Diet & Nutrition to Manage IBD

Treating IBD with Diet and Nutrition

Good nutrition plays an important role in managing and overcoming IBD. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can pose nutritional challenges for children, such as the following:

  • A child’s appetite may decrease during a “flare,” and he or she may not eat enough to sustain normal activity and growth.
  • During times of inflammation, the digestive tract may not absorb nutrients as well as it should, or the body may not use the nutrients appropriately.
  • The body may need more calories to repair itself during and after a “flare.”
  • Some IBD medications may affect appetite and nutrition.

Maintaining a Good Diet with IBD

You may worry that something in your child’s diet caused him or her to have IBD, but there is no evidence to suggest that this is so. In addition, there is no “colitis diet” or “Crohn’s diet” that will prevent flare ups or cure the disease.

Usually, there are no major restrictions on the diet of a child with IBD. However, you should monitor your child’s diet and watch for any sensitivities to certain foods. A food journal is a great tool to help you in this effort.

Some situations may necessitate a change to your child’s diet. Common sensitivities include:

Dietary Fiber

This may cause pain and block the intestine if it is narrowed by inflammation. A low-fiber diet can be helpful when inflammation of the intestines has made the passageway narrow.


Salt intake should be monitored while taking corticosteroids, since salt increases fluid retention (swelling), a side effect of steroids.

Dairy Products

Some children may have difficulty with milk and other dairy products. However, this is often only a temporary problem. Dairy products should only be restricted from the diet if they cause problems, as they are an excellent source of protein and calcium, and are high in nutritional value.

If you feel your child is not tolerating certain foods, be sure to speak with his or her health care team about your concerns.

Featured Resources

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In this book, medical experts explain all you need to know about IBD and answer important questions, including:

  • What are inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis?
• Is there a cure for IBD?
  • How is IBD going to affect my child’s daily life?
  • Will my child’s diet change?
  • Can my child still play sports?
  • Will my child need surgery?
  • What are the side effects of commonly prescribed medications?
  • What challenges may my child face at school and socially, especially as he or she grows older?

To purchase: Please go to the Johns Hopkins Press Website.


Educational support for the NASPGHAN Foundation’s Pediatric IBD Education Campaign was provided by major sponsors P&G Pharmaceuticals, Shire, UCB Inc. and Centocor, Inc. Additional support for the campaign was provided by Prometheus Therapeutics and Diagnostics and Abbott.

North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
The Association of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Nurses
North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Foundation
The NASPGHAN Council For Pediatric Nutrition Professionals
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