TMJ Disorders: Nutritionally Speaking
Shh! I have a secret about food and TMJ or let`s say about TMJ disorders: Nutritionally speaking. You already know a soft diet is sometimes necessary, but did you realize your overall nutritional intake can actually alleviate some of the pain?
On one of visits to my natural health care provider, she began asking a series of questions about my diet. I thought these questions were going to be similar to the standard ones my allopathic doctor always asked, which always ended with him extolling the virtues of a soft diet.
Much to my surprise, this health professional instead explained the very real role nutrition can play in actually healing my condition. “Wow! I never thought that vitamins and minerals would affect the health of my jaw!”
If you’ve ever had any type of jaw pain, then you know how difficult it can be to eat well. Hard foods are difficult, if not impossible, to chew, causing you even more pain. So you try to eat strictly soft foods, but let’s face it, foods like mashed potatoes and milk shakes get boring really fast.
But if your TMJ disorder is caused by any arthritis-related pain, then carefully choosing your foods involves more than just choosing among soft foods. Because, as you know, a jaw is a joint, just like any other joint in your body, and that means, according to some dietitians and nutritionists, that what you eat affects the health of your joints.
So now basically you’re facing two dilemmas: First, you need to come up with nutritious, dare we say even exciting, foods to eat while you’re in pain. But beyond that, you need to start eating a little more on the healthy side to improve the state of your arthritis. Sound a little difficult? It needn’t be, actually.
That’s exactly why this chapter is divided into two parts. First, we’ll cover how you can eat a little better, even with your current jaw pain. The second part is about how you can improve your diet to improve your arthritis-related pain.
Foods To Get You Through The Pain
Let’s not delay this any longer. You’re in pain and you’re hungry for something that’s not… well, “blah tasting.”
Tired of smoothies? Then let’s kick it up a notch. Try these fresh tasting recipes. These smoothies will ignite your taste buds, and have them demanding, “More, please!” And one of the greatest advantages to smoothies is their ease of preparation.
The Awesome Watermelon Smoothie
4 cups seedless watermelon
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups of ice
Condensed milk to taste
Combine the watermelon, the lime juice, and the ice. Blend until this mixture is smooth. While you continue blending the mixture, add the condensed milk to taste.
That’s all there is to it. Now just drink and enjoy
Delicious Peach Smoothie
3 peaches, peeled and sliced
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
2 cups vanilla soy milk
¼ cup orange juice
Combine the peaches, ice cream, soy milk, and orange juice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie
1-1/3 cups vanilla soy milk
¼ cup soft tofu, crumbled and drained
2 medium bananas, sliced and frozen
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 ice cubes
Pinch of salt
Combine all the ingredients, except the bananas and ice cubes, in the blender. Mix until well blended. Add the bananas and the ice cubes. Cover the blender and continue blending until smooth. Enjoy!
Crazy — But Delicious — Smoothie
1 banana peeled
½ cup diced cantaloupe
¼ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup orange segments
1 tablespoon honey
¼ lemon, peeled and seeded
½ cup pineapple, chunked
½ cup water
1 cup ice
1 scoop protein powder (optional)
Place all ingredients in your blender. Blend until smooth. Yes, it’s that easy, and it’s delicious!
Here’s one breakfast dish that’s a little more exciting:
6 peaches, peeled and sliced
12 slices day-old French bread (approximately ¾ inch thick)
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 pinch ground cinnamon, or to taste
Stir the brown sugar, butter, and water together in a sauce pan. Bring this mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Pour this mixture into a 9-by-13 inch baking dish, ensuring it covers the entire bottom of the dish. Layer the peaches over the sugar coating. Top with the slices of French bread.
Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Pour this slowly over the bread to coat evenly. Sprinkle the cinnamon over this. Cover and refrigerate for approximately 8 hours.
Approximately 30 minutes before baking, remove the dish from the refrigerator, to bring it to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.
* * * * * * * * *
Have you ever thought of pulled pork shoulder for dinner? It takes a minimal amount of chewing and you’ll receive a maximum amount of taste!
Pulled Pork Sandwich
You can use your favorite barbeque sauce for this awesome sandwich.
One (1) 4 to 7 lb bone-in or boneless pork shoulder (you might also know this type of meat as Boston butt)
¼ cup water
Season lightly with salt and pepper
Enough of your favorite barbecue sauce for the flavor you want
Simmer the pork in your sauce to get the flavors to mingle. Then serve on a soft bun.
Easy-To-Chew Salmon Burger with a Basil Twist
1 6-½-ounce can skinless, boneless salmon, drained and flaked
1 egg, beaten
½ medium carrot, finely shredded (approximately ¼ cup)
¼ cup finely shredded Swish cheese (approximately one ounce)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 tablespoon sour cream
2/3 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs (from one slice of bread)
2 teaspoons fresh basil
¼ teaspoon pepper
Combine egg, bread crumbs, basil, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the salmon, carrot, and cheese. Mix all of this lightly.
Shape into ¾ inch thick round patties.
Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, basil, and lemon peel
Top the salmon burgers with the mayonnaise when cooked.
Here’s another salmon dish that you will not only appreciate, but your entire family will love.
Awesome Salmon Salad
½ cup low-fat mayonnaise
½ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon grated onion
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespons milk
3 tablespoons chopped sweet pickles, drained
1 14-ounce can of red sockeye salmon, drained. Skinned and boned.
8 ounces mushrooms, cut in half
10-ounce package of mixed salad greens
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, onion, ketchup, milk, and sweet pickle in a medium bowl. Blend well. Set this aside.
Add salmon and mushrooms, and stir to coat. Put the greens on the platter. Top these with the salmon mixture. Add the tomatoes and hard-cooked eggs. Serve immediately with yogurt-mayonnaise dressing.
And how about a little dessert after some of these delicious meals? How about…
4 cups vanilla ice cream or lemon ice cream, softened
1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 9-inch graham cracker crust
Mix the ice cream and lemonade concentrate in a medium bowl until blended. Spoon into the crust. Freeze this four a minimum of 4 hours. Allow to stand temperature for 10 minutes before cutting.
Chew on This: Gently, Very Gently
Remember, while you’re healing that jaw, you want to think very carefully about the foods you eat. Obviously, you’re not going to pull a Bugs Bunny and munch on raw carrots right now, or you end up at your doctor’s asking “What’s up doc?”
No, you want to choose the softest foods you can find. These can include well-cooked grains, as well as beans, and steamed vegetables. Additionally, yogurt is a good choice, as are bananas and beans.
Oh yeah. One more piece of advice. You also really don’t want to chew gum right about now.
Chew On This: Nutrition to Heal Your TMJ
At the same time, you should give some serious consideration to increasing your nutritious foods as well. Did you really think we’d ignore this topic?
Did your health care practitioner give you any type of diet to follow to improve the aches and pains of your arthritis condition? If she did, these are the perfect foods to eat to help ease your jaw pain, too.
There are certain super-nutrients that help to build the collagen of your jaw, as well as repair blood vessels that have been damaged by this disorder. Among the most helpful are vitamin C, zinc, and selenium.
Collagen, by the way, composes much of the jaw joint, so this is a very wise move. If you can’t find enough of these nutrients through your diet, then you may want to augment your diet with supplements.
Dentist, and TMJ specialist, Wesley Shankland, author of TMJ: Its Many Faces, recommends that you take a minimum of 1,200 IU of vitamin E daily.
Great natural sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds, and even vegetable oils, especially canola and soybean. You can also obtain this nutrient by eating green, leafy vegetables. But the most abundant source is found in wheat germ. A single serving provides you with 100 percent of your daily requirement for the day. What a way to go!
How to Eat Wheat Germ
I see you scrunching up your face at the thought of actually eating wheat germ. It has taken an unfair beating from many of us who have never tried it before. But once you use it, you’ll fall in love with its mild, nutty flavor, and its really cool, satisfying crunch.
Perhaps you’ve bought it before but didn’t really know how to use it. It’s much easier than you think to incorporate this abundant source of vitamin E into your meals.
You can start by using it just like flour. Simply cut the flour you use in any recipe in half, substituting wheat germ for the other half. You’ll love the resulting slightly nutty taste. For example, if the recipe calls for four cups of flour, use only two cups, then add two cups of wheat germ.
You can even use wheat germ in recipes that require bread crumbs, especially when you’re coating foods and frying them.
Add a tablespoon of what germ to your morning smoothie. But add it at the very last moment, when it’s already practically blended.
Just one more piece of advice. When you do purchase wheat germ (and I encourage you to do so) be sure to store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Otherwise you’ll discover how quickly it can spoil.
Dr. Shankland also suggests approximately 1,000 mg of vitamin C taken about five times daily (Yep, you read that right!), along with 50 mg of zinc two times a day.
Vitamin C’s Top 10 List
Yes! We all know that oranges are an abundant source of vitamin C. In fact, to many of us, oranges are nearly synonymous with the nutrient. You’ll be surprised to find that it really isn’t the richest source. On the Top 10 list of foods richest in vitamin C, it makes a poor running at Number 9. Do you want to know what leads the pack? Check out the following:
1. Chili peppers, both red and green
3. Bell peppers
4. Fresh herbs, especially thyme and parsley
5. Dark green leafy vegetables, especially kale, mustard greens, and garden cress
6. Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
7. Kiwi fruit
9. Oranges and tangerines
See what I mean? You have plenty of fresh, healthy choices when it comes to boosting your natural intake of vitamin C. Don’t be shy about doing this. You may discover the rewards to your jaw – not to mention your overall health – are nothing short of remarkable.
And don’t forget the selenium. Shankland also suggests that you take 100 mcg of this mineral daily.
Selenium is a trace mineral, one we rarely give much thought to. But it can play a vital role in the health of your jaw. So what foods are good, natural sources? Here’s a Top 10 list of the richest sources of selenium:
1. Brazil nuts
2. Sunflower seeds
9. Grains – including wheat germ
It seems easy enough to get at least an adequate supply of selenium on a daily basis. If you’re planning on boosting your intake naturally though, be sure to choose, from an overall perspective, the healthiest foods from this list. Remember that too much red meat isn’t recommended, so offset that with fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
Continue on this regimen of high dosage dietary supplements for two weeks. After that you can return to more typical servings of these dietary supplements. You’ll also want to talk with your health care provider before you take any nutrients — especially those at high levels like this.
There still is one more nutritional supplement that may heal the pain of TMJ disorders.
The following disorders have been known to be caused by a deficiency of magnesium. Coincidentally, these are the same disorders that are also linked to TMJ pain. Or maybe not so coincidentally? Granted, this may be a case of catalog of cause linked together only by association, but it’s definitely a list to ponder on.
- Migraines — other kinds of headaches
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Unexplained hearing loss
If you have any of these problems perhaps the condition goes deeper than just the symptoms. Talk with your health care provider about what your body’s current level of magnesium is.
So what’s the TMJ-magnesium connection? It’s quite interesting, if little known. Magnesium is an essential mineral in the creation of a substance called hyaluronic acid. You may also have heard it referred to as hyluronan or simple HA.
Hyaluronic acid is a vital part of the connective tissue in your body, whose purpose is to lubricate the joints.
So what are the most abundant food sources of magnesium? Here’s the Top 10 List for this trace mineral:
1. Bran, including rice, wheat and oats
2. Dried herbs
3. Squash, pumpkin, and watermelon
4. Cocoa powder and dark chocolate (Yum!)
5. Flax, sesame seeds, and sesame butter
6. Brazil nuts
7. Sunflower seeds
8. Almonds and cashews
10. Dry Roasted soybeans
Some of the best diet changes You can make
According to some nutritionists, the first change to your diet should be your consumption of caffeine. Sorry, guys. But some nutritionists suggest that caffeine is the culprit causing you to subconsciously clench your jaw to in the first place.
It only makes sense, then, they go on to suggest that you halt all caffeine intake. And we’re not just talking about coffee, although this may be a large part of it. Consider the fact that caffeine is found in chocolate and tea, and even some over-the-counter medicines.
While this piece of advice is sounds quite easy, if not desirable, to implement, it may be harder than you think once you begin to list the host of foods where caffeine is found.
On the other hand, some of the best foods you can eat are those with a large amount of calcium. According to some in the medical community, calcium actually helps to relax the muscles of your body, including those in the jaw.
Looking for calcium-rich foods? Turn to the dairy aisle of your grocery store. Calcium is in most dairy foods. But there are also plenty of foods that aren’t classified as dairy that are great sources of this mineral. Check out this top 10 list of calcium-rich foods.
5. Dark green leafy vegetables, especially kale, spinach, and collard greens
6. Fortified breakfast cereals, especially Total, Corn Flakes, and Raisin Brain
7. Fortified orange juice
9. Fortified soy milk
10. Enriched breads, grains, and yes, even waffles
Omega 3 and TMJ
Another essential nutrient you may want to investigate if you’re struggling with TMJ pain is Omega 3 fatty acids. You’ve heard it’s good for your heart. In fact, this substance has been shown to help many health conditions, including heart disease. But did you know it might have some very real healing powers when it comes to your TMJ pain?
It’s true. And the reason is fairly simple, once you realize omega 3 is a powerful, anti-inflammatory element. We’ve already learned that if you can reduce the swelling, you can reduce your pain. The most popular form of omega-3 fatty acids is through dietary supplements. But if you can receive it naturally, so much the better.
So how much omega 3 should you consume? Dr. Carl Levie, the medical direct of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, recommends a minimum of 500 mg daily for a healthy individual.
So what are the best natural sources of omega 3 fatty acids? The top 5 list of most abundant omega 3 foods follows:
1. Flax seeds
2. Salmon and other cold-water fish
4. Soybeans and tofu
5. Winter squash
If you can start improving your dietary lifestyle, then you may be able to alleviate some of your worst TMJ pain. Of course, dietary supplements for all of these nutrients abound. But the quality of your nutrients is vastly increased if you can receive your essential vitamins and minerals, and even essential fatty acids, through natural means – healthy foods.