Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA): The Functional Medicine Approach to Treatment & Reversal

Jun 29, 2023 | ANA, autoimmune disease, children, Functional medicine, inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, Thyroid

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis JIA explained by Dr David Bilstrom Functional Medicine Doctor
A core part of my approach to Functional Medicine is education. Reversing JIA happens faster when you and your child understand how the body works and the science that explains how wonderful it is at healing itself when given the proper support.

Meaning of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), is a type of arthritis that causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than six weeks in a child aged 16 or younger. The term “idiopathic” means “of unknown origin.”

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis affects approximately one in every 1,000 children. JIA is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells and tissues, in this case, the synovium, which is the tissue that lines the inside of joints. This leads to inflammation, which can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and in some cases, damage to joint cartilage and bones.

JIA can also have systemic effects, meaning it can affect other parts of the body, such as the eyes, skin, and internal organs.

Types of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis 

There are several types of JIA. The International League of Associations for Rheumatology (ILAR) has classified JIA into seven subtypes:

1. Oligoarticular JIA: This type affects fewer than five joints in the first six months of the disease. It’s often seen in the knees, ankles, and wrists.

2. Polyarticular JIA: This type affects five or more joints in the first six months. It can affect both small and large joints in the body.

3. Systemic JIA: This type affects the entire body, causing joint swelling and pain, rash, and fever.

4. Psoriatic JIA: This type is characterized by arthritis that often affects the fingers and toes and is combined with the skin disorder psoriasis.

5. Enthesitis-related JIA: This type is characterized by inflammation where tendons attach to bones, often in conjunction with arthritis.

6. Undifferentiated juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a subtype of JIA where the child’s condition doesn’t fit into any of the other specific subtypes, or fits into more than one.

7. Other Specified Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) is a classification used when a condition does not fit exactly into one of the six well-defined categories (oligoarticular, polyarticular, systemic, psoriatic, enthesitis-related, or undifferentiated arthritis), but still shows characteristics of JIA. This category allows rheumatologists to diagnose and treat arthritis in children that doesn’t strictly adhere to the other definitions.

Each subtype presents unique symptoms and challenges. However, the body is super, super logical, and the Functional Medicine approach to reversal is almost universal no matter what type of JIA your little one has (PS. My kids are 22 and 24, and I still think of them as my little ones.)

The Difference Between Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) and Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)

The short answer is there is no difference between JRA and JIA.

JIA was initially called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Idiopathic suggests that the condition’s cause is unknown, which is inaccurate.

Science (and Functional Medicine) does know its origins. It’s as though the new name implies, “We don’t know what causes this.” But in reality, we have a good understanding of where this condition stems from.

The Cause of JIA: Immune System Dysregulation

The immune system moves with its set point right in the middle, not too high, not too low. You don’t want your child’s immune system (or yours) to be too high or too low – there is a sweet spot in the middle.

When the immune system loses its set point right in the middle, the body moves away from the set point both up and down at the same time.

  • The up – overactive immune system issues are things like allergies, asthma, eczema, and autoimmune disease.
  • The down – underactive immune system issues are things like colds, flu, infections, recurrent infections, cancer and invisible infections that cause chronic disease, that we will discuss further, in paragraphs below.

This is where ideally, long before a diagnosis of autoimmune disease like JIA, you may see an immune system disruption already with things like children getting eczema, allergies, asthma, recurrent ear infections, recurrent strep throats, recurrent sinus infections, and UTIs.

Ideally, western allopathic medicine would say, “I see a disrupted immune system, and if we don’t reset it in the middle, we know the child is going to get more infections include the ones that drive chronic disease, and eventually autoimmune disease and/or cancer.”

Unfortunately, western allopathic medicine doesn’t react to a disrupted immune system like Functional Medicine does (as part of my life’s mission – I have created a course for practitioners to educate them on this important topic called Autoimmune PARADIGM, please share it with any practitioners you know).

The western allopathic approach is band-aid medications that provide relief of a few symptoms (which we want for our little ones) but, unfortunately, never address the underlying causes of why the immune system lost its set point in the first place. Making matters worse, band-aid medications have adverse side effects that can create new autoimmune disease.  I cover more about medications below.

Idiopathic is a Misnomer

I’m not particularly fond of the term ‘idiopathic.’ I firmly believe nothing in medicine is truly idiopathic; there’s always a cause or origin. If it seems like we don’t know where something comes from, it’s often because we haven’t discovered the root cause yet. But in the case of JIA, we do understand its root cause – a disrupted immune system.

One might say the name Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis is a bit idiotic 😂 and an example of why my mission is to revolutionize the way autoimmune disease is treated worldwide by teaching the fundamentals of Functional Medicine to parents, practitioners, and anyone willing to learn! 

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (aka JIA) is an epidemic on the rise, and with your help, we can turn the tide. Once you understand what causes JIA and how to turn it around, you can share it with practitioners, parents, and anyone suffering from autoimmune disease.  We have the answers. Now we have to get the word out. 

Let’s dive into how all this works!

The Role of Traditional Allopathic Medicine in Managing JIA

Traditional allopathic medicine focuses on managing the symptoms of JIA. The typical medical approach involves using Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs).

These medications can provide relief in managing acute symptoms, working like firefighters, quenching the inflammation fire that is characteristic of JIA. 

However, like firefighters who leave once the fire is under control, these medicines often do not address the source of the fire (the root cause of JIA).

Steroids: Managing Inflammation with Caution

>Steroids, such as corticosteroids, effectively reduce inflammation in JIA and provide symptom control. However, it’s essential to use steroids at the lowest effective dose and for the shortest duration possible. Prolonged steroid use can lead to increased infection risks and potential side effects like thinning of the bones and skin. 

Steroids suppress the immune system, making it even harder for the immune system to keep the invisible infections dormant/quiet that are driving the autoimmune disease in the first place.

Steroids also interfere with cortisol, the stress hormone involved in inflammation regulation.  Steroids can kick cortisol into the stress mode, and then cortisol can’t easily convert to cortisone like it’s supposed to. Cortisone is a steroid hormone for the body to get rid of inflammation. 

If steroids help reduce inflammation, it is a sign something is off with cortisol, but the steroids are only a bandaid and aren’t addressing why cortisol is not functioning as it should.  

Methotrexate and Biologics: Immune System Modulation

Methotrexate and biologics are commonly used in the treatment of JIA. Methotrexate is an immunosuppressant that helps control the overactive immune response, reducing joint inflammation. 

Biologics, on the other hand, target specific components of the immune system to modulate its activity. While these medications can, at times, effectively manage JIA symptoms, they carry potential risks, including increased infection susceptibility, increased risk of cancer, and increased risk of getting a second, third, and fourth autoimmune disease.  Don’t let this happen!

Your child’s body is super smart. It doesn’t want immune system suppression. What it wants is modulation and balance.  Your child’s natural healing intelligence is always moving towards balance. It just needs holistic support to get there.  This blog and my other courses can provide you with the support your child needs.

Don’t Quit The Meds Without a Plan

Transitioning into a Functional Medicine approach while continuing your child’s prescribed treatment to maintain their current health state is possible.  If the medicines provide temporary relief so your child can make it through the day, do what is necessary.  

However, these meds won’t address issues like sleep, mood, concentration, skin, etc. The immune system is not functioning properly.  Things will only get worse until you address why the immune system is out of balance.

None of the protocols I’m about to share (addressing infections, gut health, cortisol, etc.) will get in the way of medications. But once you get everything turned around, the gut is healthy. The infections are gone, and cortisol is reset. Then you’ll be in a really good position to have your child start coming off the meds with a high likelihood that they’ll be able to tolerate coming off them completely. 

Your child will also be much less likely to ever get flares because you’ll help them take care of why the immune system lost its set point and got disrupted in the first place. 

Please always check with your child’s pediatric rheumatologist before making any changes, and I encourage you to share with them this blog and/or my book for practitioners

Suggestion:  Share what you are learning with love and compassion.  Traditional doctors often have little time to study the latest science that’s outside their field of medicine.

They may be the absolute expert in the use of these types of medications but they may not know this information that we are discussing such as why people get these autoimmune disease in the first place and how to reverse the process. Helping them discover a reputable and proven approach to JIA can be a blessing for them and their patients.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment – the Functional Medicine Way

A Functional Medicine perspective looks at the root causes of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Instead of merely focusing on the flames, it seeks to understand why the fire (the disrupted immune system) started in the first place. Note I’m calling it juvenile rheumatoid arthritis because we know where it comes from and the treatment required to reverse it.

Because we focus on the root cause of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, regardless of the subtype, fixing the 7 Central Mechanisms will almost always reverse progression and help prevent other autoimmune and chronic diseases from arising.

  1. Gut health
  2. Cortisol balance (the stress hormone)
  3. Hidden Infections
  4. Food choices and sensitivities
  5. Vitamin deficiencies
  6. Hormone including thyroid and insulin
  7. Environmental toxins

Yes You Should Get Another ANA (Antinuclear Antibody) Test

If your child had an Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test showing a positive result at a ratio of 1:1280. A rheumatologist likely performed this test. Most likely, you were also told there’s no need to recheck the ANA, as it’s assumed the value won’t change.  The rheumatologist is correct if you only treat symptoms and not the root cause.

However, as a Functional Medicine Doctor, I take a totally different approach.  One that brings you and your child hope confirmed by data, showing the Functional Medicine root cause approach is working!
I understand that most rheumatologists may not continue to check the ANA, but in my Functional Medicine approach to Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (aka JIA), I believe in the importance of regular monitoring. You’ll likely see other positive changes alongside the ANA reductions, such as improvements in bowel movements, better sleep, and mood enhancements. 

How to Start Weaning Off Medications

In my experience, pediatric rheumatologists expect to see kids get better and don’t want to see them experience serious adverse side effects from long-term use of medications.

It’s important to keep track of all issues and improvements to share with your child’s rheumatologist so they have a complete picture of the progress. Not just the issues related specifically to the JRA. Because we are addressing the central mechanisms that are causing all your child’s health issues, we expect everything to get better at the same time.

Improvements in bowel movements are an important part of overall health and are another positive sign of progress. Healthy digestion is critical to nutrient absorption and immune function.

It’s a joy to celebrate together as you see the ANA decrease from 1:1280 to 1:320, then to 1:80, and eventually, turn negative. At this point, it’s a great time to talk with your child’s rheumatologist, share the progress data and discuss reducing the dosage of immunosuppressant medications your child has been taking.

During this time, it’s also good to keep an eye out for other autoimmune diseases. It’s important to know that having one autoimmune condition can increase the risk of others. Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid, is a common co-occurring condition. 

By monitoring the different types of thyroid antibodies, you can work to bring them down to zero, signaling that you’ve addressed the root cause effectively.

Once these markers have reduced, it might be possible for your child to start slowly coming off the medications they initially needed. Always do this in consultation with your child’s rheumatologist, and don’t be afraid of them being resistant to weaning off medications. The concept of being able to reverse autoimmune disease using all the scientific knowledge at our disposal is new to many people.

The goal is to strive for long-lasting health without the continued need for these band-aid medications like methotrexate and avoidance of their profound side effects such as cancer, life-threatening infections and new autoimmune disease.

Gut Health is a Central Mechanism that Needs Fixing

Your child’s gut health plays a vital role in their overall well-being. An analogy I share in my Autoimmune Hope course is that of a swimming pool.

You can have a swimming pool with the right balance and maintenance to keep the water crystal clear and sparkling.  Or it can lose its balance, have garbage that falls in, an animal that dies and can’t get out… gross, I know.  Same swimming pool – two very different experiences.

Your child’s gut is the central mechanism for their well-being and requires the correct balance of bacteria for optimal health. An imbalance, or “dysbiosis,” can lead to inflammation, leaky gut (or, intestinal permeability disorder in medical speak), and eventually triggering conditions like JIA.

The Impact of Early Life Antibiotics, Medications & Fake Food

If your child ever had early infections or allergies, the western allopathic approach was most likely steroids for asthma (which throw off cortisol which I will explain later) and antibiotics for infections. None of them fixed the immune system disruption, which worsened until it became Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Note: 80% of the immune system surrounds the gut. Early use of antibiotics, especially in the first year of life, significantly impacts the gut, the intestinal microbiome in a negative way. Even one dose of an antibiotic (not even a full 7-10 day course) in the first year of life can be enough to completely disturb the intestinal microbiome and it will not reset without some very specific interventions. I always recommend probiotics two hours after antibiotics. My store has probiotics available for kids as young as one.

Dr David Bilstrom, Autoimmune Functional Medicine Doctor

Facing the Facts About Food

Then a disrupted gut may be exposed to fake food (often called the SAD way of eating – the Standard American Diet) filled with highly processed carbs, sugars, and toxins. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is void of nutrient-dense foods, proteins, and quality fats.

It’s time to face the facts about food and its impact on the gut.

If you’ve been following me for long, you may have noticed I repeatedly comment about food like substances (lots of highly processed carbs, little protein, food additives, preservatives, artificial dyes and colors) and the importance of nutrient-dense food for gut health.

Food quality is really really important and more significant than most parents (and even traditional doctors) realize. 

The standard American diet, with its high carb, low protein, and low quality fat characteristics, contributes significantly to your child’s health issues.

It’s akin to putting diesel fuel in a gasoline car; it won’t work efficiently and could damage the engine. The same goes for your child’s body. Providing a gut-healthy diet with the right amount of nature’s carbs, proteins, and quality fats (like organic grass-fed butter and ghee) can make a significant difference in reversing JIA and preventing future autoimmune and chronic disease.

The combination of antibiotics and fake foods (possibly combined with environmental toxins and/or stress) creates a disrupted central mechanism (the gut). From an early age, a cascade of issues begins with a leaky gut, food sensitivities, then vitamin deficiencies because the gut can’t absorb nutrients from food or the food is so fake it lacks any nutrients to give.

Leaky Gut Drives Food Sensitivities

“Leaky gut” is a term that describes increased intestinal permeability. Under normal circumstances, your child’s intestinal lining works as a selective barrier. It’s like a sieve with tiny holes, allowing specific tiny molecules, like digested nutrients, to pass through into the bloodstream.

When your child develops intestinal permeability disorder (leaky gut), the lining of their small intestine becomes damaged. This damage can allow larger-than-normal particles, such as undigested food, bacteria, and toxins, to pass through into the bloodstream.

The immune system recognizes these larger food particles as foreign entities and mounts an immune response. Over time, this reaction can lead to food sensitivities, as the immune system starts associating certain food proteins with this response, causing inflammation and symptoms every time those foods are consumed.

So, when your child’s gut is ‘leaky,’ they could potentially develop a sensitivity to any food they often consume, even those typically considered healthy.  On day 5 of my free 7 day educational email course (Medical Bill Detox), I share the protocols for determining food sensitivities and what to do once you know.

How does leaky gut happen?

A “leaky gut” or increased intestinal permeability can occur due to a variety of factors. Here are some of the common ones:

1. Unhealthy (SAD) diet: A diet full of processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and damage the gut lining.

2. Stress: Emotional and physical stress can negatively affect gut health, contributing to inflammation and altering gut bacteria. (see the section below on cortisol)

3. Medications: Many drugs, including certain antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can damage the gut lining.

4. Infections: Certain gut infections, such as candida or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), can lead to leaky gut.

5. Toxins: Environmental toxins like pesticides and certain plastics can compromise gut health.

Vitamin Deficiencies and Toxicity

This leaky gut issue compounds on itself because now the gut can’t absorb the needed vitamins when they are present, and the toxins that the gut is supposed to pass into the detox pathways to be pooped out (only a small amount of toxins leave through sweat, urine or breath), get reabsorbed back into the bloodstream and accumulate over time.

A classic vitamin toxicity that can happen, especially for kids, are things like serum copper getting too high, and because your child can’t digest properly to get the nutrients out, serum zinc is too low.

When your child has a mismatch of zinc and copper, your child will develop brain issues: cognitive, emotional stuff, and inflammation all over the place.

Copper is super toxic to the brain.

Copper is inherently super toxic to the brain. If there is too much copper in their system, kids can’t concentrate, are more irritable, can’t sleep, and can’t shut down their brains at night.

With a leaky gut, other toxins can accumulate as well. This is why I continue saying, “the gut is such a central mechanism.” So many things impact gut health, and it affects almost everything!

A healthy gut is essential to reversing your child’s Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

By creating a healthy gut, you’re not only preventing the development of food sensitivities you’re also aiding in proper thyroid hormone conversion (which we will talk about below), both of which can be significant in reversing JIA.

The Thyroid Connection

Your child’s thyroid health can influence many aspects of their life, from their mood to their ability to concentrate and even to Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (aka JIA).

An analogy for understanding the thyroid’s central role in the body is to imagine it as the conductor of an orchestra. Every instrument (or body system) has to be in harmony for the music (or health) to be optimal. When the conductor falters, the music suffers.

The Gut & Thyroid Connection

The gut and thyroid are interconnected through several mechanisms:

1. Nutrient absorption: The gut is responsible for absorbing nutrients from food. Proper nutrient absorption is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. For example, iodine, an essential mineral for thyroid hormone synthesis, is absorbed in the gut. An unhealthy gut may impair nutrient absorption, potentially affecting thyroid function.

2. Gut microbiota: The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, collectively known as the gut microbiota (1,000,000,000,000,000 bacteria per gram of fecal content (poop) to be exact. These bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining gut health and influencing overall health. Research is clear that imbalances in gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis, contribute to all variations of autoimmune disease, including Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (purposely not using the term JIA here because it’s for these reasons that JRA happens – it’s not idiopathic we know why it happens!)

3. Immune system modulation: The gut is an integral part of the immune system. It houses a significant portion of immune cells and is involved in immune system regulation. 80% of the entire immune system actually surrounds the gut. An unhealthy gut, characterized by increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), can trigger immune system responses that may contribute to thyroid dysfunction.

4. Inflammation: Both the gut and the thyroid are susceptible to inflammation, which can disrupt their normal functions. Chronic inflammation in the gut can impair nutrient absorption and promote the release of inflammatory substances that may affect the thyroid. Similarly, inflammation in the thyroid gland can interfere with hormone production and overall thyroid function.

Think of the gut and thyroid as best buddies who need to work together harmoniously. They communicate and support each other to keep your child’s body and health in balance.


Why Traditional Thyroid Testing is Not Sufficient

Understanding your child’s thyroid health involves more than just TSH and T4 tests. The active hormone, free T3, and its inactive counterpart reverse T3, are also critical.

Free T3 boosts health, while reverse T3 remains idle, potentially blocking free T3 and affecting your child’s overall health and JIA condition.

Some children with JIA might have difficulty converting the thyroid-produced T4 into the beneficial free T3, making them “poor thyroid converters.” This can occur due to factors like stress, cortisol levels, vitamin deficiencies, toxins, or a SAD diet.

Considering our stressful, nutrient-depleted, and toxin-filled world, even a high-quality diet may fall short due to prevalent digestive issues. As a result, your child with JIA may become a poor thyroid converter, experiencing hypothyroid symptoms even with normal TSH and T4 levels.

Given this, it’s crucial to ask your child’s healthcare provider for more than traditional thyroid testing, including free T3 and reverse T3 levels.

Sometimes thyroid medication is needed temporarily to get it functioning correctly.  Because the thyroid is such a central mechanism, when you fix the big picture, you fix everything, including the thyroid.

But sometimes your child may need to use thyroid medicine to fix the thyroid stuff enough to fix everything. So that everything can ultimately fix the thyroid issue, and then they don’t need thyroid medicine.  But sometimes, everything takes some thyroid medicine to do that.

Once the system is fixed as a whole, the thyroid should be able to produce the T4 optimally on its own. And, body parts such as the liver, kidneys, and the intestinal microbiome should be able to convert the T4 to the more active free T3 (and not the “get in the way reverse T3”) optimally once again. Then the thyroid medicine will not be needed long term.

If you are a parent that likes to know exactly what lab tests to run and what to do based on the lab results, check out my book (chapter 10), where I go into detail on thyroid testing and temporary medications.

Bruising Can Be a Sign of Thyroid Issues (or Cortisol)

Sometimes you may see your child experiencing issues with bruising and wonder if it is autoimmune related to JIA.  Typically, the bruising will be related to either thyroid or cortisol (which you’ll learn how to reset in an upcoming section).

You may find internet articles saying bruising is related to a Vitamin C or K deficiency.  Solutions can start to feel confusing and complicated. Instead of getting into the minutia of tackling every vitamin deficiency on their own (which there will be many if the central mechanism is off), when you know the basics, you become the master.

The thyroid and cortisol are always impacted as part of the central mechanism. When you take care of the central mechanisms, you are going to take care of everything at the same time.

It sounds simple, and in some ways it is.  The body is very very complicated, yet very very logical, which is why I created an online course, Autoimmune Hope.  To empower you with the science of the central mechanisms and the action steps needed to support your child’s body in healing itself to change the trajectory of their health and if all works as it should, reverse their Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.


Addressing Hidden Infections

There can be various infection combinations in the gut: candida, other mold species, harmful bacteria, and parasites.The same goes for infections in the bloodstream and throughout the body such as in the joints in JIA

Symptoms of Hidden Infections

  • fatigue
  • sound sensitivity
  • food sensitivities
  • joint pain and/or inflammation
  • bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation
  • skin problems such as rashes, itching, hives, or  acne
  • Having any chronic disease


Antibiotics are the traditional way to attempt to get rid of infections. But, they can only get rid of the usual bacterial infections that people are familiar with. They cannot get rid of the infections that cause chronic disease. Including bacteria. 

Of course, antibiotics can never get rid of infections caused by viruses or candida/mold/yeast whether these are causing obvious infections (such as the common cold which is caused by a viral illness) or chronic disease. On top of not solving the root cause of the infection, as we discussed before, they can disrupt the gut microbiome in the process. 

In my clinic, I recommend pH Structured Silver Solution. It can get rid of any infection. Ideally, you’ll get rid of bacteria, viruses, mold, mycoplasma, and parasites. You name it.

Note:  This is not colloidal silver which; too much of it will turn you blue!  pH Structured Silver Solution does not bioaccumulate.

pH Structured Silver Solution can be dropped in the eyes and ears and sprayed up the nose. It can be swallowed, used as a gel on the skin, used in the vaginal mucosa, and all kinds of other stuff.

pH Structured Silver Solution is tasteless and easy for kids to consume in whatever way they are working to get rid of infections.  

pH Structured Silver Solution Natural Antimicrobial recommended by Dr David Bilstrom Functional Medicine Doctor

 Resetting Cortisol (the Stress Hormone)

As part of resetting the immune system, your child needs to fix cortisol.

When your child resets cortisol, the body can get rid of inflammation on its own. That’s what cortisol (which turns into cortisone) is meant to do. This is an example of what I’m referring to when I say the body’s natural healing intelligence. It’s built to get rid of inflammation but needs balanced hormones to work as designed.

To the body, stress is stress, so it doesn’t matter if it’s: 

  • physical stress: vitamin deficiencies, hormone imbalances, toxicity, infections, gut disruptions
  • biochemical stress: poor nutrition, exposure to toxins, chronic infections
  • emotional stress:  school, friends, growing up and adverse childhood events (ACEs). The ACEs include divorce, separation, substance abuse, incarceration, verbal/physical/sexual abuse, loss of a loved one, trauma
  • spiritual stress (typically, this one manifests more in adulthood. Noting it here because this information about well-being applies to you too! Spiritual stress is feelings of doubt, uncertainty, or a lack of meaning or purpose in life.)

Step 1 – Getting Rid of Physical & Biochemical Stress

It’s essential to eliminate things that are causing physical and biochemical stress:  infections, vitamin deficiencies, gut disruption, the foods that are bugging them (food sensitivities), and toxins.

Step 2 –  Creating a Daily Practice for Balancing Cortisol

However, even if you eliminate all the things that cause physical and biochemical stress, cortisol will only reset if it learns what calm feels like.

Chronic stress (physical, biochemical, emotional, spiritual) puts your child’s body into a constant “fight or flight” mode, causing a surge in cortisol and hampering their body’s ability to heal. Cortisol has gotten stuck in the stress mode for so long that it doesn’t know what calm feels like.

Teaching your child (ideally modeling it and practicing it with them) a daily relaxation practice that can be just a few minutes daily.  Techniques like mom-and child-yoga or meditation, deep-breathing exercises, repetitive prayer, chanting, and tai chi, all of these types of relaxation techniques will teach your child’s body what calm feels like.


BIG TAKEAWAY:  Even if you do everything else perfectly, unless your child teaches their body what calm feels like to reset their cortisol, they will not be able to reverse their JIA. 

Fixing the Root Cause is the Solution to JIA

Addressing these “central mechanisms” – gut health, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid function, nutrition quality, invisible infections, and cortisol balance – will provide a comprehensive approach to reversing JIA. This Functional Medicine approach seeks to fix the root causes, not just manage symptoms, giving your child the best chance for relief and health improvement while preventing future autoimmune disease and chronic disease in general.

Knowledge is power. The more you understand your child’s condition and the role these central mechanisms play, the better equipped you’ll be to help them reverse their JIA.

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey.  One community I collaborate with to support moms with children with JIA is the JIA Blueprint Community.  You can learn more about them here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/211646176688371/

“Got a Revolution, got to Revolution.”  Jefferson Airplane

Dr. David Bilstrom
Autoimmune Functional Medicine Doctornatural treatment for autoimmune disease by Dr David Bilstrom Functional Medicine Doctor MD



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