Trigeminal Neuralgia Diet


Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a very painful inflammation of the nerves that deliver sensations to the face and to the eyes. The pain can come from just a brush of a finger against a cheek and is so painful patients have described it as just as bad as being stabbed with a knife or electrocuted. A low-saturated fat diet has helped TN patients deal with the pain.

Woman in pain. s
Woman in pain. s (Image: Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

TN Facts

About 1 in 15,000 people develop this disease, which usually affects adults over the age of 50, although it can affect younger people as well. According to The Mayo Clinic, doctors disagree about how the TN pain is caused. Most doctors believe it comes from the compression of a blood vessel in the cheek that occurs due to stress. Sometimes TN can be caused by tongue rings. Other times dentists believe that TN is tooth pain and begin to pull patients' teeth to alleviate the pain, but after teeth are pulled, the pain does not go away. About 10 to 12 percent of TN cases occur with pain on both sides of the face, but in general most cases show pain on just one side of the face.

Feeling stressed.
Feeling stressed. (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Low-Saturated Fat Diet

Low-saturated fat diets have been shown to help patients relieve the pain associated with TN. Mayo Clinic doctors have indicated that the intake of excessive saturated fats blocks the body from repairing the damage caused to the nerves in the face. Patients at MD Junction have found that if they eat less than 10 grams of saturated fat per day, that is enough for them to control the pain associated with TN. Some patients also have said that if, for example, they eat 5 grams worth of saturated fat in one day and 15 grams the next day, the pain also does not return. Patients from MD Junction have said it usually takes about one and a half to two weeks for the pain to go away after beginning a low-saturated fat diet.

Checking the labels of all foods is the best way to keep to the diet. While a food can be advertised as low or no fat, it’s important to look at the specific category of saturated fats. Food that contains a lot of butter, lard or Crisco will always be high in saturated fats.

In general, foods that are good to eat on this diet are seafood, beans, rice, pasta, bread, vegetables, fruit and very small amounts of lean poultry such as chicken and turkey. Foods that should be eaten as minimally as possible are red meat, whole milk, cheese, butter, cream, pies, cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, snacks, nuts and ice cream.

Beans and rice.
Beans and rice. (Image: ffolas/iStock/Getty Images)

Other Treatments

Patients with TN also have other options to reduce the pain, including surgery, medication and radiation therapy. According to patients at MD Junction, those who elect to go on medication have shown that they can eat a diet of 20 grams or less of saturated fats per day and still control the pain.

According to the Trigeminal Neuralgia Association, there are no conclusive links between patients who elect to have the surgery or go through the radiation therapy program and the diet that they follow.

Doctor with medication.
Doctor with medication. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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