Juvenile arthritis isn’t a single disease — it’s actually a group of related illnesses, first occurring during childhood. These diseases haves names like juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile dermatomyositis, and juvenile lupus. While most children with juvenile arthritis will experience red, swollen, painful joints, some children do not. Some children may have different signs and symptoms of the disease, such as eye problems, skin abnormalities or blood vessel disease.
The common feature of every form of juvenile arthritis is a problem with the immune system. While there is no known cure for the disease, research indicates that prebiotics may be able to help control juvenile arthritis.
The Gut’s Immune System and the Role of Gut Bacteria
The gastrointestinal tract has a complex and vibrant immune system. The gut’s immune system helps protect the body against pathogens that may otherwise enter the body through the intestinal tract. Moreover, the bacteria that live within the gut are critical to the proper functioning of the gut’s immune system.1,2 By extension, gut bacteria are important for the health of the whole body’s immune system, since it is estimated that as much as 80% of our entire immune system is in our gut!
Juvenile Arthritis and the Gut Microbiome
It may seem odd that juvenile arthritis could be related to bacteria in the gut, but that may be the case. In one preliminary study from the Netherlands, children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis were found to have a different population of bacteria in their guts compared to healthy children without juvenile arthritis.3 Specifically, children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis have a “lack of diversity” in Firmicutes bacteria in the gut. Simply put, there is a different assortment of healthy gut microbes in patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (idiopathic means “from unknown causes”).
Other forms of juvenile arthritis show similar results. Children with enthesitis-related arthritis have lower numbers of Faecalibacterium species in the gut.4 Enthesitis is soreness and irritation where muscles and ligaments attach to bones. One species, in particular, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, was particularly low in children with this form of juvenile arthritis.
Other researchers have shown that some forms of bacteria are uniquely present in children with juvenile arthritis — specifically, Actinobacteria and Fusobacteria.5 A different type, Lentisphaerae, was present only in healthy children. These results suggest that the composition of the microbiome may be either casually or otherwise related to various types of juvenile arthritis.
Can Prebiotics Help Children With Juvenile Arthritis?
The only way to definitively determine whether prebiotics help children with juvenile arthritis is to perform a clinical trial. Unfortunately, this testing has not yet been done. Nonetheless, there are compelling reasons to think that prebiotics may indeed be helpful in juvenile arthritis.
Prebiotics selectively support the growth and development of healthy gut bacteria.6,7 In other words, prebiotics such as oligofructose and inulin feed healthy gut bacteria at the expense of unhealthy bacteria. It’s possible to change the number and type of bacteria living in the gut simply by changing your diet.
There are differences in gastrointestinal bacteria between healthy children and children with juvenile arthritis. The differences are such that these bacteria may play a role in the development of these serious diseases. Based on these preliminary studies and potentially more important to those already diagnosed with juvenile arthritis is the potential benefit prebiotics may provide as a treatment. While it remains to be seen whether prebiotics can prevent or treat juvenile arthritis, prebiotics are a way to promote the growth and development of healthy gastrointestinal bacteria.
For a Lifetime of Great Gut Health – Just Feed It! with Prebiotin
- Fasano A, Shea-Donohue T. Mechanisms of Disease: the role of intestinal barrier function in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal autoimmune diseases. Nat Clin Pract Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2005;2(9):416-422.
- Quigley EM. Gut bacteria in health and disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). Sep 2013;9(9):560-569.
- Hissink Muller P, Westedt P, Budding A, et al. PReS-FINAL-2160: Intestinal microbiome in polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis: a pilot study. Pediatric Rheumatology. 2013;11(2):1-2. doi:10.1186/1546-0096-11-s2-p172
- Stoll ML, Kumar R, Morrow CD, et al. Altered microbiota associated with abnormal humoral immune responses to commensal organisms in enthesitis-related arthritis. Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2014;16(6):1-10. doi:10.1186/s13075-014-0486-0
- Tejesvi MV, Arvonen M, Kangas SM, et al. Faecal microbiome in new-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis. European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases. 2016;35(3):363-370. doi:10.1007/s10096-015-2548-x
- Voreades N, Kozil A, Weir TL. Diet and the development of the human intestinal microbiome. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2014;5:494. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00494
- Vitetta L, Coulson S, Linnane AW, Butt H. The gastrointestinal microbiome and musculoskeletal diseases: a beneficial role for probiotics and prebiotics. Pathogens. 2013;2(4):606-626.