Have you ever wondered if your child is growing enough? How much is enough?

We watch our kids grow every day without even noticing or questioning if it’s happening. We may notice significant growth when we haven’t seen a child in a while but we never think twice of the daily occurrences and changes that happen in the body. Few really recognize what an accomplishment the growth of a child’s body is because the growth of a child is “normal”. It is what we expect. It is part of life.

Unfortunately, growing is not as easy for all kids. Some kids have chronic illnesses that prevent them from growing. Sometimes it’s the illness itself and other times it’s the medications that deal with the illness that stunt growth. When the growth of a child is compromised, it can affect them psychologically long-term and in many different ways.

Our child spent over 12 months without showing any growth when he was 7 years of age. At the time he had been diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Despite a treatment plan and medications, he continued to show no growth due to inflammation and the lack of his body’s ability to absorb nutrients critical for growth. The inflammation caused by IBD in children often causes malnutrition and therefore, affects growth. After a year, he had fallen off the growth chart.

As his parents, we searched frantically for a treatment that would jump-start his growth. As many of you know, he began to follow the protocol of a medical study which used the Specific Carbohydrate diet as a form of treatment. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet eliminates all starches and grains, refined sugar and unfermented dairy from the diet, among other items. It was a significant undertaking by our child to comply with the dietary restrictions. Hoping for an increase in his growth as well as relief of minor symptoms made the sacrifice worth it.

Six months after starting the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, our child showed 1 inch of growth. This inch was celebrated as if it was the largest accomplishment ever! Everyone that was part of the team was ecstatic. However, the psychological effects from coping with a chronic illness can manifest much later than the physical symptoms. Lack of growth can raise questions about their future development, overall height and self-confidence. Therefore, it is important to address the physical as well as the psychological effects when normal growth is affected.

Three years later, as he continues the same restricted diet and his symptoms for his Crohn’s Disease are virtually non-existent, we are still faced with the challenge of his growth catching up from a lost year. Close to being a teenager now, he is well aware of his height and how short he is in comparison to his peers. This continues to affect him psychologically but we are hopeful that his body will catch up.

If your child’s growth has been a challenged, we recommend:

  • Have your child talk to a psychologist or a trained professional.
  • Have your child talk to a nutritionist to make sure his food intake is sufficient and nutritious.
  • Don’t dwell on his height. Your child will feed from how much importance you give it.
  • Track his weight and height every 3 months to make sure he stays on track.
  • Ask your doctor how much weight gain should be expected per month to maintain appropriate growth. (Our GI doctor has suggested ½ – ¾ of a pound per month at the age of 12.)

So celebrate your child’s growth! It is a huge daily accomplishment that affects the child’s overall wellbeing.