My IBD is embarrassing me!

Elementary-age boy crouched over, hiding his head

Unaltered image. Tjook, Flickr. CC License.

“Jack! Come quick I have a surprise for you!”

Jack ran down the stairs to see the surprise his mother had for him. His mom told him to get his jacket because they were going to the planetarium; he had begged his parents for weeks to go. Jack loved science and was learning lots of cool things in his 5th grade science class. However, instead of excitement and elation Jack looked a bit panicked and overwhelmed.

“Jack, what’s wrong? I thought you’d be happy about going to the planetarium.”

Jack told his mother that he was happy, but nervous too because he hadn’t mapped out where all the bathrooms were at the planetarium.

Jack has inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and when he goes to new places, he likes to know where all restrooms and exits are ahead of time in case he has an urgent need to use the bathroom.

What is IBD?

IBD is a condition that effects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are two types of IBD. IBD occurs when there is inflammation along the GI tract. UC affects the colon, whereas Crohn’s may affect the entire digestive system. Common symptoms of IBD include severe abdominal pain/cramping, frequent diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, and even failure to grow in children with Crohn’s. Proper absorption of nutrients and minerals is a major concern.

Many children and teens with IBD can relate to Jack’s anxiety. Managing IBD can be difficult especially as a child or teenager. Below are some tips and suggestions for how to help your child manage some of those potentially embarrassing moments.

Besties with the bathroom

Having IBD may mean spending more time in the bathroom than you’d like. Kids and teens often think that others are judging them or monitoring their frequent use of the bathroom.

  • Remind yourself or child that the only people who are interested in his/her bathroom use are parents and your doctor. Most people are too busy to notice someone else’s bathroom frequency/habits.
  • In school, work with teachers and staff to come up with a code word or planned times when your child is able to use the restroom without bringing additional attention to himself. Most kids and teens will have a 504 plan that will allow them to manage their IBD within the school setting.
  • Bring an extra change of clothes, undergarments and wipes for easy cleanup if accidents occur.
  • Keep travel-size perfume/fragrance and hand sanitizer on hand.
  • Know what may trigger a flare-up and avoid triggers if possible when there’s an upcoming event or activity that your child wants to participate in.
  • Try not to rush your child when he/she is in the bathroom as this can cause more anxiety. Put your patience hat on.
  • Always have a plan and plan ahead when possible.

Peanut, Shrimp, Small Fry, Half-Pint

Sometimes nutrition can be a concern due to poor absorption, which can lead to short stature and even malnutrition. Kids can be cruel and tease others for being short. What can you do about it?

  • Get ahead of the joke. Tell the joke first before anyone has a chance to. Consider thinking of some “comebacks” to short jokes and practice delivering them in the mirror. Addressing the teasing in the beginning in a way that shows that the child/teen is confident can eliminate teasing immediately.
  • If teasing continues and becomes problematic, parents should address it with school staff and the parents of the other child/teen. Continue to address it and check in with your child until the bullying stops completely. Parents may want to consider talking to the other parent themselves if school is not helpful. Consider contacting NoBLE (Beaumont Health’s bullying program) at 248-898-9951.
  • Help your child focus on areas of strength. Get involved in activities where height isn’t a requirement. For example, instead of trying out for the basketball team, suggest golf or bowling. If your child isn’t athletic, consider hobbies such as photography, drama, band, chess or debate club.

How do I look?

Some of the side effects of the treatments for IBD, such as steroids, can alter your child’s appearance and mood. Be sure to discuss the side effects of all treatments with your doctor.

  • If you notice that your child/teen is more moody or angry than usual and they are taking steroids, discuss other treatment options with your doctor.
  • Consider meeting with a psychologist or mental health professional to learn coping skills to manage the moodiness.
  • For changes in physical appearance, consider meeting with the school and teachers of younger kids to discuss with the class why your child may look differently. This can help prevent bullying and make your child feel more comfortable going to school.
  • For middle and high school students, work with school staff to identify options for optimal academic success is important. Some options may include doing a presentation on IBD for extra credit or minimizing opportunities for teasing by allowing the student to leave class five minutes early to avoid crowded hallways and limited adult supervision.

– Carnigee Truesdale-Howard, PsyD, ABPP is a Pediatric Psychologist with Beaumont Children’s Hospital Divisions of Hematology/Oncology & Gastroenterology

Common food labels designed to get your dollar: The ‘GMO-free’ label

Box of cereal with the Non GMO Project Verified logo 

Welcome back to my last article in my Common Foods Designed to Get Your Dollar series. This time I’m going to talk about the highly debatable “GMO-free” label.

There’s currently a “Non GMO Project Verified” label, which is a voluntary label created by a non-profit organization known as the Non-GMO Project. However for some people, a voluntary label isn’t sufficient; they would like a government-regulated and required label to go on all products that contain GMOs.


“Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food. There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There’s no wild cows … You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection.” – Neil DeGrasse Tyson

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are probably one of the most misperceived products in our food market. Fear mongering and websites (like and that spread misinformation aren’t helping. Jimmy Kimmel’s team visited a farmer’s market to ask shoppers for their thoughts on GMOs.

Factoid on GMOs

Source: Common Ground.

There are only a select number of crops in the United States that are grown using this technology and all of them are for commercial purposes only. However, you can find a “GMO-free” label on food items that aren’t even grown using genetic engineering technologies. Seems odd, doesn’t it?

Not really. Many people are worried about GMOs in their food supply and when people are worried or fearful, companies with the “GMO-free” label stand to profit. Even though decades of research from university scientists and the USDA haven’t found anything dangerous about consuming GMO foods, people have chosen to turn a blind eye to scientific evidence and fall victim to one of the greatest marketing schemes. Why else would you find bottles of water labeled “GMO-free”?

The bottom line. It’s important to always remain skeptical, and that’s why research on the health effects of GMOs will continue for years to come. However due to the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that GMOs are safe and the lack of evidence to suggest otherwise, you should be focusing on eating a wide variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and lean meats.

Don’t forget that GMOs are used in the production of insulin, vitamins, ethanol (E-85), and are used in environmental waste clean up. It’s an important technology for sustaining the rapidly growing human population.

So that ends my series on Common Food Labels Designed to Get Your Dollar. Now that you have an understanding of these common labels, which ones surprise you the most? Will this new information influence the way you shop for you and your family?

Either way, I hope that the message is clear: We shouldn’t focus so much on the label on our foods, but more so on what foods we are purchasing for our families. Healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean meats should be our focus, not an empty, meaningless label. I hope you enjoyed this series and I look forward to reading your comments!

– Joohi Castelvetere is a nutrition and food scientist and a mother to three amazing children.  She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.

Read more:

  1. Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives, and Colors, Food and Drug Administration
  2. Hormones in Your Food, Thecowlocale
  3. Natural and other food labels that sound legitimate but may not be, CNN
  4. What are the benefits? (GMO crops), PBS

Common food labels designed to get your dollar: The ‘gluten-free’ label

Gluten free section of a grocery store

Unaltered image. Memphis CVB, Flickr. CC License.

Hi there! Welcome back to my third article about food labels designed to get your dollar. This time I’m going to talk about the label “gluten-free.” This label tends to be everywhere. From food items to cosmetics, gluten free seems to be more of a trend these days than an actual need to worry


“There’s nothing magical about eliminating gluten that results in weight loss,” Mangieri said. “Any of us that [sic] eliminates or removes cookies and candies from our diets, and replaces them with fruits and vegetables is going to feel better.”
– Heather Mangieri via
Rachael Rettner

Today you’ll find many food items have a “gluten-free” label. You can even find the label on foods that don’t naturally contain gluten in the first place. So what exactly is gluten? Jimmy Kimmel asked a similar question to pedestrians (and received some funny answers!), but not many people seem to know. Yet they still eliminate it from their diet.

Gluten is a combination of two proteins, and is commonly found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It is can be found in pastas, baked goods, sauces, breads, and beers. Gluten is typically responsible for maintaining a food’s shape and texture.

Finding foods that are free of gluten is very important for someone who suffers from celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to break down parts of the small intestine, known as ‘villi,’ whenever gluten is consumed. In turn, this causes issues with nutrient digestion and absorption.

Many cosmetic items such as face wash and makeup contain the “gluten-free” label as well. Is there a need to avoid cosmetic items that contain gluten? Most likely, no. Gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin, and even certain skin rashes developed in those suffering from celiac disease are only caused when gluten is consumed in food products.

Is there a need to buy foods that are gluten-free if you don’t have celiac disease? There is no medical, health, or dietary reason to avoid gluten. It has simply become a diet trend among people who feel that gluten causes weight gain. Others who feel that they may suffer from a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) will also avoid gluten, but the existence of this disease remains controversial.

The bottom line. Unless you are diagnosed with celiac disease, or your doctor has recommended that you avoid consuming food products with gluten, there’s no reason to choose a gluten-free product over one that contains gluten. Whole grains are important in the diet and contain many dietary benefits. Gluten-free food products are also more processed, contain fewer nutrients, and can be detrimental to your health.

Hopefully this article helps clear up any misconceptions people may have had in regards to the “gluten-free” label. Have you purchased an item because it was labeled as gluten-free, as a non-celiac sufferer? What are some possible misconceptions you may have had as a consumer? I’d love to hear your stories!

Also, stay tuned for my last article in this series where I talk about the “GMO-free” label.

– Joohi Castelvetere is a nutrition and food scientist and a mother to three amazing children.  She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.

Read more:

  1. Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives, and Colors, Food and Drug Administration
  2. Hormones in Your Food, Thecowlocale
  3. Natural and other food labels that sound legitimate but may not be, CNN
  4. What are the benefits? (GMO crops), PBS


Common food labels designed to get your dollar: The ‘hormone-free’ label

Closeup of "No Hormones Added" on Perdue chicken

Unaltered image. Michael Lehet, Flickr. CC License.

Welcome back to my second article on the topic of food labels designed to get your dollar! If you missed my first article, in regards to the “natural” label, you can find it here.

The next label I want to talk about is one almost everyone has seen marked on a package of fresh meat, specifically pork and poultry products: “hormone-free”. It’s a no-brainer that most of us want our fresh meats to be, well, “fresh”, and with as few added ingredients as possible. Added hormones are definitely one ingredient that we all want left out of our meats. However, did you know that pigs and chickens aren’t allowed to be given any hormones in the first place? So why is there a label on the package?


“It is important to understand that all multi-cellular organisms contain hormones, whether they are beef, broccoli, eggs, soybeans — or people. No food or living thing can be hormone-free, despite marketing claims that may suggest this to be so. Livestock and poultry can be grown without added hormones, but they cannot be hormone-free.”
Meat Mythcrushers via The Farmer’s Daughter

According to the FDA, no steroid or growth hormones are allowed to be given to poultry, swine and a few other animals. These are also sometimes referred to as added hormones because, as in all animals and plants, hormones occur naturally. Beef cattle (non-dairy) are allowed to be given growth hormones, as long as the manufacturer that processes the beef can demonstrate that the edible meat contains fewer hormones than the amount deemed as safe by the FDA.

So why are packages of poultry and pork labeled “hormone-free”? It’s a complete marketing gimmick to get consumers to pay more for their product. If you look closely at the label, there is a small disclaimer that states, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry/pork.” In fact, the USDA will not allow any manufacturer to use the “hormone free” label without this disclaimer.

The bottom line. Don’t pay extra money for pork or chicken labeled “hormone-free”.

Factoid on hormone-free meat

Source: Common Ground.

So what other labels are out there that you commonly see on your food packaging that might be deceptive? Are you surprised by any of the ones mentioned above? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

– Joohi Castelvetere is a nutrition and food scientist and a mother to three amazing children.  She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.

Read more:

  1. Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives, and Colors, Food and Drug Administration
  2. Hormones in Your Food, Thecowlocale
  3. Natural and other food labels that sound legitimate but may not be, CNN
  4. What are the benefits? (GMO crops), PBS



Common food labels designed to get your dollar: the ‘natural’ label

Jar of Meijer Naturals pasta sauce

When I go shopping for groceries, I usually base my choices off two factors: price and quality. We’re a family of five, so purchasing healthy and nutritious foods, all while staying under my weekly budget, is important. However, today there are an overwhelming number of food labels that can be rather confusing. For example, “organic” labels tend to imply that there pesticides aren’t used and that the food is nutritionally superior to conventional items. This isn’t the case. Organic farming does use pesticides and research has shown that organic produce isn’t more nutritious than its conventional counterparts.

So what other deceptive labels may be out there? In this short series, I’ll explain some of the ones I encounter most often. I’ll explain them, then let you decide if these labels are worth your dollar.


“‘Natural’ does not mean good, or safe, or healthy, or wholesome. It never did. In fact, legally, it means nothing at all. Mercury, lead, and asbestos are natural, and so are viruses, E. coli, and salmonella. Any chemical, whether it comes from the root of a tree or the shelves of your medicine cabinet, can cause serious harm. It depends how much you take. That is why one of the fundamental tenets of medicine holds that ‘the dose makes the poison’.”
― Michael Specter

Nothing about processed food is natural, yet many food manufactures like to use this label on the packaging of their items. In fact according to the Washington Post, this label helps companies sell approximately $40 billion worth of food in the United States annually. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have a set definition for the term “natural”, nor does it oppose the label as long as the food doesn’t contain any synthetic substances such as artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, stabilizers or added colors.

Factoids about "natural" product label

Source: Common Ground

Where’s the misconception, you might ask? The misconception is that these added preservatives and artificial ingredients are inherently dangerous. The purpose of preservation was to allow us to store foods in our pantries and refrigerators for an extended time (even years), which meant we didn’t have to constantly buy fresh food. We could shop less frequently and also save money from food spoilage.

Food additives also serve many purposes, such as enhancing mouth-feel, reducing crystal formation, and prevention of microbial contamination. Many of the food additives today are safe. They are required to meet specific food safety guidelines set by the FDA. In fact, they are more heavily monitored, regulated and studied today than ever before. In terms of “natural,” many, if not most, of these additives are naturally derived. Many people assume ingredients with long, complicated chemical names aren’t safe. For example, dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless chemical found in antifreeze and can corrode metal. So why is it used in the foods we eat every day? While it sounds pretty scary, DHMO is simply water.

The word “chemical” itself sounds threatening, which is why manufacturers use the word. Sometimes the word “synthetic” will be used to differentiate laboratory-made chemicals from natural chemicals. Scientists can synthesize the exact same chemical structure of a naturally occurring chemical and the body cannot distinguish between the synthetic and natural versions.

For example, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is indistinguishable from the glutamate that occurs naturally in the proteins of some foods. In fact, on average people consume roughly 13g of naturally occurring glutamate each day and about .55 g from added MSG in processed foods. Similarly, the ascorbic acid added to canned foods is no different that the vitamin C found in an orange. So it makes no sense to spend the extra money on a food item just because of its original source.

The bottom line. The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to limit the amount of packaged and processed foods you eat, regardless if they’re labeled as “natural” (potato chips are still potato chips!). There is not an added health benefit to buying and consuming products labeled as “natural.”

Have you chosen one product over another, despite being more expensive, because of this label? Let me know your thoughts below in the comment section. Also, look forward to the next article in this series regarding the “hormone-free” label!

– Joohi Castelvetere is a nutrition and food scientist and a mother to three amazing children.  She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.

Read more:

  1. Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives, and Colors, Food and Drug Administration
  2. Hormones in Your Food, Thecowlocale
  3. Natural and other food labels that sound legitimate but may not be, CNN
  4. What are the benefits? (GMO crops), PBS

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Nathan Wright

Nathan Wright, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer

Nathan Wright participated in the Walk for Miracles,
supporting Beaumont Children’s Hospital

“Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, but they have the heart.” That quote is from Elizabeth Andrew, an Australian politician. Perhaps she knew the volunteers of the Beaumont Parenting Program, who consistently give of their hearts and their time, even though they often keep little of that time for themselves. That is certainly true of Nathan Wright, the focus of this “The Face of Beaumont Parenting.”

Nathan is a 19-year-old student at Oakland University from Macomb, Michigan. He’s studying elementary education to become a teacher, and says that his favorite children’s book is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. He serves the BPP as a hearing screener, and a tour guide for the Maternal Fetal Health unit. Tour guides provide prospective parents information about the facilities and services that Beaumont Health has to offer as these families bring their new babies into the world. Tour guides are often the first face that new parents put to the hospital experience, apart from their OBs, and they’re critical to the start of a great Beaumont experience for those families.

It isn’t surprising that Nathan’s favorite quote is the one given above. In addition to attending school, and volunteering in dual roles for the BPP, he’s also a recreational aide in Shelby Township. Beyond all of that, Nathan also does volunteer work for Circle K (an organization for college students, affiliated with Kiwanis, which promotes leadership, service and fellowship), Kids Against Hunger (whose mission is to fight hunger in children in the U.S. and around the world), and Meals on Wheels (which provides home delivered meals to homebound people in need). All of the heart Nathan gives to all of these organizations probably accounts for the fact that he feels he has little time — so little time, in fact, that he didn’t list any hobbies when I asked what he did in his spare time. (What’s spare time? Right, Nathan?)

With respect to his role as a BPP volunteer, Nathan says that he chose to volunteer to “give back to the community and because (he) love(s) the hospital environment.” He goes on to say that his favorite part of being a BPP volunteer is “meeting all the different patients and their families, and getting to know them in such a small amount of time.”

On behalf of the BPP, I would like to thank Nathan for the time, and the heart, that he gives to the families of the BPP. It seems certain that this young man will make the transition (just like the Very Hungry Caterpillar) from a caring college student who makes a difference to parents and their little ones, to an amazing elementary school teacher who makes a difference to little ones and their parents.

– Nicole Capozello is a Parenting Program volunteer

Explaining loss to preschoolers with love and honesty

Sad young boy covering his eyes

We had some sad news recently. The lovely woman who lived next door to us lost her battle with cancer.

She was one of the first (if not the first) people to welcome us to the neighborhood 13 years ago. She was also one of the first to welcome our kids to the neighborhood when we first brought them home. On Halloween, she had a special treat for our kids, and she always made time to chat with us over the fence. She was a great neighbor.

When we got the news, we had to figure out how to explain death to our three-year-olds. I knew honesty was the best policy, so without getting into too many details, we explained that we would be going to a funeral. We told the kids separately, so there would be fewer distractions and they could ask questions.

I didn’t realize how heartbreaking their reactions and questions would be.

We told our daughter first. We explained that Miss Mary got very sick, and while the doctors gave her all the medicine they could, it didn’t help and she died. Explaining the funeral was next. We would be going to church that day to say good-bye to Miss Mary. I told them they might see some grown-ups there who were sad and crying, but that’s OK. They’re just going to miss Miss Mary.

It took our daughter a few minutes to process that. She looked at me and said, “Miss Mary died? I’m sad.” She curled up in my lap for a few minutes, her grief passed and she was on her way.

Our son is a sensitive kid. Sometimes I think you can actually see the gears turning in his head. We gave him the same talk, he processed it, and went on his way. But when we got to the church, the questions started coming fast and hard. “What is, ‘died’?” “Where’s Miss Mary?” “When do we say good-bye?” “What’s that brown thing?” He was asking perfectly acceptable questions very respectfully, but it was getting to the point where I couldn’t tell if the people around us were crying because of the funeral, or because of our son’s questions.

By the way, the “brown thing” in question was the casket.

At the end of the funeral, our son really wanted to say good-bye. The funeral was closed-casket, so that made things both harder and easier all at the same time. So instead, we found the portrait that was next to the casket. I picked up my boy and said, “There’s Miss Mary’s picture. We aren’t going to see her, but this is where we can say good-bye.”

Without missing a beat, he raised his little arm, waved and said, “Good-bye,” with the adorable New Jersey accent 3-year-olds sometimes acquire.

And with that one word, he broke my heart and my eyes filled with tears.

It was the first time, as a parent, that I had to peel away a piece of my kids’ innocence. I know they don’t fully understand the concept of mortality, but I introduced it. What a rotten part of the parenting job.

I’m glad, though, that my husband and I were the ones to do it. I’d hate for them to learn that one in the School of Hard Knocks. I’m also glad that they asked as me questions as they did and that we answered them as honestly as was age appropriate.

But I think I would have preferred to explain the birds and the bees.

– Rebecca Calappi is a Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.


Enter your email address and you'll receive notifications of new posts in your in-box.

Join 2,257 other followers

Free Developmental Screening

Confidential online developmental screening for children up to age 5


Join Our Community


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,257 other followers