Posts Tagged 'Crohn’s disease'

Nutritional considerations for children with Crohn’s disease

child holding bowl of berries

For children with Crohn’s disease, good nutrition is important to allow them to grow and develop at a healthy rate. What your child eats or is able to eat can depend greatly on whether their Crohn’s is in remission (not active) and experiencing few symptoms or if it is active and causing increased inflammation of the digestive tract.

When your child’s disease is in remission, the goal is to maintain a well-balanced diet featuring a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods. These foods include: protein (meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, beans and legumes), carbohydrates (whole grain cereals and breads, vegetables, fruit), and fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, avocado, nut spreads). A well-balanced diet can help make sure that your child gets enough calories, protein and vitamins/minerals.

When the disease is active and your child is experiencing more symptoms, the goal is to make sure your child is consuming sufficient calories and nutrients. Your child’s health care provider may suggest a modified diet that may be helpful during this time such as a low fiber/low residue diet or a lactose-free diet. Changes to your child’s diet are recommended mainly to help with any discomfort or unpleasant symptoms your child may be having.

Low fiber/low residue diet

Fiber is the part of food that cannot be digested; it is also known as bulk and roughage. Fiber helps the body move food through the digestive tract. Eating foods high in fiber — such as fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, nuts and popcorn — when your child’s disease is active may increase diarrhea, increase pain and discomfort with bowel movements, and increase bleeding. A low-fiber diet can help to “rest” the intestines.

If your child’s doctor recommends a low-fiber low/residue diet, this article might be a useful reference for appropriate foods on a low-residue diet. In addition, a multivitamin or vitamin supplements may be recommended in order to add nutrients normally found in fruits and vegetables.

Remember to always check with your child’s health care provider before beginning a new diet.

Lactose-free diet

Lactose is the carbohydrate portion of milk. Children may experience lactose intolerance, especially with the disease in the small intestine. Symptoms include nausea, bloating, increased burping, increased gas, stomach pain and diarrhea. These symptoms can decrease or go away completely when milk and other dairy products, such as cheese, ice cream and yogurt, are removed from the diet.

Because milk and dairy products are very important sources of calcium and vitamin D for a growing child, your health care provider may suggest switching to lactose-free milk or fortified soy milk/almond milk/rice milk, or recommend your child take a lactase supplement when eating milk products.

Consult your health care provider before taking dairy products out of your child’s diet. A dietitian can also make suggestions that will help to lessen symptoms and keep up the amount of calcium and vitamin D in your child’s diet.

Supplements

Children with Crohn’s disease may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplementation of calcium, iron, B12, magnesium and/or phosphorus due to a variety of reasons including location of disease within the GI tract, poor absorption, surgical resections or poor food intake due to decreased appetite. Do not start supplementation without consulting your child’s medical health provider.

There is not one set diet that is applicable to every child with Crohn’s disease. Keeping a daily food journal can help identify foods that may trigger symptoms and avoiding these foods, especially when your child’s disease is active, may help lessen symptoms. It can be helpful to consult with a dietitian who can help develop a specific dietary plan for your child. A dietitian can also review your food journal to see if there are any patterns in your child’s diet in relation to his/her symptoms.

Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D., is a registered dietitian with the Beaumont Health Center’s Weight Control Center.

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