Helping Children

Some Topics

Inflammatory Arthritis

There are many patterns of arthritis. A group of related joint and connective tissue disorders have been called rheumatic diseases. All these diseases are immune-mediated, and all are expressions of inflammation in connective tissues. Joint involvement is diagnosed as arthritis. There are several distinct patterns.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of joints and other tissues that affects approximately five million individuals of all ages in the United States and Canada. The disease is characterized by persistent inflammation of the joints with swelling and progressive deformity associated with stiffness, pain, and reduced mobility.

In children the onset of the inflammatory arthritis is an acute whole body illness 20% of the time with fever, joint pain with swelling, rash, generalized lymphadenopathy, enlarged spleen, liver and digestive tract disease. A single joint, usually the knee, is involved in 30%, and in 50% multiple joints are involved. Flu-like symptoms may precede the onset of arthritis for months to years. The temperature often peaks in the late afternoon or evening, to a level of 39 C or higher with a rapid return to normal. Chills are common. Children can be well between attacks of fever. The rheumatoid rash consists of 2-5 mm red macules most commonly seen on the trunk and proximal extremities.

Autoimmune Disease? Rheumatoid arthritis is often considered an autoimmune disease.
The concept of autoimmunity needs constant revision:

  • It is clear that immune cells attack tissues of the host.
  • It is not clear that this self-attack arises in the absence of external pathogens.
  • Our idea is that no disease is 100% internally generated and must involve outside contributions. Despite years of research, no one has come up with a proven pathogen. Bacteria and viruses have been considered, but no definitive evidence of infection has emerged. The missing idea is that antigens in the food supply can act like infectious agents and can sustain chronic inflammatory disease. Food antigens are mostly proteins and proteins altered by sugars or fats attaching to them. Some antigens are small molecules, such as drugs that attach to serum proteins. Other antigens may be carbohydrate polymers such as proteoglycans, the components of cartilage and fibrous tissue. An important clue is that inflammatory arthritis is often associated with inflammatory bowel disease. The mechanisms of delayed patterns of food allergy link abnormal digestive tract function with immune attacks on connective tissue.

    The idea that food can actually cause inflammatory arthritis is difficult to believe and widely dismissed by physicians. The fact is that food can cause arthritis. The pathogenic possibility is not in doubt, at least if you read the medical literature carefully. What is unknown is how many children have food-induced arthritis. How much suffering is caused by ordinary food and how much relief can be obtained by changing food choices? Food proteins such as cow’s milk and wheat can enter the blood stream and travel to the tissues around joints. A foreign protein is usually captured by an antibody and travels as an immune complex. Immune complexes that end up in tissues can trigger inflammation. We encourage all people at any age with inflammatory arthritis to try diet revision using the Alpha Nutrition Program. The sooner you begin, the better the result.