As parents, we want to do everything we can to keep our children healthy. You cannot change your child's predisposition to diseases, however there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood he or she will develop Crohn's disease.

Encourage them NOT to smoke. We know. You send this message every possible way and warn your kids about the dangers of lung cancer and other deadly diseases caused, or exacerbated by, smoking. Now you have yet another reason to give them: smokers are much more likely to get Crohn's disease than non-smokers, and they tend to get it more aggressively.

Feed them well. A healthy, balanced diet promotes overall good health and proper growth in children. Research shows that a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy fats actually provides protection against Crohn's disease. The opposite holds true as well. A diet insufficient in critical nutrients can   increase your child's risk for Crohn's.

Add Omega-3 fatty acids. We need omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids (the good fats) in our diets. Both are important, however a higher ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 has been found to provide protection against Crohn's disease. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods such as salmon or other fresh-water fishes, walnuts and flax seeds. They are better absorbed when consumed in food; however, you can find fish oil supplements at any health food retailer and most grocery stores.

Avoid Accutane. Accutane is a powerful drug that is widely used to treat persistent acne. It's also been shown to increase a child's risk for Crohn's. If your teen struggles with acne, pursue other, less harmful treatment options before you consider this route.

If you don't live on a farm, visit often. Believe it or not, a widely cited study in the journal Pediatrics reports that cleanliness is not necessarily next to godliness. Researchers who tracked children with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, say children who are exposed to microbes found in less sanitary environments-such as a barn-actually have stronger immune systems.

The study shows that children who spent time around farm animals (especially cattle) as youngsters were 50 percent less likely to develop Crohn's as they got older. They have not proven a causal affect between exposure to farm animals and Crohn's disease, but they have found that household pets, such as cats and dogs, do not provide the same protection.


Imbalanced diet tied to Crohn's disease in kids

American Journal of Gastroenterology, September 2007

Pediatrics, August 2007