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juvenile-arthritisJuly is Juvenile Arthritis (JA) awareness month and OrthoConnecticut is helping to raise awareness. Things to do – learn about JA, wear a blue ribbon, cook an anti-inflammatory recipe, make a donation, help raise awareness by telling your story, and host or attend a community event.

Did you know?

300,000 – that’s how many children 16 or younger in the United States have JA (also known as pediatric rheumatic disease). For these kids (and their caregivers) an arthritic flareup frequently means coping with not only the physical symptoms of the disease but the emotional impact on kids including pain, loneliness, and depression resulting from lack of engagement in normal childhood activities with friends and family.

What is JA?

JA is a group of inflammatory and rheumatic diseases, but most children with JA have an autoimmune type where the immune system mistakenly views healthy tissue/cells as foreign invaders, and mistakenly perceives the need to fight these “invaders” creating arthritic pain in joints where two bones meet. Joint symptoms commonly include swelling, tenderness, warmth, stiffness, and inflammation. Less common symptoms include skin rash symptoms, eye pain/sensitivity, diarrhea, bloating, shortness of breath, fatigues, fever, or heart issues.

Symptoms are broad because there are many types of JA including: juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile myositis, juvenile Lupus, juvenile scleroderma, vasculitis, and fibromyalgia.

OrthoConnecticut helps treat several types of Juvenile Arthritis and can work with your pediatrician and/or pediatric rheumatologist to prescribe the right treatment.

Tips to Manage JA

  • If possible, set up regular visits with a pediatric rheumatologist to follow, manage, and advise on treatment options. The goal is to help your child be as active as possible when symptoms are under control. See these ideas on how to make the most out of your appointment.
  • Join a pediatric and/or adult/family support group – you are not alone, and neither is your child.
  • Encourage exercise with friends as well as physical therapy to keep joints strong and flexible.
  • Having JA is no one’s fault but your child may feel responsible like he/she did something wrong. Try to normalize the situation and explain the normal patterns of genetic disease.
  • Learn about the Federal laws that support kids with JA in school.

Healthy Eating for JA

Kids with JA need to balance food for healthy growth and development while limiting those that are inflammatory. recommends focusing on a diet with whole, unprocessed foods, whole fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fatty fish.

Food to emphasize in the diet include:

  • Protein – eat fatty fish (think salmon), lean poultry and beef, and emphasize plant-based foods such as lentils, legumes, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
  • High Fiber Foods – look for whole grains, quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans, and lentils.
  • Foods with Omega-3s – fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines (in limited amounts due to mercury) are great but not all kids will eat fish. Focus on also adding in walnuts and seeds (flax, chia, hemp) which the body can convert to omega 3.
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables – the darker and more colorful fruit and veggies include disease fighting chemicals and can be added to meals, smoothies, blended and pureed to incorporate into other dishes, or made into chips, or spreads.
  • Herbs and spices – make your meals taste great with more herbs and spices, less salt and less sugar. You can reduce inflammation with ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and rosemary.
  • Calcium and D-rich foods – boosts immunity and helps build strong bones.

Avoid or limit foods that can cause inflammation including:

  • Charred foods – charring food black, especially fatty meat, has higher pro-inflammatory compounds. Broiling, steaming, and baking are better options than the BBQ.
  • Saturated and trans fats – releases inflammatory proteins into the blood stream. Limit fatty, processed meats, and butter, and possibly coconut oil, and instead replace with heart-healthy olive oil.
  • Sugar – often found in ketchup, salad dressing, and white bread, sugar increases blood sugar levels, bacterial gut growth, and inflammation.
  • Artificial ingredients – avoid partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, and sweeteners. A helpful rule is to stick to processed foods with no more than 5 to 6 ingredients.

OrthoConnecticut can help!

If you or a loved one has Juvenile Arthritis, please contact us today. Our physicians can work with your Pediatrician and Rheumatologist to help establish a proper treatment plan.

Contact us today to learn more or to make an appointment.