For years, doctors have recommended an anti-inflammatory diet to people who suffer from arthritis, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases, psoriasis, and more. Each of these conditions causes inflammation and pain throughout the body. Temporomandibular joint disorder is no different. TMJ disorders cause inflammation in the jaw joint and pain in the neck, face, and back. The purpose of the diet is to reduce inflammation and thus reduce pain. So does this magic diet work for TMJ? 

woman clenching her jaw and holding her cheeck

What’s an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet is a diet consisting of eating foods known to fight inflammation and avoiding foods known to contribute to inflammation. Dieticians refer to an anti-inflammatory diet as more of a lifestyle than a diet. Mostly because you need to stick with it long-term to enjoy its benefits.

Many conditions can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet coupled with therapy or medications. Some of the most popular conditions that involve inflammation include:

  • Asthma 
  • Crohn’s Disease 
  • Colitis 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis 
  • Metabolic syndrome including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease 
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis 
  • Psoriasis 

Scientists believe that inflammation plays a large role in each of these conditions. With an anti-inflammatory diet, they may improve their health and their condition. In addition, eating certain antioxidant foods can even help lower the risk of certain cancers. 

How Does it Work?

So how do certain foods fight inflammation? There are three different groups that help with inflammation. For starters, you will eat foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals which are unstable atoms that cause disease, cell damage, and inflammation. Fresh fruit and vegetables are one of the best sources of antioxidants in your diet. Carotenoids attack inflammation and are found in carrots, leafy green vegetables, and tomatoes. On the flip side, anthocyanins prevent the formation of inflammation and are found in berries.

Omega-3 fatty acids also stop inflammation from forming and reduce existing inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in cold-water fish like sardines, mackerel, and salmon. If you don’t like fish, you can also get your intake from nuts and seeds, plant oils, and fortified foods like eggs, soy beverages, juices, and yogurt. There are also dietary supplements you can take.

Polyphenols, a plant compound, also prevents inflammation. This compound is found in herbs and spices, dark chocolate, and berries.

Lastly, fiber can help lower inflammation in the body. Eating a good source of fiber with beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables can benefit your body. 

TMJ and Inflammation

When you suffer from TMJ, the jaw joint is not functioning correctly. As a result, the surrounding muscles are tight and the joints are damaged and inflamed. Not only will the tight muscles cause pain but also the inflamed joints. The inflammation can result in pain, heat, swelling, redness, and even loss of function. Some patients who suffer from TMJ might also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, inflamed ligaments from a strain or injury, or synovitis which is pain with jaw movement.

By following an anti-inflammatory diet, you can help reduce the inflammation in your jaw joint. However, it’s also important to seek TMJ treatment from a TMJ dentist in Pinehurst. An anti-inflammatory diet can only help you make so much progress in your symptoms. 

Foods that Cause Inflammation

As part of an anti-inflammatory diet, you should seek to eat eight to nine services of vegetables and fruit per day, limit dairy and red meat, choose complex carbs over simple ones and also swear off processed foods. A list of foods you should avoid includes:

  • Processed foods 
  • Dairy 
  • Processed carbs 
  • Premade desserts  
  • Excess alcohol 
  • Processed snack foods such as crackers and chips 
  • Unhealthy oils 
  • Foods with added salt or sugar 
  • Processed meats 
  • Fried foods

You should also limit your intake of:

  • Gluten – Some people experience a reaction to gluten. Pay attention to your symptoms after consuming gluten to see if you should eliminate it from your diet.
  • Nightshade plants including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants – These plants sometimes trigger flare-ups from some people. Trying cutting these from your diet for two to three weeks to see if your symptoms improve.
  • Carbohydrates – Some evidence suggests that even a diet high in healthful carbs can contribute to inflammation. Make sure to not overeat carb-rich foods.

What Type of Foods to Eat on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

If you’re worried that there’s going to be nothing left to eat on your anti-inflammatory diet, that’s completely untrue. Here is a list of foods that fight inflammation. You can also enjoy any foods not listed as one of the contributors to inflammation.

  • Oily fish 
  • Avocados 
  • Artichokes 
  • Apples 
  • Cherries 
  • Berries 
  • Sweet potatoes 
  • Nuts 
  • Beans 
  • Whole grains (if not gluten sensitive) 
  • Broccoli 
  • Dark leafy vegetables 
  • Eggs 
  • Green tea 

How Long Does it Take For Results to Show?

Unfortunately, eating an anti-inflammatory diet for just a week won’t do much. You must stay consistent at all times and within at least two weeks, you might start to see some improvements to your inflammation. Full healing can take anywhere from three to six months, or longer in some cases. It’s important to stay consistent and patient because when you do experience the results you’re looking for, it’s absolutely worth it. Sticking with an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity, psoriasis, and other conditions associated with high inflammation in the body.

TMJ Treatment in Pinehurst

If you’re tired of feeling in pain from TMJ, now is the time to get started with TMJ treatment in Pinehurst. In addition to following an anti-inflammatory diet, Dr. Grimshaw can provide you with a TMJ treatment plan that will help reduce your pain. Contact our dental office today by calling (910) 692-4450 to schedule an appointment. A pain-free life is just around the corner!