Can Berries Help? 3 Recipes to Reduce Juvenile Arthritis Pain
by Stacy Thomas | July 29, 2020, updated 9 months ago
There is nothing worse than watching your child suffer. If you are a parent or guardian of a child with arthritis, you might be desperate to find some relief for them. Perhaps berries can be a part of your daily care routine.
Always talk to your doctor before starting new supplements and treatments. That being said, non-invasive nutritional care can help ease your child’s arthritis pain.
What Is Juvenile Arthritis?
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is the catch-all term for any arthritic condition that occurs before the age of 16 and continues for six weeks or longer. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells, and it strikes seemingly at random. As with adults, the root cause of juvenile arthritis is largely unknown, and the proposed causes range from genetics to environment, to growing pains. One thing that remains clear after decades of study is that there is no ‘cure.’
Arthritis is a complicated condition with many symptoms—your child could be living with one or any combination of them, including rashes, fever, swelling of the joints, or generalized pain. As you and your doctor attempt to find a treatment plan that works for your child, it can feel like an infuriating process of trial-and-error, with your son or daughter playing the guinea pig.
Berries—The Magic Ingredient
The common link between all forms of arthritis is inflammation. Whatever the cause, the joints and surrounding tissues swell painfully. As a guardian of a child with arthritis, you may be searching for non-pharmacological, complementary ways to reduce inflammation, and nutrition may be one of the first places you look.
You can certainly optimize your diet to be right in high-antioxidant foods. It’s something recommended for adults with arthritis all of the time. As an adult, your kid will be happy with the addition of more spinach, broccoli, and fish into their diet, right? Maybe not.
Luckily, there are berries. Berries are amazing foods that are known to significantly reduce inflammation, and help to ease arthritis symptoms—and most kids like them.
Blueberries in particular have even been shown to reduce side effects and increase the efficacy of some known juvenile arthritis medications. While eating berries is pretty much harmless, you may still want to talk to your doctor if you want to explore this option. If your doctor is like many doctors and is not necessarily educated about nutrition, you may also find it beneficial to speak with a dietitian or nutritionist about anti-inflammatory foods.
Fruits can be major allies in the treatment of arthritis, but berries even stand out from this crowd, because they are packed with polyphenolic flavonoids which have powerful natural anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects. The very compounds that give berries their deep, beautiful color, anthocyanins and carotenoids, help rid the body of free radicals that cause inflammation, as well as other diseases and some cancers.
The most commonly eaten berries in North America—blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries—have the healing power to reduce arthritis symptoms in your child. In one study on rats, the raspberry extract reduced tissue swelling and other arthritis symptoms significantly. Another study found that women who ate 16 or more strawberries per week had lower measures of the body-wide inflammation that contributes to arthritis flares.
Inflammation-reducing flavonoids like quercetin are contained in many foods, like onions, brassica vegetables (kale, cabbage, etc.), shallots, garlic, and many types of nuts and seeds. These foods aren’t always the most appealing to kids, which arguably makes berries one of the best antioxidant foods to focus on packing into your child’s diet. Berries are easily incorporated into kid-friendly recipes like smoothies, baked treats, and frozen yogurt. Fruit juices and extracts are also an easier sell—good luck getting your kid to drink a glass of fresh-squeezed kale, a berry smoothie, however…
While certainly not a cure for juvenile arthritis, the consumption of simple everyday berries like blueberries, and not so common ones like lingonberry and bilberry, can help to improve your child’s arthritis symptoms and ease their pain.
Three Simple Berry-Packed Recipes Your Kid Will Love
Here are some fun berry-based recipes that will help you boost your child’s anti-inflammatory food intake.
Mixed berry smoothie
Fill your glass half full with coconut, almond or oat milk and pour it into a blender.
Add a big handful (at least half a cup) of frozen or fresh berries (frozen will make for a colder, thicker smoothie), and ¼ - ½ of a frozen banana. Add a few ice cubes if using fresh berries.
Add a healthy fiber-filled protein like hemp hearts, chia, or pumpkin seeds, and a teaspoon of coconut milk.
A scoop of Greek yogurt, which is a protein-heavy hitter, is optional.
A fresh Turkish date can sweeten it up even more if your kid is into sweets.
Add in some greens for a boost of yet-more-antioxidants and anti-inflammatory power. Consider spinach or kale, preferably organic. If your child is ‘allergic’ to green food, leave it out! Keep in mind rough greens like kale requires longer blender time to make the smoothie nice and creamy.
Blend all this up and add more milk as needed to make it nice and smooth.
Fill a glass half full with crushed ice.
Add ½ cup fresh raspberries
Top with sparkly water and lemon juice.
Fresh mint leaves and sugar are optional if you want to be super fancy.
Blueberry ice cream pops
Slice up a bunch of ripe bananas and freeze them on a tray lined with parchment paper.
Once they’re frozen, thaw them out ever so slightly, until they’re not rock hard anymore.
Throw them into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth and creamy. Taste it—it really does taste like ice cream!
Mix it up in a bowl with frozen blueberries, and place them in popsicle forms. Pop them back into the freezer.
There you have it, a health not-ice-cream pop!
Increasing berry intake has been shown in studies to help reduce arthritis-associated inflammation and pain, but there is still a lot to learn. If you would like more in-depth information about how to use diet and nutrition to help ease your child’s juvenile arthritis symptoms, there are many talented holistic nutritionists on our roster who are waiting to hear from you. Check them out here and get started today.
Stacy Thomas was born and raised among the orchards of the Okanagan Valley. She studied journalism in Vancouver, B.C., and has worked as a reporter in places such as Germany, Ukraine, Northern B.C. and rural Alberta. Passionate about nature, she now lives in Squamish with her partner Nicki and her rescue dog Harley. She is currently a student of creative writing at the University of British Columbia, where she draws comics and writes poetry.