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Diet and SJIA

Mealtime disputes over eating vegetables are common to every family but for parents of children with SJIA, ensuring your child maintains a healthy diet can be even more challenging.

How can SJIA affect diet?

A child affected by SJIA may experience a suppressed appetite, especially during flares. This could be as a result of the disease itself or perhaps a side-effect of a medication they are taking. When a child feels sick and is experiencing symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, fever or stomach pain, they may find eating difficult. It could also be physically difficult for them to eat, as arthritis in their hands may make using utensils much harder.

On the other hand, some medications could increase their appetite, meaning they feel hungry a lot of the time and perhaps eat more unhealthy food than they should.[1]

How can I make sure my child eats healthily?

All this can make it hard to ensure your child is getting all of the nutrients they need in order to grow and be healthy. But there are steps you can take to make food less of a struggle for you and your child.

A dietician or nutritional expert can work with you and your child to figure out ways to combat any food-related issues. This could be through behavioural changes such as altering mealtime routines, or it could be through dietary changes and suggestions on types of food to buy and cook.

It could also involve working with the dietician to educate your child about their diet and why it’s important to eat certain foods and get the nutrients they need to help their body grow strong and ready to deal with their flares.

Are there any foods which can help SJIA symptoms?

There is currently no evidence to support a special diet for children with SJIA and simply following a balanced diet is recommended. But there has been research into foods which may have a beneficial effect on arthritis symptoms, through fighting inflammation, strengthening bones and supporting the immune system:

  • Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, as these are high in omega-3 - for children, it might be an idea to make fishcakes, fish pie or have fish toppings for baked potatoes.
  • Olive oil – this “good fat” could be added to all sorts of dishes as a topping, dip or simply to cook in.
  • Berries – add to yoghurts or make ice lollies with these to give your child a boost in antioxidants and vitamins.
  • Vegetables high in Vitamin K such as broccoli, spinach, lettuce and kale – less “childfriendly” foods like these could be whizzed up in a healthy smoothie.
  • Citrus fruits that are high in Vitamin C – pop a tasty orange into their lunch bag as an easy snack.
  • Nuts including walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds – a handful of these could make a great snack during the day or before dinner time.
  • Beans such as pinto, black, red kidney and garbanzo – why not incorporate into their favourite pasta dishes with tomato sauce.[2-3]

These are just some suggestions, but simply doing what you can to help them keep a balanced diet and ensuring that they are receiving the right medical treatment are the most important ways to help them stay healthy with their condition.

References:
1) Kidsgetarthritistoo.org. (2018). Juvenile Arthritis Diet | Nutritional Therapy | Arthritis Today. [online] Available at: http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org/living-with-ja/daily-life/healthy-eating/juvenile-arthritis-nutrition.php
2) Kidsgetarthritistoo.org. (2018). Juvenile Arthritis | Diet | Kids Get Arthritis Too. [online] Available at: http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org/kids-and-teens/teens/every-day-with-ja/healthy-eating-ja-diet.php
3) Jia.org.uk. (2018). Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. [online] Available at: https://www.jia.org.uk/diet-and-jia

Learn more about SJIA (Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis)

SJIA is a rheumatic disease that affects children aged 5 years or younger. SJIA is the rarest form of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). 

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December 2015 - GLDEIM/ACZ885/0044