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A Diet for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
A Diet for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Omega-3 Photo Credit GooDween123/iStock/Getty Images

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA, causes joint pain, inflammation and stiffness. According to MedlinePlus.com, it is a common form of arthritis to affect children under age 16. Symptoms may persist throughout childhood only or progress into adulthood. In addition to medications, braces and physical therapy, a nutrient-rich diet may help prevent or alleviate symptoms of JRA while supporting children's wellness. Dietary changes should not be made without doctor's guidance.


Diets for children with rheumatoid arthritis aim to reduce or prevent painful inflammation while supporting children's overall wellness. The American Dietetic Association recommends that children ages 2 to 11 consume a diet that supports healthy weight, reduces risk of chronic disease, provides enjoyment and encourages regular physical activity.

Dietary Approaches/Effectiveness

Numerous dietary approaches claim to relieve or prevent arthritic symptoms. Such diets include fasting--periods of consuming juice or water only, vegan diets -- diets free of animal-derived products, and elimination diets -- diets that restrict certain foods believed to trigger symptoms. While some of these diets, other than fasting, can be meet a child's nutritional needs if pursued correctly, they lack scientific evidence of effectiveness and may cause harm, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center or UMMC.

Helpful Foods

Though foods cannot cure JRA, particular foods and nutrients may help prevent or reduce symptoms. According to the UMMC, omega-3 fatty acids -- essential fats the body must obtain through food -- may help alleviate inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Optimum sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, such as salmon, albacore tuna, lake trout, herring, sardines and mackerel. Omega-3 fatty acids may also be reaped from plant-based sources, including ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil. The UMMC suggests doctor's approval prior to use of omega-3 dietary supplements. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide an assortment of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants -- disease-fighting nutrients, and dietary fiber, which support children's overall health. A study in the December 2008 issue of "Arthritis and Rheumatism" reports that supplementing with calcium is beneficial to children with JRA, as they may develop reduced bone density and, therefore, weakened bones.

Harmful Foods

Excessive intake of foods high in added sugar and saturated and trans fats may damage children's wellness. Though research findings are mixed, a report published by the "British Journal of Nutrition" in 2000 found a potential link between unhealthy fats, nitrites -- substances used to cure and preserve various meats -- and increased pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Saturated fats are found in fatty red meat, dark-meat poultry, whole milk, cream, cheese and tropical oils. Trans fats are found in many processed snack foods, canned soups, fast foods, frozen entrees and in margarine, shortening and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Lunch meats, sausage, bacon and cured ham contain nitrites.


A healthy, balanced diet can support wellness in children with rheumatoid arthritis. According to a report from the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, some children with JRA have poor appetites, while others gain excess body weight from inactivity or as a side effect of medications. Thus, means of managing children's weight healthfully while encouraging positive body image, physical activity and enjoyment, can further enhance wellness.

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