Of all the joints in the human body, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one that causes a lot of pain and problems – what’s known as TMJ disorder or TMJD.
Joint pain usually increases with age but TMJD afflicts more young people than old. Lifestyle and hormone levels may be to blame.
More women than men suffer from TMJD – about double. High estrogen levels have been indicated in the mechanism of action. Research shows that women taking oral contraceptives or other forms of supplemental estrogen have more jaw pain than women who don’t. Younger women tend to have higher estrogen levels which may account for the age reversal prevalence.
What’s interesting is the link between TMJD and diet specifically related to glutamate levels.
Glutamate is an amino acid (a building block of protein) that is also a neurotransmitter – meaning that the nervous system uses this substance to signal information. Neurotransmitters are either excitatory or inhibitory. Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It is also a precursor to GABA which is the most abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter.
We need glutamate to do work in our nervous system and we historically got it from the protein in our diet. With modern food manufacturing though, glutamate has snuck into our diet in unusually high amounts in such food additives as MSG and aspartame.
You know where this discussion is going.
Research is underway that clearly shows that MSG consumption increases TMJ pain in people who do and don’t have TMJD. It probably increases pain sensitivity everywhere in the body but the research I looked at focused on the main muscle of chewing called the masseter muscle. Pain is such a significant health problem in our world that finding fundamental ways to reduce it are essential.
Both MSG and aspartame are broken down into glutamate.
It seems to me that an easy way to reduce pain is to reduce or eliminate the excessive dietary glutamate by avoiding both MSG and aspartame.
From the words of Michael Pollan, don’t eat anything your great grandmother did not eat. She did not eat MSG or aspartame.