The month of July has been designated National Juvenile Arthritis month. Juvenile arthritis affects nearly 300,000 children in the United States. This disease does not present with the same aches and pains as adult onset arthritis. It is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks itself. The cause is most probably multifactorial, including genetics and environmental exposure to viruses, chemicals, etc. JA is most commonly a form of rheumatoid arthritis.
The signs and symptoms of JA are:
- Joint pain/stiffness that doesn’t go away. Occurs in the knees, hands, and feet and is worse after rest.
- High fever
- Limping due to stiffness in knee
- Excessive clumsiness
- Skin rash
- Swollen lymph nodes
The symptoms are not necessarily constant and can go into remission for periods of time. The allopathic treatment options that are available are usually physical activity and pain management.
Since the cause of the disease is multifactorial, the treatment options should be looked at from different angles. Environmental and genetic factors play a role in the onset and severity of symptoms. Naturopathic treatment looks more at gut health, immune system support, and to reduce inflammation.
Since 80% of your immune system lies in your gut, that is the first place to start looking for treatment. It is important to look at foods being eaten. Organic and non-GMO is essential as you can avoid putting pesticides and chemicals into your body. Also, learning and utilizing the nutritional type of the person can help the genetic factors involved in the individual’s makeup. Omega-3 fatty acids also aid in reducing inflammation in the body.
Natural substances that aid in reducing inflammation:
- Evening primrose, black currant and borage oils
Certain foods have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, including:
- Extra virgin olive oil (contains oleocanthal, which has similar properties as non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications).
- Green tea (loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that reduce inflammation and slow down cartilage destruction).
- Nuts (rich in alpha linolenic acid – an anti-inflammatory and immune booster).
- Beans (packed with fiber, which helps to lower CRP or C-reactive protein). Choose red beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans.
Foods to avoid are any that are high in sugar, highly processed (including fast foods like French fries, pizza, potato chips, candy, and soda) and fried foods. Research also indicates that gluten and dairy products are difficult to digest and may contribute to intestinal permeability. Therefore, these foods should also be avoided.