The Special Diet for Children with Crohn's Disease

When it comes to children with Crohn's disease, it's important that children follow a specific diet. This diet will depend on what phase children find themselves in, in order to prevent health problems.
The Special Diet for Children with Crohn's Disease

Last update: 07 December, 2019

Adults and children with Crohn’s disease must follow a specific diet. Doing so will help to relieve painful and bothersome symptoms and avoid episodes. 

Therefore, if your child suffers from this illness, take a few minutes to read the following article. We’ll teach you what you need to know about your little one’s unique nutritional needs.

What kind of special diet should children with Crohn’s disease follow?

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a type of chronic inflammatory intestinal disease. While its exact origin remains a mystery, it’s attributed to several factors. It’s more common in young adults, but it can also affect children.

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is characterized by an inflammation of the mucous membranes of a specific area of the intestine. It can cause lesions in the area and its appearance is unpredictable. It presents itself with alternating episodes of longer or shorter durations, during which the illness’s activity stabilizes.

Crohn’s disease can produce symptoms and complications that affect a patient’s quality of life, especially during flareups. The main symptoms that can appear in cases of children with Crohn’s are intestinal and include the following:

The Special Diet for Children with Crohn's Disease

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Frequent bowel movements, chronic diarrhea.
  • Injury in the anal region (fissures, fistulas, abscesses).
  • Fatigue.
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss, which often coincides with instances of flareups.

The right diet for children with Crohn’s disease

For example, studies have shown that a mother’s breast milk is a protective factor when it comes to the appearance of Crohn’s disease. For more detailed information, you can read this article from Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics

The reason may have to do with the benefits that breast milk offers when it comes to immunoglobulins and antibodies. Mothers produce these substances and pass them onto their babies.

Maternal breast milk also contains oligosaccharides, which favor the growth of bacteria that are beneficial for the intestines.

The dietary guidelines for children with Crohn’s disease vary. What a patient should and shouldn’t eat depends on whether they’re in an asymptomatic period or experiencing a flareup.

Dietary guidelines during remission, or the asymptomatic period

Foods children should avoid

  • Foods that produce gas. For example, kale and other greens, cauliflower, whole grains, carbonated drinks, and legumes with skin.
  • Cold cuts.
  • Butter, milk, and cheese.
  • Foods containing sorbitol: Candies, chewing gum, diet beverages.

Foods you should include in your child’s diet

  • Bluefish, rich in omega 3. Omega 3 has a protective effect when it comes to Crohn’s disease because it’s anti-inflammatory.
  • White fish, red meats, and lean pork.
  • Avocado and olive oil, which are both rich in vitamin E. This nutrient helps keep the internal mucous membranes of the digestive tract hydrated.
  • Papaya, mango, carrots, and squash, given that they contain beta-carotene.
  • Probiotic substances, such as yogurt and kefir, if children can tolerate them.

Dietary guidelines during flareups

When children are experiencing flareups, it’s important to modify their diet depending on their level of discomfort. Normally, the diet during these moments should be calorie-packed, low in fat, and high in protein. They should also be high in fiber, anti-inflammatory, hydrating, and easy to digest. 

Below are more detailed recommendations:

  • Avoid consuming insoluble fiber that comes from wholegrain cereals, fruit peels, and the skin of beans.
  • Stay away from foods that are high in animal and saturated fats: Butter, cream, red meats, cold cuts, pastries, cheese.
  • Maintain a gluten-free and lactose-free dietespecially in the case of diarrhea.
  • Consume foods that offer soluble fiber in small quantities: Quince jelly, boiled or grilled apple and pear, boiled carrots.
  • Stay hydrated through water, vegetable stock, or oral saline.

Dietary guidelines for children with Crohn’s disease: Nutritional complications

Children with Crohn’s disease may fall underweight or experience delays in their growth. It’s also common for them to have deficiencies when it comes to certain nutrients. As a result, they may suffer problems like anemia and low bone mineral density. 

Therefore, if your child’s weight is below normal, keep the following recommendations in mind:

  • Rather than drinking just milk, it’s better for children to consume smoothies containing fruit and cereal.
  • Accompany fruits with yogurt, if your child can tolerate it, and nuts.
  • Be generous with oil when adding it to your child’s meals.
  • Include foods with a pasty consistency, which are often easier to tolerate.
  • Add homemade sauces to meat and fish, but make sure they don’t contain milk or cream.

Crohn’s disease is a complicated illness, as it varies in every child as well as the phase he or she is in. Therefore, consulting a professional is always important .

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Catarina Moreira A., Amil Dias J., Mera Félix M., Pitta-Gros Dias M. (2017). Doença de Crohn da Clínica à Nutriçao. Lisboa, Nestle Portugal.
  • Gasparetto, M., & Guariso, G. (2014). Crohn’s disease and growth deficiency in children and adolescents. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG20(37), 13219.
  • Pérez Tárrago, C., Puebla Maestu, A., & Miján De La Torre, A. (2008). Tratamiento nutricional en la enfermedad inflamatoria intestinal. Nutrición hospitalaria23(5), 418-428.
  • Xu, L., Lochhead, P., Ko, Y., Claggett, B., Leong, R. W., & Ananthakrishnan, A. N. (2017). Systematic review with meta-analysis: breastfeeding and the risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics46(9), 780–789.
  • Wędrychowicz, A., Zając, A., & Tomasik, P. (2016). Advances in nutritional therapy in inflammatory bowel diseases: Review. World journal of gastroenterology22(3), 1045–1066.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.