Why Nutrition Matters

Photo: Patient's height being checked

Delayed Growth and Maturation

Delayed growth is a special issue for children and teens with Crohn's disease, and affects 30 to 50% of patients. Growth failure is often the first symptom to appear. It results from both poor appetite and decreased absorption of nutrients from the intestine, and can delay the onset of puberty and maturation.

Weight loss is less common in patients with ulcerative colitis, but it can still occur.

Bone Density

Many children with IBD, especially those with Crohn's disease, have osteoporosis (low bone density) at the time of their IBD diagnosis.

Photo: Bone density scanner

For this reason, it is very important to eat dairy products, or dairy alternatives that provide a good source of calcium and vitamin D.

Healthy Eating

To maintain good health, it is important to eat a healthy diet. You may need to change your diet according to your symptoms. When you feel well, eat according to Canada's Food Guide and enjoy your regular diet. If you are not feeling well, you may need to be more cautious.

If your colitis is in an "active" stage, you may be more sensitive to certain types of foods. These may include "acidy" fruits and vegetables such as grapefruits (or juice), oranges (or juice), and tomatoes (or tomato sauce). Similarly, lactose in milk products causes cramping and gas for some people, and you may need to use low-lactose dairy products to manage your symptoms.

If you have narrowing of the ileum (part of your small intestine), you should avoid food that might get stuck in narrow places. Such foods include popcorn, corn on the cob, corn "niblets," and nuts.

It is important to know that there is no such thing as an "IBD diet". Everyone has different tolerances, different preferences, and unique disease challenges. It is important that you don't make any drastic changes to your diet without speaking to your health care team.

Keeping track of your diet for a couple of weeks, using a symptom diary, may help to identify which foods cause you more issues, such as increased gas or cramping.

Get to know how your body reacts to what you feed it!

And don't forget to speak with your clinic dietitian, who can help you with your specific dietary needs.