Children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are at an increased risk for nutritional complications because they are in a state of constant growth. At the onset of diagnosis, most children with IBD have some kind of nutritional deficiency. In the 25 percent of patients diagnosed before age 18 approximately 85 percent of those with Crohn’s disease (CD) have some form of malnutrition (1). Children with ulcerative colitic (UC) don’t tend to have as severe issues with malnutrition.
Malnutrition is a serious concern for any child. Not only can it further compromise the immune system, but it can also cause delays in growth and in the hormone production necessary for puberty. There are a wide array of nutrient deficiencies found in these pediatric patients. Some of which are due to inadequate intake, malabsorption, and disease activity. It can be very hard to get a child to eat when they feel so poorly and some even become afraid to eat for fear of future symptoms. All of these issues can add up to severe problems if not addressed in a timely manner.
Your child’s physician will measure your child’s height and weight to look for any changes in their normal patterns over time. If your child is not growing properly then further testing to determine the deficiencies may be needed. Some doctors may also recommend a bone scan to check the density of your child’s bones or bone growth. This can help to determine if malnutrition or medications may be affecting growth.
Being proactive in addressing these concerns can help prevent a minor problem from spiraling into a much bigger one. If you are worried your child’s IBD is affecting their nutritional status, make an appointment with your child’s doctor and be sure to get a referral to a dietitian as needed.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and graduate work in public health nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.