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Having a child with celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be an emotional roller coaster, but it is possible for your child to live well. Here are the facts you need to successfully manage these lifelong conditions.

Celiac Disease

Gluten-free diets may be trendy these days. But for the 3 million Americans with celiac disease, avoiding gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—is a must for protecting their health and reducing the risk for serious complications. The autoimmune disorder causes the body to attack itself, and when people with celiac disease consume gluten, their small intestine becomes inflamed.

Celiac disease can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms, weight loss, and changes in mood, energy, and bone health. Though there is no cure, it can be managed with a gluten-free diet and lifestyle changes. And with the right treatments, it is possible to live a full life.


Myth: Celiac disease just means that a person gets a stomachache from eating wheat.

Fact: Celiac disease can affect the body in different ways. While gastrointestinal (GI) upset is common, children can also experience symptoms such as anemia, low energy, headaches, liver inflammation, and poor growth.


Myth: Celiac can be diagnosed by symptoms alone.

Fact: Testing is needed to confirm a celiac diagnosis, because other GI disorders may cause similar symptoms. An upper endoscopy with a biopsy is considered the gold standard. Some children may also be eligible for a blood test.


Myth: Celiac disease is hard to control.

Fact: Eating a gluten-free diet is the best way to manage symptoms. A registered dietitian who specializes in celiac disease can help your child develop an eating plan that’s delicious and nutritious.


Inflammatory Bowel Disease

More than 1.6 million Americans, including 80,000 children, have IBDs such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. A chronic inflammation of the intestines that’s not caused by an infection, IBD can cause diarrhea, blood in the stool, nausea or vomiting, and stomach pain. It can also lead to fevers, joint pain, and fatigue and result in poor growth and anemia.

If inadequately treated, IBD can lead to serious complications. Thankfully, effective medication and attention to nutrition can limit inflammation and help prevent flare-ups for most patients.


Myth: IBD can be managed with medication alone.

Fact: While prescription medications are a first-line defense against IBD, nutritional therapy also plays an important role. Avoiding or limiting certain foods can prevent or manage flares. In some cases, surgery to remove the part of the intestine that is inflamed may also be an option, putting the condition into remission.


Myth: People with IBD shouldn’t eat fiber.

Fact: High-fiber diets are often recommended for IBD. Fiber can increase the number and variety of good bacteria in the gut, which may reduce inflammation. A GI doctor and registered dietitian can recommend the best diet changes for your child.


Myth: IBD flares can be managed at home.

Fact: New or worsening symptoms should be reported to your child’s doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment may help get flares under control sooner and reduce the chance for serious complications.


For more information on celiac disease and IBD, visit