For me, suddenly getting sore jaw joints was the clincher that something was very wrong and made me push for a proper diagnosis. Jaw arthritis makes life very difficult: it's uncomfortable to eat, speak, lie on your face, open your mouth or even clean your teeth. The pain can radiate up to you temples, down your neck and make your cheeks ache. In short, jaw arthritis is Arthur at his most irritating.
The difficulties with eating are perhaps the most challenging aspect to handle on a day-in, day-out basis because it tends to mean you need to stick to a soft food diet. For the first few months of my jaw being painful, I lived off a diet of soup and yoghurt and lost a lot of weight. I was given sip feeds by the doctors to help increase my calorie intake but frankly they are generally disgusting and, more importantly, boring. Through trial and a lot of error I now eat a relatively varied diet and am an expert in soft-food cooking. Here are my top tips for getting a healthy diet if your jaw is affected by arthritis:
- Get a hand blender - you don't need to pulverise everything but it makes for super speedy soups and purées.
- It can be difficult to get enough protein when chewing hurts. Most meat is off the menu but fish, omelettes ,scrambled eggs, yoghurt (especially low fat greek) and tofu are all excellent alternative protein sources. You can also try adding skimmed milk power or protein powders to oatmeal (porridge) and drinks to fortify them.
- Grate, mash and puree vegetables to help you still get your five-a-day. Bake fruit like apples, pears and berries or turn tropical fruit into smoothies.
- Small pasta shapes (like soup pasta) are easier to eat or try vermicelli. Rice can be surprisingly chewy so stick to risottos or well-cooked white rice.
- If you find you are losing weight, don't be afraid of boosting the nutrition of your food by adding a little extra cream, olive or rapseeed oil, nut butters and soft cheese. Scoff icecream without guilt - there have to be some perks!
There are some wonderful soft food diet recipes on the lovely Food to Glow blog, and, of course, many of my recipes are jaw friendly so have a browse.