Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief Naturally

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) and related forms of juvenile arthritis affects nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. a government study reported in December, 2007. Natural dietary and herbal supplements have a tremendous attraction for people who are frustrated with the arthritis solutions offered by conventional medicine, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Most parents realize there’s no magic cure, they’re simply seeking better relief of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. They hope these symptoms will be better controlled if they try a supplement or herbal extract in addition to their formally prescribed drug medication.

There are no conclusive studies linked to the effectiveness of dietary supplements in treatment for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Nonetheless, many people eagerly pursue plant and herbal alternatives because of a belief that they’re safe when compared to the side effects of drugs. My husband and I both have arthritis and have been effectively using natural dietary supplements in lieu of drug therapy. Of course, our osteoarthritis is not the same as rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile RA. But most types of arthritis are treated at the outset with the same basic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and these are the ones that we were able to reduce, then replace completely.

What is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis?

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a type of childhood arthritis that happens in children age 16 or younger. It’s also called juvenile idiopathic arthritis or Still’s disease, according to the U.S. Government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH). It can affect any joint and in less frequent cases internal organs as well.

The main difference between juvenile and adult rheumatoid arthritis is that more than half of all JRA children outgrow the illness, while adults usually have lifelong symptoms, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease.

Another difference is the rheumatoid factor (RF), an antibody found in the blood of many people with RA. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient’s Guide to Medical Tests shows up to 80 percent of adults with RA have signs of RF, but less than 50 percent of JRA children are RF positive. Presence of the RF factor means there’s an increased chance that JRA will continue into adulthood.

What is the cause of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis?

No one knows for sure what causes juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. A number of different explanations have been offered to explain the onset of JRA. There does seem to be a genetic link, based on the fact that the tendency to develop JRA sometimes runs in particular families, and based on the fact that certain genetic markers are more frequently found in patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and other related diseases.

Recent research has shown that several autoimmune diseases, including JRA, share a common genetic link. In other words, patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis might share common genes with family members who have other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, multiple sclerosis, and others.

Researchers have also looked for an infectious cause for JRA, but no clear connection to a particular organism has ever been established. Some consider juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as an autoimmune disease, a disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues as if they were foreign. The body tries to eliminate the invader (such as it does with bacteria, virus, or fungi).

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis prevalence

A study published in the December, 2007 issue of Arthritis Care & Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates one in 250 U.S. children (294,000) has been diagnosed with arthritis or another rheumatologic condition.

The study is the first national data-based estimate for children under age 18. The study was prompted by the Arthritis Prevention, Control, and Cure Act of 2004 which called for better determining the size of childhood arthritis problem.

The results provide for the first time a national data-based estimate of the number of arthritis-diagnosed children across the United States and within each state, creating a benchmark to measure future shifts in occurrence

Joint inflammation is the common symptom for all childhood arthritis

The American College of Rheumatology defines juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a chronic condition that causes inflammation in one or more joints and begins before the age of 16.

The symptoms usually include joint swelling, reduced flexibility or motion from stiffness. According to the NIH, an early sign of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may be limping in the morning, and this can appear and disappear. Some children have one or two flare-ups, others have continual symptoms. In severe instances, growth problems are noted in some children.

The most common symptom overall is persistent joint swelling, pain, and stiffness typically worse in the morning or after a nap. Many younger children don’t complain of pain, but this doesn’t mean they don’t have pain.

There are several different symptom patterns of arthritis in children. Though all have joint inflammation in common, they behave very differently and may require different treatment approaches.

Symptoms lead to diagnosis for one of three major JRA types

According to the Arthritis Foundation, there is no single test to diagnose juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The diagnosis is made when there has been persistent arthritis in one or more joints for at least 6 weeks after other possible illnesses have been ruled out.

Sometimes, a variety of tests may be necessary to arrive at a firm diagnosis. Laboratory tests often show normal results. As with any chronic disease, anemia may be noted.

Once your child's physician suspects or makes this diagnosis, your child may be referred to a pediatric rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of children with arthritis and arthritis-related conditions.

The type of juvenile arthritis is usually determined based on the symptoms your child has had during the first 6 months of the illness. The 3 major types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are:

  1. Pauciarticular disease—affects 4 or fewer joints. Usually larger joints such as a knee or ankle are affected by this type of JRA. About half of all children with arthritis are in this category, some very young, from infancy to five. Some children with this form of JRA experience painless swelling of the joint. Others have a serious inflammation of structures within the eye, which if left undiagnosed and untreated could even lead to blindness. This condition is known as uveitis, and affects about 20% of children diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

  2. Polyarticular disease--affects 5 or more joints (often many more) and can begin at any age. About 40 percent of all cases of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are of this type. It is most common in children up to age three or after the age of 10, affecting more girls than boys. Although this kind of JRA usually involves large joints (knees, wrists, elbows, ankles), small joints of the hand and feet are also often involved. Polyarticular JRA is often symmetrical, meaning the same joints on both sides of the body are involved (both hands, both knees, etc). Additionally, the joints of the neck (cervical spine) and jaw may also be affected. Some of these children have adult-type arthritis that begins at an earlier age than usual.

  3. Systemic onset disease—(sometimes called Still’s disease) begins with very high fevers and often as a skin rash, decreased appetite, weight loss, joint and muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, liver and spleen. Other symptoms include swelling, pain, and limited joint motion. Affects at least one joint but causes inflammation of internal organs, such as the heart, lungs and liver as well. Symptoms can be present for weeks at a time, then subside. About 10-20 percent of children with arthritis have this type of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of actual arthritis begin later in the course of systemic onset JRA, and they often involve the wrists and ankles. Many of these children continue to have periodic flares of fever and systemic symptoms throughout childhood.

Exercise and diet are effective for symptom relief

Resistance exercise is one of the best natural therapies for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, according to a 1999 study at the University of Buffalo in New York. In the eight-week study, children did lower body exercises for three one-hour sessions weekly. In just two months, the children had a 40-60% increase in muscle strength, speed, and endurance. The less fit the child was at the beginning, the more improvement was shown. In the same study, pain was reduced by 50 percent and medication use was cut by 25 percent.

In a related study, researchers found exercise decreased inflammatory agents while increasing anti-inflammatory compounds in the body, thereby improving immune function of arthritis in children.

A strict vegetarian diet is also believed to play a role in treating juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. This type of diet is low in fats. Elimination of wheat may also be helpful, as well as a allergy elimination diet. A number of autoimmune disorders, including JRA, seem to have a relationship to food allergies, so identification and elimination of reactive foods may result in a decrease in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis symptom

Treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

Several types of medication are available to treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, including:

  1. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—These are often the first type of treatment, including ibuprofen, naproxen or naproxen sodium.

  2. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)—If NSAIDs do not relieve symptoms, these drugs are often prescribed in combination with the NSAIDs. It takes weeks or months for DMARDs to slow progression of JRA.

  3. Corticosteroids—These are stronger medicines needed to stop serious symptoms. A corticosteroid such as prednisone may be added to the treatment plan. The stronger the drug, the stronger are its side effects. Corticosteroids can cause weakened bones and increased susceptibility to infections.

  4. Biologic agents—Children with polyarticular JRA who have obtained little relief from other drugs, may be given one of a class of drugs called “biologic agents”. These drugs block the actions of tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a naturally occurring protein that can cause inflammation.

    In a recent development concerning four TNF drugs—Enbrel, Remicade, Humira and Cimzia--on September 4, 2008 the FDA ordered stronger warnings on these four medications widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other serious illnesses, saying they can raise the risk of possibly fatal fungal infections. The drugs work by suppressing the immune system, which leaves patients vulnerable to developing a fungal infection, which, if not treated, can be fatal. The four drugs already have warnings about the risk of infections but the language varies drug to drug.

  5. Physical therapy--Exercise can help to maintain muscle tone and preserve and recover the range of motion of the joints. It is an important part of a child's treatment plan. A physical therapist can customize an exercise program for a child with JRA.

  6. Complementary and alternative medicine--Many people seek alternative ways of treating arthritis, such as special diets or acupuncture. No research to date shows these methods help, but they’re not considered harmful.

  7. Dietary supplements—Others have successfully used dietary and herbal supplements for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis relief. Some studies show several supplements may be helpful in reducing symptoms of arthritis and others for rheumatoid arthritis. There are no studies specifically for JRA but many people use dietary supplements as an alternative treatment. The following is a list of dietary supplements from Arthritis Today, a publication of The Arthritis Foundation June 6, 2007:
    • GLA (borage seed oil)—GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is found in the oils of some plant seeds, including borage (Borago officinalis L.). The human body produces its own GLA from linoleic acid (LA) however, lack of GLA occurs when people grow older, have rheumatoid arthritis or other diseases, or have specific dietary deficiencies. The Mayo Clinic reported online that some studies indicate GLA may help with rheumatoid arthritis pain, morning stiffness and grip strength.

    • Fish oil—Fish oil contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). As with GLA, the body can use omega 3’s to make substances that reduce inflammation. Fish oil may reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain and stiffness but more study is needed. Omega-3 fatty acids are also noted by Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Mass. as an effective tool for lessening the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

    • Valerian--Valerian (valeriana officinalis) root has a history of use for promoting a calm, restful sleep and helps relieve anxiety disorders by maintaining a relaxed state naturally. Disrupted sleep has been called a common and often neglected symptom of arthritis, yet it’s thought to be one of the main reasons people seek natural alternative treatment.

    • Boswellia—Boswellia (boswellia serrata), also known as Indian frankincense, is effective as an anti-inflammatory. A study published in Phytomedicine in January, 2003 examined thirty patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. The conclusions were: “Boswellia serrata extract is recommended in the patients of osteoarthritis of the knee with possible therapeutic use in other arthritis.” Other boswellia studies have demonstrated its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Disease studies with good reports include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and bursitis.

    • Glucosamine hydrochloride-- Glucosamine is a substance found in the fluid around the joints, which the body uses to make and repair cartilage. It’s a sugar compound found naturally in the body, made from glucose and the amino acid glutamine. A 2007 Japanese study of rheumatoid arthritis patients published in Rheumatology International by Nakamura, H., et al. showed that taking 1500 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride daily significantly improved symptoms according to patient self-evaluation and physician evaluation. This treatment did not alter measures of inflammation as determined through blood tests.

      Natural vitamin supplements may be beneficial for JRA relief

      There have been no conclusive studies linking natural vitamins to arthritis prevention or specific arthritis symptom improvement. However, vitamins contain essential nutrients considered good nutrition for your health. Some medical practioners believe it’s even more important for rheumatoid arthritis patients to take a multivitamin multimineral supplement daily.

      “It's a simple premise," says Robert Cathcart, M.D., a physician in private practice in Los Altos, California, who specializes in nutritional therapy. "People who have a chronic disease such as this (rheumatoid arthritis) need extra amounts of certain nutrients to help their bodies fight the disease."

      Nutritional supplements that may be beneficial include large amounts of antioxidants (Vitamins C, A, E, zinc, selenium and flavonoids) as well as B-vitamins and a full complement of minerals (including boron, copper, manganese). One study reported in 1991 by the Arthritis & Rheumatism Journal showed 1,800 International Units (IU) of vitamin E a day could be helpful in relieving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

      Arthritis Foundation advice on supplements or herbs for JRA

      According to the Arthritis Foundation, if you decide to try a supplement or herb for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, proceed with caution and keep the following points in mind.

      • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor, pharmacist or other health professionals for their opinion or a recommendation.

      • Buy wisely. When purchasing a supplement, buy from a large company, they may have more stringent quality controls than small companies to maintain their good reputation.

      • Read labels carefully. Be aware that no supplement can lawfully claim to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent disease.

      • Try products one at a time. If you try only one you can keep track of its effect (or lack of effect). If you notice any side effects, stop taking the supplement right away.

      How to find the best nutritional dietary supplement company

      In order to find the best, most trusted source of dietary supplements, here are 30 standards of excellence questions that are particularly slanted in the area of solid science. After all, when it’s your health or your children’s health, you don’t want to make a mistake in selecting a supplement.

      Unfortunately, not all supplements are equal in the dietary supplement market and there are no laws or regulations currently to ensure that the supplement you buy actually works. This is because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers dietary supplements as foods, not as drugs. There are no pre-market testing regulations in force that require a supplement company to prove their product delivers as promised. That’s hard to believe, but it’s true. (See Natural arthritis pain relief)

      Therefore, only a company that voluntarily goes to the extra expense of conducting clinical trials and double-blind placebo controlled studies will have proof. When you find such a company, you’ve found the gold standard in the dietary supplement industry.

      The dietary supplement company that my husband and I use has been in business for 50-plus years and is known as the #1 natural nutrition company in the United States. It has invested more than $250 million in clinical testing, research and development and has over 90 published studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals—more than any other nutritional company!

      Only one dietary and herbal supplement company has a 20-year landmark study

      When investing in dietary supplements, consider it first as an investment in the health of your child or you. This way, you won't want to waste your money on poorly formulated or synthetic supplements containing artificial colors, sweeteners, binders, and fillers that will not be readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

      Instead, you'll want a high quality dietary supplement with ingredient purity, potency, and guaranteed efficacy that the body's cells will happily absorb.

      There's only one natural supplement company that can claim a 20-year clinical dietary supplement landmark study on its consumers that verifies from blood samples that its supplement users retained normal levels of blood pressure, HDL, cholesterol, triglycerides, C-reactive protein and homocysteine.

      The 2006 study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health, comparing one company's supplement users to people who took either no supplements or other brands of multivitamins from different companies. For details go to:

      Featured supplements for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis treatment

      I recommend the following high quality dietary supplements as recommended as possibly helpful by the Arthritis Foundation for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (they're made by the natural nutrition company featured above):

      GLA--My husband and I take a high quality GLA supplement complex consisting of GLA from borage seed oil, linoleic acid (LA) from sunflower seed oil/borage seed oil, and Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol concentrate). This combination of ingredients has helped both of us with the inflammatory issues from arthritis.

      Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids)-- The fish oil supplement my husband and I take has been formulated to minimize odor and fishy aftertaste, and contains higher levels of EPA and DHA than leading brands. It’s a safe high quality, high potency, triple molecular distillation pharmaceutical grade pure fish oil supplement considered by the science behind it as the finest fish oil supplement in the world. It’s safe for children.

      Valerian--We’re very happy with the valerian-based sleep supplement we’ve used for many years. Its formulation contains 225 mg daily of valerian extract, and a combined 410 mg in passion flower and chamomile extracts. It’s safe for children.

      Boswellia--My husband and I use a boswellia and safflower complex that gives us natural pain relief for my husband’s osteoarthritis (both knees) and my neck arthritis. We’ve both experienced comfortable movement and improved flexibility. The boswellia and safflower supplement is gentle on the stomach and contains no aspirin. It’s safe for children.

      Glucosamine--My husband and I use a glucosamine and cat’s claw complex that successfully improves joint function and flexibility. This product is all natural, contains no artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, or preservatives. Three capsules daily provide 1500 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride along with 100 mg of cat’s claw extract. We are very happy with the results because we are getting our money’s worth. It’s safe for children.

      Vitamin E—My husband and I use a vitamin-E, selenium, and grapeseed extract complex containing 400 I.U. vitamin E , 65 mcg selenium and 38 mg grapeseed per capsule for potent antioxidant protection from free radical cell damage. The natural vitamin E is more biologically active than the synthetic form and is better retained by the body for more effective antioxidant protection. It also is a d-alpha tocopherol concentrate and mixed tocopherols concentrate. It’s safe for children.

      Daily multivitamin-multimineral—as a foundation to our nutritional health, my husband and I use a high potency multivitamin & multimineral which is for adults but also children over 12 years old. This supplement is scientifically formulated as the most comprehensive and balanced multivitamin you can buy. It’s rich in biotin (100% daily value), the most expensive of all vitamins, plus 23 other essential nutrients. It’s easy to swallow and digest. It’s backed by extensive tests for potency and bioavailability. It has no added artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, or preservatives.

      And for children aged 4 through 12, a great-tasting multivitamin & multimineral for children is sugar-free and the most complete supplement for growing children available today. It has no artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, or preservatives added. Its chewable tablets are loved by kids and come in all-natural tropical punch, grape, and berry flavors in each bottle.

      There are studies that suggest the above listed supplements are helpful for childhood arthritis or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis the same as they are for adult arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

      My husband and I do not have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and cannot personally testify to the relief of JRA symptoms from the supplements we’re using. We are, however, confident in their potency and quality.

      For that reason, coupled with our faith in the company, we confidently recommend the above supplements for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. They are perfectly safe and have a 100% money-back guarantee.

      On other pages on this site, I answer the following four questions:

      What is rheumatoid arthritis?

      What are rheumatoid arthritis facts?

      What are the symptoms of living with rheumatoid arthritis?

      What are the natural treatments for RA pain relief?

      Disclaimer: Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis health statements related to supplementation have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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