Should my child with IBD be on a special diet?

What I Tell Families About Diet
I always talk to families a little bit about diet, because this is a bowel problem, and we consider diet to be something that has a lot to do with it. The truth of the matter is that we don’t know if one’s diet is a cause, but it probably does have something to do with it. However, no one has been able to pinpoint a specific group of foods that causes these diseases. For the most part, people with these illnesses can eat pretty normally, but there are a few exceptions to that. For some patients with Crohn’s whose intestines are very narrow, we recommend a low residue diet. A low residue diet is one in which anything that might block the bowel should be avoided. One example is popcorn, because it might get in there and obstruct, and you shouldn’t eat nuts and things like that that might obstruct. That is the one diet that doctors recommend. I also encourage everyone to take a multi vitamin, and I encourage everyone to eat a heart healthy diet.

Athos Bousvaros, MD, Associate Director, IBD Program


Increasing Intake
Increasing these children’s nutritional intake can be a bit of a challenge. If you’re talking about increasing the intake of someone who is not feeling well, you’re not going to have very good luck persuading him or her to eat more. Sometimes, we try high calorie puddings or to recommend formulas like Boost, Boost Plus, Ensure or Ensure Plus as snacks, in addition to food. Sometimes we try supplementing high calorie foods for things like applesauce, Jell O and apple juice. We ask them to drink milk, milk products, ice cream and frozen yogurt. If lactose is a problem, we give them a lactase product like Lactaid to help them digest the milk. We also try to make sure that they’re getting enough meat, vegetables, and poultry dishes for basic protein.

Richard Grand, MD, Director Emeritus, IBD Program


Special Diets
Diet can be difficult. In general, we really try to have people with Crohn’s disease avoid seeds and nuts, because they can cause increased inflammation of their GI tract. Some of the kids don’t do well with milk and milk products, but most do fine with them. I think that there is a lot of information out there in the community about specific diets, such as a specific carbohydrate diet that some of our families have tried. There is not a lot of literature that indicates that it works, but some families have said that it works for them, so we try to support that. As long as the kids are getting the right amount of calories, it’s okay. I worry when parents restrict their child’s diets. Children need the calories and restricting things like milk, which really provides a lot of calories for kids can be an issue. If we do need to increase calories, we encourage the kids drink extra milkshakes or take Boost or other dietary supplements, in addition to their regular diet.

Lori Hartigan, RN, Former Clinical Coordinator, IBD Program