TMJ Treatment: Avoiding Certain Foods

Cheese allergiesMany of you have inquired about our “foods to avoid” list in our treatment booklets. You may be wondering why certain foods are on the list, or if avoiding these foods is a permanent lifestyle change to be made. I will briefly address each of these concerns.

Why is there a “foods to avoid” list?

We believe that the symptoms of temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) are multifactorial. Jaw alignment, occlusion, structural problems, muscle tension, sleep habits, parafunction, airway, social stressors, chemical disturbances, diet, and many other factors all play a part in the symptoms of chronic pain. For many of us, certain ingredients in foods act as triggers for headaches or inflammatory reactions. These ingredients may be high levels of amines, caffeine, or chemicals used in the processing or preservation of food. These can cause vascular reactions or change body chemistry in a way which activates other pain mechanisms. For example, cheese is on our list of foods to avoid. Cheese contains high levels of amines. Amine-sensitive individuals can get headaches, rashes, and blood pressure elevation with consumption of cheese. There is also potential for dairy allergy or lactose intolerance.

Will you have to avoid these foods indefinitely?

During the first 6 months of treatment, we will suggest you limit as many disturbances as possible which may be contributing to your symptoms. You may not have the same susceptibilities as someone else, as this depends on your genetics and biology. Because we cannot know every potential dietary stressor for your genetic make-up, we begin by widely limiting the most common disturbances. This allows us to rule out any possible dietary triggers to your pain. Once you’ve reached a point where pain levels and headaches are greatly reduced, we can begin to gradually introduce some of the items on the avoid list, to see if your body will react to these triggers or not. By learning your individual dietary restrictions, you become more effective at managing your symptoms. Remember, successful management is the key for long-term relief.

Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD
Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics

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