Nutrition for Crohn's Disease in Children

Doctors at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone thoroughly assess the diet and nutrition of children with Crohn’s disease. This condition can prevent the intestines from absorbing nutrients, increasing the risk of nutritional deficiencies—including insufficient levels of iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and D—as well as the occurrence of kidney stones.

Children may notice a worsening of symptoms, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, after consuming certain foods, including fried foods and cola. Registered dietitians can help create a dietary and nutritional plan designed to reduce symptoms.

Changes in nutrition may be enough to initiate remission, which is long-term symptom relief. These types of changes may be recommended in conjunction with the use of medications, which can help to control symptoms.

Food Diary

You may be asked to keep track of what your child eats and any symptoms that occur after meals or snacks. This can help to determine if certain foods are causing your child’s symptoms.

Our dietitians review this food diary to determine if your child is getting enough calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, and vitamins.

Dietary Changes

Doctors may advise that your child avoid foods that seem to worsen symptoms, eliminating them for several weeks or months. If you suspect that more than one food is aggravating your child’s symptoms, you might be asked to eliminate each food, one at a time, from your child’s diet for a week or longer. If there is no change in symptoms, you may return the food to your child’s diet.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease may be aggravated by spicy foods, caffeine—which can be found in cola, tea, and chocolate—and dairy products, such as milk, butter, and cheese. Fatty foods and foods high in fiber, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, beans, and popcorn, may also aggravate symptoms.

A Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital dietitian can create a diet plan designed to help reduce symptoms, which signal a flare-up of the condition. He or she may recommend that your child eat five or six small meals each day to ease digestion and drink plenty of water to reduce the risk of dehydration.

Vitamin Supplements

Your child’s specialist may recommend vitamin supplements to address nutritional deficiencies caused by Crohn’s disease.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from food. Vitamin D supplements may relieve fatigue and increase bone density in children with Crohn’s disease.

Your child’s doctor may also recommend a zinc supplement. Prolonged diarrhea can reduce levels of zinc in the body.

Vitamin A can be depleted by damage to the lower intestines, and doctors sometimes recommend supplements to replace this. If your child’s vitamin B12 levels are low, your doctors may administer supplementation by injection.

Bleeding and insufficient nutrition may lead to iron deficiency and anemia, which is a reduction in the number of red blood cells. Your child’s doctor may recommend that your child take iron supplements.

The doctor can determine the correct dose of vitamin supplements based on your child’s blood test results.

Bowel Rest

The doctor may recommend that your child drink only clear liquids to allow the bowel, or intestine, to rest and heal.

During bowel rest, nutrition and medicine are delivered through an intravenous catheter, which is a thin tube inserted into a vein in the arm. It may be provided in the hospital or, sometimes, at home.

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