Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders involve the chewing muscles and joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull. Although TMJ is technically the abbreviation for the joint, people commonly use this term as shorthand for the disorders and symptoms, says MedlinePlus. Diet changes can prevent episodes of TMJ and help ease symptoms.
The temporomandibular joints are located on each side of your head in front of your ears, connecting your lower jaw to your skull. A small cartilage disc separates the bones so the lower jaw slides easily. You move these joints every time you chew, swallow and talk, so they are used very frequently, explains an April 12, 2008, article in "Dental Health Magazine" published at Worldental.org.
Symptoms of TMJ can include jaw discomfort and tenderness or pain when opening or closing the mouth. You may find it uncomfortable to chew, or there may be popping or grating sounds when you move your jaw. TMJ can cause headaches, earaches, facial pain and neck, shoulder and back pain. Symptoms can be caused or worsened by physical stress on structures around the joint, poor posture, neck and facial muscle strain, lack of sleep, life stress and poor diet, according to MedlinePlus.
Foods to Avoid
You may need to try eliminating different foods from your diet to see if this decreases your problems with TMJ. Foods containing salicylates can be a problem, according to the "Dental Health Magazine" article. Salicylates occur in many vegetables, and numerous fruits are high in this substance. Jams, jellies and juice tend to be high in salicylates, and so are hot peppers, olives, radishes, tomatoes, endive, chicory and water chestnuts. Other foods that can aggravate TMJ include wheat and dairy foods, foods with high levels of vitamin C or iron and products that contain sugar, yeast or preservatives.
Foods to Include
Including certain foods in your diet may prevent TMJ symptoms, according to "Dental Health Magazine." Eat organ meat now and then and include more red meat and more fat in your diet, particularly moderate amounts of saturated fat. In addition, make broth from animal bones and tendons to extract hyaluronic acid for joint health and add lots of greens for magnesium content.
Diet as Treatment
To lessen pain and other symptoms during an occurrence of TMJ, avoid eating hard foods, crunchy foods, thick or large foods that involve opening your mouth wide and foods that require a lot of chewing. This gives your jaw and temporomandibular joints the opportunity to rest and heal, says Colgate. Some good foods include cooked vegetables and fruits, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, smoothies, soup and yogurt. If you must eat food that requires chewing, cut it into small pieces.