Dietary Therapy for Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease (CD) is a type inflammatory bowel disease.  It may occur in any part of the GI tract but usually it affects the small intestine and/or the colon.  Individuals with CD have periods of improvements and periods of “flare ups” when symptoms present.  Symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fatigue, weight loss and in children, growth delay, etc.

CD is thought to be caused by an abnormal immune system.  One theory is that the immune system mistakes its own friendly gut bacteria and foods traveling through the GI tract as pathogens and triggers an immune reaction to attack them.  Treatment usually is with drugs (such as steroids and immune system suppressors) which are used to manage symptoms and to prolong the periods between flare ups as long as possible.

Nutritional Management of Crohn’s Disease: 
Nutrition is an important factor for patients with CD.  During flare ups, inflammation of the GI tract may disrupt the normal absorption of nutrients.  This can cause serious nutrient deficiencies so it’s important to assess the need for nutritional supplements.  During periods of severe symptoms, intestines may be unable to absorb enough nutrition to sustain life, so the physician may prescribe an alternate way to provide nutrition, such as temporary intravenous nutrition or enteral nutrition.  With enteral nutrition, the patients may consume an elemental formula, a nutritionally-complete liquid formula that provides all nutrients in the simplest form which makes it easy for the GI tract to absorb.  This allows the GI tract to rest and repair itself, while ensuring the patient is still receiving adequate nutrition.

Crohn’s Disease in Children: 
Long-term steroid use can have serious side effects.  In children, the growth impairment associated with steroid use is a serious concern, especially combined with the fact children with CD are also more prone to consume inadequate calories.  Some families choose to treat flare-ups and prolong remissions using nutritional management rather than steroids.  An elemental diet or even a half elemental diet can help manage flare ups, prolong remissions and ensure proper nutrition & growth for children with CD.  Neocate Splash and Neocate Junior may be useful for children with CD who are following dietary therapies.

 – Mallory

Image Source:

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse  

Published: 08/15/2011
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