Can a gluten-free diet help a child with Juvenile Arthritis?

“Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that is characterized by swelling, heat, and pain.” (KidsHealth (from Nemours) Web site)

I often wonder why a gluten-free diet, which reduces inflammation in the body, is not recommended by physicians for people of any age with arthritis pain. When I experienced significant arthritis pain on the lower part of my spine and mentioned a gluten-free diet to the surgeon his reply, surprisingly, showed he did not hold much stock in the idea.

Maybe because doctors, like many people, don’t understand that it is relatively easy these days to follow a diet that is free of gluten.  Maybe they think “diet” and think weight-loss?  Changing eating habits to reduce inflammation is the goal of a gluten-free diet – not weight loss.

It takes six weeks to three months to see the benefits of following a gluten-free diet. You cannot cheat. A wheat cracker or pretzel can prevent you from seeing positive results. After three months, if you don’t see improvement, it is probably not worth staying on the diet and making it a lifetime habit.

For the past three plus years I have been pain-free from arthritis simply from sticking to a gluten-free diet.  When I recommended the diet to a good friend with arthritis pain she also tried it and was amazed at how much better she felt. She also remains on this diet to this day.

Trying a gluten-free diet is not that hard. There are so many products and whole foods on the market that are gluten-free and taste good.  As with any “diet” it does require some light research to learn what’s allowed and what’s not (from the Mayo Clinic Website), plus some time each day to make sure you have gluten-free snacks and options within your reach. Check out our gluten-free recipes on this blog, plus a recent post about making a gluten-free meal for the first time. Also, keep in mind that most of your favorite recipes can be made gluten-free, with simple ingredient substitutions.

Boy using alligator microwave heating pad for arthtitis

Stay tuned for more information with ideas and tips for following a gluten-free diet (for kids or adults) and more about JA. If you know a child who has arthritis, a microwave heating pad that doubles as an ice pack makes a comforting gift and is sure to bring a smile – especially if it is an animal shaped one, like Al-the-Gator or our adorable Hot Dog.

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