If you thought that only adults suffered from arthritis then you are wrong. There are children who suffer from this as well and they don’t have it easy. For them, it is a dependency on medicines along with a restriction on their active life and giving up their favourite food.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis also goes by the names Juvenile chronic polyarthritis, Juvenile idiopathic arthritis and Stills disease. This is a very common type of arthritis found in children below 16 years of age and sometimes evident as early as 6 months. This may come as a surprise that how can children suffer from this since they are active and growing. Thus the condition is often undiagnosed in children and often confused with growing pains. I had a friend in school who always complained of stiffness and pain in joints. Come winters and she would become stiff as a stick. Years later we came to know that she had arthritis which was not diagnosed earlier.
How to Recognise Juvenile Arthritis:
Juvenile Arthritis, autoimmune disease is mostly caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors along with an immune system that functions poorly. The symptoms of this vary from child to child, however, they include:
- Inflammation of the joints
- Pain in joints
- Stiffness in the joints especially after getting up in the morning
- A characteristic limp when the child walks (more common in younger children)
- Stomach pain
- Weight Loss
When a child undergoes these discomforts it is likely that they do not eat a healthy diet since they have no inclination towards food. When they don’t eat the body does not get the required nutrition and this leads to impaired growth.
Diet of a Child With Juvenile Arthritis:
As such, there is no particular diet that a child with JA should follow. However, a balanced diet which comprises of proteins, vitamin D, fibre and healthy oils is one that is recommended. It is important to keep in mind whether the foods have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Foods that are sugary or salty increase inflammation and should be avoided.
Vitamin D: This helps in controlling the inflammation. The vitamin is actually a hormone which is produced in the body by sunlight. It is converted to its active form at two places, one in the liver and then in the kidneys. The active form of this vitamin helps in the absorption of calcium from the intestines and in turn is necessary for the formation of strong bones. When the body becomes deficient in vitamin D the levels of phosphate and calcium are not maintained. This leads to the other hormones to release phosphate and calcium from bones to the bloodstream, thus resulting in loss of bone.
Children who have been prescribed corticosteroids for the symptoms of juvenile arthritis are at a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency. This leads to a decrease in bone density, thereby, putting these children at a higher risk of osteoporosis. This deficiency can be balanced by using Vitamin D supplements.
Foods which reduce inflammation: A diet which is rich and colourful like most of the vegetables and fruits should be the main occupant on the child’s plate. These foods are not only rich with protective compounds like polyphenols and antioxidants they also help reducing inflammation. Foods like spinach, broccoli, strawberries, healthy fats, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, salmon, tuna, whole wheat bread, onions and lentils are found to be protective against inflammation.
Spices: Spices like turmeric are often effective in treating inflammation. This is because of the active compound curcumin found in turmeric which helps to reduce inflammation. Another spice which helps to reduce inflammation is ginger. This is also helpful in dealing with the side effects like stomach pain and nausea related to the medication.
Foods to avoid: The foods which are typically found in the middle aisles of grocery stores should be avoided. These are foods that are processed and packaged, basically junk food. Chips, candies, sugary snacks, cereals, sodas, pizza, ready to eat meals, fried foods, cakes and cookies are a big no-no.
Opting for a diet that is anti-inflammatory is easy. The offsets of Juvenile Arthritis can be maintained by choosing whole foods, fresh vegetables, foods rich in folic acid rather than the easy to make packaged meals. Do keep in mind that each time you add or eliminate a food item or supplement, it is mandatory to keep the child’s doctor in the loop. They can help by bridging nutritional gaps and treating side effects caused due to medication.
A – Autism
B – Bronchiolitis
C – Celiac Disease
D – Dyslexia
E – Eating Disorders
F – Fever
G – GERD