TMJ is the abbreviation used to describe temporomandibular joint disorder. The temporomandibular joints are your lower jaw joints; they connect your jaw to your head. People who suffer from TMJ experience pain and often loud popping or cracking noises when chewing and yawning. Pain can be focused in the jaw area but can also extend up the head, leading to headaches and earaches in some people. TMJ is a chronic condition that may require a combination of medical and self-care measures. You can adjust your diet to avoid certain foods that exacerbate your condition.
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Crunchy foods, including popcorn, chips and other salty snack foods, and hard rolls may be too difficult for your jaw to chew when you have TMJ. Hard vegetables like carrots and crisp celery can also cause pain in the jaw due to the intensity with which you need to bite down on them. Eating softer foods or cooking vegetables to a softer texture can ease the muscle tension in your jaw and give the temporomandibular joints the rest they need to recover. The flavonoid content in fruits and vegetables can act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center, so it is important to keep these foods in your diet.
Your jaw works overtime when you consume chewy foods such as taffy, caramel, chewing gum, tougher cuts of meat and delicacies like lobster and escargot. The constant motion of your jaw can aggravate your joint pain when chewy foods are a staple of your diet. Instead of items that make your jaw work hard, opt for softer foods like bananas, yogurt, mashed potatoes, tender meats, poultry and fish.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that cutting back on the amount of fat in your diet may ease TMJ symptoms. Saturated fat, often found in fried foods, cream sauces, pastries and red meat, may lead to increased inflammation in the body. Drink low-fat or skim milk, choose lean proteins such as chicken, pork and fish and choose low-fat cheese and yogurts to reduce the fat content in your meals.
Some people with TMJ cannot open the jaw more than a couple of inches when pain is at its worst. Even if this is not your particular problem with TMJ pain, biting into whole pieces of fruit, thick sandwiches or other foods that are large in size can overtax your jaw. The annoying and painful popping and grinding noises associated with TMJ can occur not only while you eat or yawn, but also when you open your mouth wide. The solution to this problem is simply cutting your food into smaller pieces.
Vitamin and mineral supplements may help relieve some of the pain of TMJ. The April 2008 issue of "Dental Health" magazine suggests eating leafy greens that contain magnesium. Taking a magnesium supplement may also relax your tense and tired jaw muscles. UMMC reports that vitamin C supplements may also contribute to good joint health and may alleviate some of your symptoms.