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Juvenile Arthritis. Is There an Allergy Connection?

By Raisa Weisspapir 

Juvenile arthritis is a form of rheumatoid arthritis that occurs in childhood and adolescence (before the age of sixteen). The disease primarily affects the joints, but can also cause heavy damage to organs and systems such as the heart, blood vessels, skin, eyes, and peripheral nerves. It affects one in one thousand Canadian children under 16 years old. It's one of the most persistent childhood diseases. It may take a mild form, however, at times it can lead to serious complications. More girls than boys are affected and its severity differs from child to child.

The “Mystery” Causes of Juvenile Arthritis:

It is conventionally considered to be an autoimmune disease, when the body attacks it own tissue. The immune system behaves as if some normal part of a child's body is actually a foreign substance. As a result, it mistakenly attacks his/her joints, causing the symptoms of juvenile arthritis.

A number of possible causes for Juvenile Arthritis have been suggested. Some researchers feel that the disease may have a genetic basis. It seems to occur more often in some families than in others. Other researchers think that bacteria or viruses may cause such as Mycoplasma Pneumonia or Chlamydia.

Recent studies show that environmental factors are also involved in development of the disease.

Major Environmental Factors

Pollen, dust, mold, animal, food allergens, chemical, or infectious agents may all be capable of triggering symptoms.

Such chemical triggers to be considered are:

sulphites (preservatives in some foods and alcohols), artificial sweeteners, food dyes, fragrances, natural gas, chlorine, formaldehyde, paint fumes, products containing phenol, fabric softeners, insecticides, air fresheners, new carpet odours and new-car smells, scented candles, plug-ins, tobacco, odours emanating from soaps and shampoos and conditioners, as well as VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) smells from mouldy, musty places.

Can Foods Cause Arthritis?

Yes, joint pains can be a delayed manifestation of a food sensitivity reaction. Sometimes joint pains can appear only in 48 to 72 hours after the food.

Foods known to produce allergic arthritis include cow's milk which is most prevalent, wheat, egg, corn, beef, pork, chicken, nuts, tomato, chocolate, alcohol, and citrus follow in close succession. Pork allergy is surprisingly important in the cause of juvenile arthritis. Pork has a predilection for involvement of the joints. Its importance has not been emphasized in the past and therefore, it has frequently been overlooked as a major cause of allergic arthritic pain. Meats in general appear to be notorious for triggering arthritic pain; that is why many specialists recommend a plant based diet.

The Hidden Allergy of Milk and Dairy.

If a child consumes any form of dairy, be it milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, or even dairy in the form of casein or whey in another food product, such as bread or milk chocolate, then it can potentially trigger the symptoms of food allergy. One must keep in mind that symptoms may show up hours or even days later, after a food is absorbed into your child's system.

Milk and milk derivatives are used in a wide range of food products. It is a hidden allergen and reactions have been reported even to non-dairy products through contamination with milk.

Why is cow's milk highly allergic?

Cow-milk contains at least 30 protein components that may provoke patient's antibody response. Imagine that a single drop of milk, about 50 micro litres, contains almost 2 mg of total protein!

Most cow-milk allergic patients react to several protein fractions including casein, serum albumin and immunoglobulin. In adults Casein is considered to be the predominant allergen. In infants and small children, the whey protein called beta-lacto globulin, is probably the major milk allergen.

How Do I Determine if My Child Has a Food Allergy?

For the reasons stated above, the best way to determine if your child has a food allergy is to have his/her blood tested for antibodies to a variety of foods. This is done with an ELISA Food Allergy Panel, which measures your immune response to approximately 96 different foods.

What are the warning signs of childhood arthritis?

Small children with arthritis do not always complain of pain. Sometimes the only initial clue to arthritis may be that the child is:

  • stiff upon awakening in the morning or after a nap

  • limping or walking on toes

  • gets tired quickly while walking and wants to be carried

  • has long-lasting ”growing pain” at night

  • a swollen joint after viral infection

A child is generally diagnosed with juvenile arthritis if the signs and symptoms of arthritis (swelling, redness, stiffness and warmth in the joints) last more than six weeks.

What can be done for a child with Juvenile Arthritis?

From my experience, careful monitoring of child's condition, healthy life-style and diet, homeopathic medicine and environmental changes can help tremendously a child to alleviate the pain, and also to prevent development of serious complications.

Usually my program has been based on an individual approach for every child, and includes:

  • Full assessment – child's symptoms, parent's medical history and mothers condition during pregnancy

  • Complete evaluation of home environment: presence of animals, carpets, moulds, chemicals, and other toxic substances

Observing children with juvenile arthritis, I have noticed that the character of pain correlates to the surroundings. For example joints that are more painful on wet foggy days suggest possible mould sensitivity.

Stiff fingers in the middle of the night often show the allergic reaction to food eaten during the previous evening. So, the first question I would ask parents: “What did he/she eat?”

Sometimes arthritic pain disappears shortly after children go on vacation but recur as soon as they come back home due to certain chemicals, like gas in kitchen stove or perfume.

  • Food allergy and chemical sensitivities testing

  • Changes in home - allergy-free, chemical-free environment

  • Food elimination diet and rotary diet - it helps to reduce food allergies and sensitivities

  • Medicinal herbs and supplements, such as Cat's claw and Essential Fatty Acids

  • Homeopathic treatment: here are just some examples of homeopathic remedies I use for children:

Ledum palustre – is a very old and well tried remedy. Pain is worse in the evening. Joints are swollen and tense, pain is worse from warmth of bedclothes, motion. Left shoulder and right hip joints maybe affected.

Bryonia alba - is a major remedy for chronic conditions. All complaints are worse due to motion, better from lying down on painful side and from sweating.

Actaea spicata – has an affinity for the small joints, especially of hands and feet. Right wrist pains can be intolerable, motion is impossible, slightest pressure on palm causes patient to cry out.

Lycopodium clavatum – is a valuable remedy in chronic cases, when pain is always worse until evening and in warmth, worse on right side, joints of hands and fingers are swollen and puffy.

Kalmia latifolia - should never be forgotten. There are the acute pains going from joint to joint with violent fever, with particular violence in the ankles, which are swollen and worse from the least motion.

Tips for Parents

  • Make raw foods part of your child's daily diet – raw foods contain enzymes that aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients. For example, fresh pineapple contains bromelain - an enzyme excellent for reducing inflammation. Red tart cherries can relieve pain and inflammation too.

  • Go organic to limit your child's exposure to toxins as much as possible. Chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates, bovine growth hormones, chlorogenic pesticides, DDT and others have been linked to rheumatoid arthritis

  • Include more sulphur-containing foods, such as asparagus, garlic and onion. Sulphur is needed for the repair and rebuilding of bone and better absorption of calcium

  • Avoid nightshade vegetables (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes), because the substance solanine may cause pain and discomfort

  • Eliminate milk and dairy products as well as any food your child is sensitive to

  • Let your child spend more time outdoors getting fresh air and sunshine. It helps with synthesis of vitamin D, which is needed for proper bone formation

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