UPDATE: For detailed information and practical steps to help you beat TMJ disorder naturally, take a look at TMJ No More.
Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ is a painful and often debilitating condition that affects 20-30% of the population at some point in their lives.
It affects the temporomandibular joint, the joint that is the ‘hinge’ for the jaw and is located between the eye and the ear on each side of the face.
The disorder is initiated when some kind of dysfunction occurs within the joint, such as the development of arthritis, the slight dislocation of the joint or some damage such as a trauma or injury, however the specific causes of TMJ are unclear and it’s generally believed to be a more of a symptom of a range of factors coming together.
When suffering from TMJ it’s all too easy to reach for the powerful anti-inflammatory pills or muscle relaxants to give some relief from the pain but if you wish to avoid the potentially nasty side affects these drugs can bring you may be looking for more harmless, natural alternatives.
Turmeric is a supplement that can potentially offer some of these anti-inflammatory and pain relieving benefits without the side effects.
Important Signs and Symptoms of TMJ
It’s crucial to identify the signs and symptoms of TMJ and there are 3 cardinal signs that can be used in a diagnosis.
1. A feeling of pain and tenderness when the muscles around the jaw and the temporomandibular joint are touched.
Pain can occur when the jaw is used, such as for chewing, talking or yawning. Massaging the muscle of the head and jaw affected by TMJ can cause a headache, which is another sign identifying TMJ as the culprit disorder.
2. Stiffness and difficulty using the jaw.
The pain, swelling and inflammation associated with TMJ can make eating, talking and yawning very difficult and painful. It can often lead to nutrient deficiencies as it is too difficult to eat enough healthy food due to the jaw pain. If the condition is severe enough, the jaw may ‘lock’ or ‘catch’, causing even more pain and less movement.
3. The sensation or sound of grating, clicking or popping when the jaw is opened or closed.
These can occur during eating or talking as well and could indicate joint degeneration as a sign of the bones in the joint rubbing together.
Many sufferers of TMJ experience a variety of other symptoms relating to the condition, including head and neck muscle tension, headache, tinnitus and hearing loss, eye pain, dizziness, increased stress, and depression and anxiety.
These painful and often crippling symptoms are due to the effect of inflammation in TMJ.
Inflammation can be reduced through anti-inflammatory drugs, but you may have to pay the price of suffering with side effects.
Fortunately, there are effective and natural options.
Inflammation and Turmeric
Much of the pain, soreness and discomfort associated with TMJ is due to the inflammation which occurs around the temporomandibular joint during the disease process.
Normally, inflammation is an important part of our body’s processes, helping our bodies fight off infections. In TMJ and other inflammatory disorders however, the inflammation process gets out of control causing as excess of heat, swelling and pain as increased blood flow and pro-inflammatory cells rush to the affected area.
If you want to reduce this inflammatory effect in TMJ, but don’t want to use medications, you’re in luck.
Certain natural supplements and even foods have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, allowing us to relieve the discomfort of chronic inflammation without the use of drugs.
One of these anti-inflammatory foods is turmeric.
Turmeric is a bright yellow Indian spice, well known for imparting its characteristic colour and flavour to curries, but also historically known as a powerful Ayurvedic medicine in ancient times.
The value of this ancient medicine is now being recognised by modern scientists, as they have identified the key active component of turmeric, curcumin, and discovered its role in providing relief for inflammation and other diseases.
Recent studies have shown that turmeric is both safe to use and effective at reducing inflammation and providing relief in a variety of disease conditions. These studies have found that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, reduces inflammation by controlling macrophages (immune cells) which release inflammatory cytokines (inflammatory chemicals).
Cytokines are small proteins that are released from a variety of cells and act as ‘messengers’ sent from cell to cell. They are especially important in the immune system, where they activate the inflammatory process.
Macrophages are the large, immune system cells that release cytokine messengers.
Curcurmin specifically acts on these macrophages which then change their message to the cytokines, which promotes less inflammation and more tissue repair and healing.
There has even been some evidence that certain extracts of turmeric may function in a similar way to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and help with relieving pain directly, as well as relieving inflammation, which then leads to a decrease in pain.
Without a doubt, turmeric is a valuable spice when it comes to managing the troublesome symptoms of TMJ.
Hormones, TMJ and Turmeric
Other scientific studies performed on the action of turmeric in the body and its function in disease management have shown that turmeric may produce positive effects for sufferers of TMJ by providing beneficial changes in hormone levels.
This action of turmeric is especially important for female sufferers of TMJ, who comprise 90% of all TMJ sufferers.
A recent study showed a significant correlation between low levels of the female sex hormone progesterone and an increased risk of suffering from TMJ.
This is where another benefit of turmeric comes in as it has been shown that turmeric consumption can naturally increase progesterone levels in the body.
More balanced progesterone levels help to keep immune function in check and may possibly reduce the risk of TMJ developing in the first place.
How can I get more Turmeric?
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice, also a relative of ginger, which is commonly found in most supermarkets.
If you have trouble finding it in your local supermarket, it will be stocked in Asian or Indian supermarkets, most likely in its fresh form as well as dried.
A great way to get more turmeric in the diet is to eat more curries containing turmeric! This is a delicious and healthy way to consume more turmeric, by cooking up a tasty curry with plenty of vegetables and a low fat source of protein, to be accompanied by brown rice.
If curries are not your thing, you can also increase your intake of turmeric by making a soothing tea from the spice. Many recipes for a powerful and healing turmeric tea can be found online, and some of the best recipes recommend adding as much turmeric as you can handle to receive the most benefits! The upside of this spice is that is safe and doesn’t produce any side effects, so you can consume plenty of it.
The taste of turmeric tea may take some getting used to however, so it can be helpful to start with a smaller amount and build up as your tolerance allows.
However if none of these options to consume turmeric as a spice interest you, there are many excellent ways to increase your intake of turmeric, or the more specific active ingredients such as curcumin in the form of supplements.
There are many turmeric specific supplements available, or you can choose a multi-vitamin that includes turmeric as one of its many ingredients.
By incorporating more turmeric in your diet you can experience the benefits of this powerful anti-inflammatory spice for your TMJ.