Friends Helping Friends Make Good Choices
Eating foods that are safe for IBD requires choices which can sometimes be difficult for a child or a teen to make. I have witnessed this first hand, with an adolescent friend of ours who lives with Crohn's Disease and often waits for his Mom to leave a social event so he can eat the things the other kids are eating, even if he pays a high price for days to come.
He is not alone in his risky behavior. A significant number of teens with digestive disorders admit to risk taking with food, and the risky behavior seems to be based on at least two things: the social setting and the risks they perceive themselves to be taking. Adolescence can be a particularly difficult time with a digestive disorder, since there is usually more unsupervised time at social events, more peer pressure, and therefore more opportunities to eat foods which may be harmful.
There is a chance this risky behavior can be modified if one or more of the teen's closest friends understands the consequences of the food choices he or she makes during a social activity. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has introduced the PAL program. PAL stands for Protect A Life and there is early research to support the idea that if a child or teen tells at least one close friend about foods which cause them difficulties, the friend can be supportive when difficult choices need to be made in a social setting. The friend can also help to prevent bullying and teasing, or other forms of peer pressure from occurring.
While there are important differences between food allergies and IBD, there are also some important similarities. The PAL program developed by the Food Allergy and Analphaxis Network may be an educational and protective model applicable for teens living with IBD.