Navigating summertime while living with IBD

Anyone living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) knows that many different environmental factors can influence their disease – summertime included. Here are some tips from the gastroenterology team at CHOC Children’s for navigating the season.

  • Vitamin D is so important for IBD. Many people living with IBD have low vitamin D levels, so the summer months can help with topping up on the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D has the potential to improve disease progression through anti-inflammatory immune responses. Enjoy the warmth of the sun, but don’t forget your sunscreen! Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, apply 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours. Wear protective clothing and don’t forget your sunglasses and hat!
  • Talk to your doctor about photosensitivity. It is important to talk to your doctor to find out if any of the medications you are on to treat Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis could cause sensitivity and skin inflammation.
  • Take a good look at your skin and schedule an annual skin check. IBD or IBD treatment may affect your skin. Examine your skin head-to-toe once a month for new spots or growths. Some people may experience tender bumps, sores or rashes.  Make sure you schedule an annual skin check with your primary care provider or a dermatologist.
  • Hydrate! As the days get hotter, risk for dehydration increases. People with IBD are at greater risk for dehydration due to water loss from diarrhea or vomiting. Remember to carry around a water bottle wherever you go. Recommended water intake for pre-teens and teens who weigh more than 100 pounds is 64 ounces per day, or about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day unless you have a preexisting condition that limits the amount of water you can intake, such as some people with heart and kidney conditions. Drink more with physical activity or long periods of being in the sun. If plain water is getting boring, add in fruits and veggies, unless of course you are on a low-fiber diet!
  • Monitor your screen time. While it’s tempting to watch your favorite shows and browse social media to fill up your free time, keep screen time to less than two hours per day. Whether you are feeling good or bad, physical activity helps both the brain and body, so try to incorporate 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic activity, where you get your heart rate up and break a sweat. Exercise may have anti-inflammatory effects. Physical activity is also linked to better bone health and mental wellness in children with IBD.
  • Practice COVID-19 precautions. People diagnosed with IBD may be considered immunosuppressed, which means they may be at higher risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19. To help prevent this, avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing, avoid having close contact with people who are sick, and wash your hands frequently. Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Be safe and have fun. Get back to nature, swim and explore the outdoors. Remember to pack a face mask along with a water bottle and practice social distancing when you pick a trail or spot to swim. Being active benefits mental wellness and overall wellbeing.
  • Get your sleep. Amid all the fun, make sleep a priority. A lack of sleep can delay healing which worsens IBD symptoms. Develop a relaxing routine, read a book, take a bath, shut off electronics and make it a goal to sleep at least eight hours per night.
Learn more about the CHOC Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program

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IBD vs. IBS: How to tell the difference

It’s normal for kids to get stomach aches, but some kids have bad stomach pain all the time. If your child has abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, you may be wondering if your child has IBD or IBS (inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome). But do you know the difference?

While many of the symptoms are similar, IBD and IBS are very different. IBS can cause pain, but there is no inflammation of the intestine and it doesn’t lead to serious disease, as with IBD.

“It’s important to not diagnose either of these conditions yourself. If your child has these symptoms, you should take your child to a pediatrician, who can then refer your child to a pediatric gastroenterologist, if necessary” says Dr. Kenneth Grant, pediatric gastroenterologist at CHOC Children’s.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

IBD is a chronic condition caused by inflammation in the digestive tract. There are two main types of IBD – ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis affects the colon, and Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system.

“No one knows for sure that causes IBD or why it appears when it does. We do know that people who have family members with IBD are more likely to develop the disease. There is evidence that patients with this disease have abnormal activity of the immune system. Diet, nutrition and the environment may all play key roles,” says Dr. Grant.

IBD is diagnosed by a pediatric gastroenterologist through complete medical history, physical examination and specialized diagnostic procedures, such as blood tests, stool tests, endoscopy, colonoscopy or radiology exams. IBD treatment usually consists of medication therapy or surgery with the goal of reducing inflammation.

IBD symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea, sometimes bloody
  • Urgency to stool
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever
  • Growth failure
  • Rash
  • Joint pain

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is not a disease, but rather, a collection of symptoms. There is no damage or inflammation in the digestive system. When abdominal pain is accompanied with changes in bowel movement habits, either constipation or diarrhea, this is called irritable bowel syndrome.

Although the exact cause is not known, nerve signals or chemicals secreted by the gut or brain may cause the gut to be more sensitive to triggers that normally do not cause significant pain (such as stretching or gas bloating). The nerve dysfunction also results in change in bowel motility leading to constipation or diarrhea.

To diagnose IBS, a physician should rule out a diagnosis of IBD. IBS is usually treated with dietary change, medication and stress management.

IBS symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Chronic or intermittent diarrhea
  • Chronic or intermittent constipation
  • Urgency to pass a bowel movement or sensation of incomplete passage of bowel movement
  • Passage of mucus in the stool

To make an appointment with a CHOC gastroenterology specialist, call 888-770-2462.

Learn more about the CHOC Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program

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What We’re Thankful for This Year: 2016

In celebration of Thanksgiving, members of the CHOC Children’s family express what they’re most grateful for this year.

thanksgiving at chocMary Green 

Registered nurse in the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s

“I could list 100 reasons why I am thankful for CHOC. I’m thankful to work at a place with such visible growth: in the number of available treatments, in the percentage of children that are surviving cancer, in relationships between patients, family members and staff; and growth visible in children as they begin to believe how strong they truly are. Even more so, I am thankful that CHOC is passionate about celebrating growth and takes pride in celebrating all of the little things.”

thanksgiving at chocDr. Joanne Starr

Medical director, cardiothoracic surgery

“I’m grateful to be part of an innovative pediatric hospital and for CHOC’s commitment to providing patients and families with access to the best neonatal and open-heart surgery in Orange County.”

thanksgiving at chocDana Sperling

Social worker, NICU

“I am thankful for two amazing teams I am privileged to be a part of:  the social services team and the Neonatal Intensive  Care Unit (NICU) team.  The compassion and dedication of both teams makes me proud to work along side them day after day, delivering outstanding care to patients and families.”

 

thanksgiving at chocDr. Kenneth Grant

Chair of gastroenterology 

“I am thankful to be working for an organization that creates an environment where our patients become our family. I am also grateful that CHOC Children’s has the foresight to invest in the innovative ideas we have to improve the health care we provide. ”

thanksgiving at chocDr. David Gibbs

Medical director of trauma services

“I am thankful for the trust of our patients and families. With the strong support of the hospital and the community, our Level 2 Trauma Center is proud to care for children in Orange County.”

thanksgiving at chocJoani Stocker

Volunteer

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to bring smiles and laughter to our patients through Turtle Talk and the playrooms. Laughter is medicine to the bones, and I am humbled to be a part of the healing. My cup is overflowing with joy when I see a patient giggle and play.”

thanksgiving at chocDr. Daniel Mackey

CHOC Children’s pediatrician

“I am thankful for the opportunity to be partnered with an excellent children’s hospital. I am also thankful for the pleasure of working with other positive people who provide outstanding care to the children of Orange County. Together we work to improve the care and services we deliver to our most important resource…our children.”

thanksgiving at chocDr. Gary Goodman

Medical director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

I am most grateful to the people behind the scenes at the hospital that do all the invisible jobs that are so important to keep CHOC Children’s running: the housekeepers, lab and x-ray technologists, bio-medical engineers, pharmacy technicians, scrub technicians, security guards and maintenance staff that work tirelessly, 24-hours a day.”

thanksgiving at choc

Dr. Raymond Wang

Metabolic disorders specialist

“I am thankful that CHOC cares for families and children with rare disorders by supporting clinical trials and translational research, and the staff who care for these families, to find treatments and cures for their conditions.”

thanksgiving at chocEric Mammen

Lead music therapist

“I am grateful that I get to witness the transformative powers of music with amazing patients and families everyday here at CHOC. So very grateful for the generous donors that continue to support our growing music therapy program. Without them we would not be able to impact the families and help them face incredible challenges with courage, smiles, and a song. Super grateful to be apart of writing a powerful song with a patient in response to his medical diagnosis- “To Life Live To The Fullest!” Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you get to spend some extra time with your loved ones around you.”

Matt Gerlachwhat choc is thankful for

Executive vice president and chief operating officer

“At this time of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for CHOC Children’s and the wonderful service we are privileged to provide for the communities we serve. I am thankful for the dedication and commitment of our physicians, associates and volunteers, who give the very best they have to give— their knowledge, skills, abilities, care and compassion— to make CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children a reality for so many in need, every day. I am also thankful for those that stand behind our physicians, associates and volunteers— their loved ones, who support our CHOC Children’s team to be the best that they can be, both at work and at home. I wish all of our CHOC Children’s family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.”

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