Juvenile arthritis (JA), the term used to describe arthritis in children younger age 16, is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and a poorly functioning immune system.
Symptoms vary among patients, but most experience joint pain and inflammation in multiple areas, and fatigue, nausea, and stomach pain can be common and exacerbated by certain medications. These discomforts may cause children to be less willing to maintain a healthy diet, but growth can be impaired and other problems arise if nutrition in a child is poor.
Juvenile arthritis and diet
There’s no specific dietary program for young people with JA, but a balanced diet rich in vitamin D, protein, healthy oils, and fiber with limited sugars is generally recommended. These recommendations are based on research identifying the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of certain foods.
Foods that are fried, processed, or high in sugars tend to aggravate inflammation, whereas the fresh foods associated with the Mediterranean diet are considered to have anti-inflammatory properties. These foods include tomatoes, olive and fish oils, almonds, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, and fruits, especially strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges. Physicians recommend that children in general reduce their intake of processed foods to avoid health problems later in life.
Vitamin D is known to control inflammation, and works to help in the absorption of calcium, which is essential for strong bones. Children using corticosteroids to manage JA symptoms are thought to be at twice the risk of developing vitamin D deficiency, which can reduce bone density and put them at risk of osteoporosis, than those not on steroid treatment. This deficiency might be offset by use vitamin D supplements.
Offsetting side effects of JA medication
Constipation and diarrhea are common side effects of various JA treatments. Increasing a child’s fiber intake by adding fresh fruits and vegetables to their diet is often recommended. Swapping processed starches for whole grains, oats, and nuts will also help to regulate bowel movements. Patients with either constipation or diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids, especially water, as they may become dehydrated more easily.
Children who take methotrexate to manage their arthritis symptoms may also need to increase their intake of folate, or vitamin B. In addition to supplements that include synthetic forms of folate, patients can do this by eating foods rich in folic acid, such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, chickpeas, and berries.
Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.