't dictate your usual diet. TMJ sufferers can and should enjoy a normal balanced diet of fruit, protein and cooked vegetables - it's simply a matter of gradually introducing more problematic foods when you're ready. The following tips outline a combined diet plan of soft-foods to avoid irritating your jaw joint and a more long term diet to help rebuild and strengthen your jaw muscles.
The 'soft' diet
The soft aspect of your TMJ-friendly diet should consist of foods that are always going to be kind to your raw joints and jaw muscles. These include foods such as well-cooked fruits and vegetables, smoothies, soups, yoghurts and eggs. A typical day of the soft diet can look similar to this:
Breakfast - A fruit smoothie (or any other smoothie recipe of your choosing) with scrambled eggs or porridge.
Lunch - Soup with potatoes or tofu, rice and veg.
Dinner - Fish with rice and salad or potatoes and veg.
Of course, this meal plan is not set in stone for you. The key is to keep the foundations of your diet simple and mix things up with a variety of other soft and delicate foods. These can include:
- Softly-cooked rice, risotto, couscous and quinoa
- Cooked hot cereals like oatmeal, cream of wheat and Weetabix
- Potato salad, mashed sweet potatoes and skinless baked potatoes with sour cream
- Fish pie, cottage pie and dishes with tender, ground meat
- Cottage cheese, tofu and baked beans
- Peeled peaches or pears, orange sections and ripe watermelon and cantaloupe cubes.
The 'joint building' diet
Rebuilding and repairing your jaw muscles may sound like a daunting task, but it couldn't be simpler. It's all about reducing harmful foods in your diet and focusing on other food groups. First and foremost, things like sugar, preservatives (such as MSG), dairy, yeast and foods high in salicylates (i.e. jams and jellies) should be reduced as many of these contain inflammatory properties which can aggravate symptoms of TMJ.
Instead, look to foods that help rebuild your joints and jaw muscles:
Red meats and organ meats - moderate amounts of the saturated fat found in meat can help increase the nutrients your body needed to repair and strengthen joints. Additionally, once you are done with the meat, you can make broth using the animal bones and tendons - this extracts the hyaluronic acid and gelatin which is hugely beneficial to joint health.
Saturated fats and fatty acids - Again, a moderate amount of saturated fat is great for helping to repair your jaw joints. Try adding whole milk and butter to certain meals. Certain fatty acids are also beneficial to your jaw muscles. The fatty acid Omega-3 found in salmon and wholegrains is very protective by nature and helps to reduce joint discomfort to help you eat and chew more effectively.
Foods rich in Vitamin C and E - These are the miracle vitamins in waging the war against joint discomfort. Vitamin C can be found in grapefruit, mangoes, raspberries, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli and red peppers. Vitamin E, meanwhile, belongs in avocados, sunflower seeds, peanut butter and wholegrain breads and cereals. Both vitamins are packed with antioxidants - a key ingredient in reducing the stress and inflammation caused to your jaw muscles as a result of TMJ.
Hopefully, the above dietary tips can help ensure a return to more normal eating habits for the majority of TMJ sufferers. Unfortunately, for those with especially severe symptoms, employing home remedies such as the above may not be so effective. If this is the case, a visit to your local dental clinic should be made in regards to further treatment for your TMJ pain.