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What to Do When Your Child Faces Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis

Updated: Jan 2

A united family is important for the healing process of the child

In this article, I want to address the parents and families whose children are dealing with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

If a child or a teenager in your family are dealing with Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis, returning to or starting a new educational framework can be challenging and stressful for them as well as for the whole family. When all the family unites together for the sake of the healing process - it makes the journey much easier.

Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis do not only affect the patients alone but also their close ones, families, and friends. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract, which are on the rise in the past years, and often erupt at a young age - in childhood and adolescence. Studies show that almost 25% of those diagnosed with Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis are under the age of 16.

The main symptoms of Inflammatory bowel diseases are abdominal pain, diarrhea, chronic fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition, and can also involve complications that require hospitalization such as strictures, ulcers, and fistulas in the intestine.

This is definitely a challenge to teenage patients, whose quality of life is severely affected by these symptoms. During severe flare-ups, they are often forced to miss school days, and this affects their achievements, social life, and of course their self-confidence.

How to cope with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis as a family?

As parents you don't always know what to do when your child faces Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, and it is fare from being an easy journey. The daily concern for their health/mental/social condition, preparing the foods that suit them best, making sure they take their medication on time, and constantly looking for ways to help them reach remission.

When I treat a child or a teenager who is dealing with Crohn's or Ulcerative colitis, the treatment involves the whole family, and enlists the help of everyone for the child’s treatment process, to make it as easy and effective as possible.

Changing the family diet

As part of the natural treatment for Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, it is necessary to make a nutritional change, and switch to an anti-inflammatory diet that restores and heals the digestive system. I will be honest, this is a diet that not every child or teenager will necessarily connect to right away, and in most cases, it is a significant change that requires time and effort to adapt to. Nutrition is critical in the treatment of intestinal infections. A child who is used to eating snacks, ice cream, pizza, and drinking sugary drinks on a regular basis, will have to give up all these things and get used to new foods, flavors, and textures. He or she will have to adopt different dietary habits from the ones they were used to before. Such a change is not easy to make, especially for young patients, who already suffer physically and emotionally and often feel alone and misunderstood. Therefore, in order to make the nutritional change as easy as possible for them and to encourage them to eat the right foods for them, the whole family should switch to a healthy anti-inflammatory diet. So it is a win-win situation for everybody!

Talking about the disease

A diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel disease is often a shock for the family, and it takes time to digest it and get used to a new, different situation. When it comes to young children or teenagers, they do not always fully understand the meaning of dealing with a chronic disease and what it entails, therefore it is very important to have a family talk about the disease and the new situation at home. This will bring the whole family together and avoid confusion and misunderstanding on the part of the children.

It is very important to explain to them in depth about the disease and what happens in the body of those who are dealing with it. Many times, the symptoms can cause them emotional stress, anxiety and depression. Be there for them. Listen, contain, hug, and don't hesitate to seek professional help, if needed.

Planning and organization in advance

In order to make the daily coping of children or adolescents with Crohn's or Ulcerative colitis as easy as possible, they should be prepared for any situation: build a weekly menu together and plan the daily meals (arrange with the school to allow them to bring homemade food if needed), organize a small hygiene bag with a change of clothes and medicine. Try to encourage them to get enough hours of sleep. Sleep is critical to their general feeling and well-being during the day, and it is a major contributor to the healing process in general.

It is important to inform the educational staff about the condition of your child, and it is also recommended to share with the classmates and tell them some basic facts about the disease (of course with the consent of the child).

Remember, you are the most important backup for your children! You have the ability to make their healing journey positive, empowering, and educational. And if you need some help, I'm here for you and for them!

kids with Crohn's and ulcerative colitis


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