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Growth and Development in Paediatric Gastroenterology: What Parents Should Know

Parents are essential in monitoring and promoting the development and growth of their children.  The gastrointestinal system not only contributes to the digestion and absorption of nutrients but also impacts a child's overall growth and development. 


In this blog, we'll explore the importance of understanding paediatric gastro disorders, the factors that affect growth and development, and how parents can support their child's health. By being aware of common gastrointestinal disorders, monitoring growth milestones, and working closely with healthcare providers, parents can ensure the optimal growth and development of their children.


Understanding Paediatric Gastro Disorders


Paediatric gastro disorders encompass a range of conditions that affect the digestive system in children. Common disorders include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), food allergies and food intolerances, and others. These disorders can have significant implications for a child's growth and development. 


For instance, malabsorption of nutrients due to gastrointestinal disorders can result in poor weight gain, stunted height, delayed puberty, and micronutrient deficiencies. It is crucial for parents to understand these conditions, their symptoms, and the importance of early detection and treatment to mitigate the impact on a child's growth and development.


Key Factors Affecting Growth and Development


Several factors influence a child's growth and development, and the gastrointestinal system plays a vital role in supporting these processes. Proper nutrition is essential for growth, and the digestive system facilitates the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Gastrointestinal disorders can disrupt this process, affecting nutrient absorption and utilisation. 


Children with gastrointestinal disorders may experience decreased appetite, malabsorption, and nutrient deficiencies, leading to poor growth and delayed development. Parents need to understand the nutritional requirements for growing children and work closely with healthcare providers to ensure their child receives an appropriate diet that meets their specific needs.


Monitoring Growth and Development


Monitoring a child's growth and development is crucial to identify any potential issues early on. Growth charts are valuable tools that track a child's height, weight, and head circumference over time. Regular check-ups and assessments with healthcare providers allow for the evaluation of growth patterns and developmental milestones.  Its equally important to avoid overweight and obesity as it is to avoid under-nutrition and stunting. 


By comparing a child's growth with established norms, doctors can identify any deviations or concerns that may indicate underlying gastrointestinal disorders. Additionally, parents should pay attention to developmental milestones such as motor skills, language development, and social interactions. Early identification and intervention can significantly improve outcomes for children with gastrointestinal disorders.


Common Paediatric Gastro Disorders and Their Impact


  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): GERD happens when the acid in your stomach flows back up into the oesophagus, causing symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and feeding difficulties. Chronic reflux can interfere with a child's ability to gain weight and may result in respiratory problems, nose, and ear issues.
  2. Celiac Disease: This is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It harms the lining of the small intestine, leading to malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies. Growth retardation, failure to thrive, and delayed puberty are common in children with celiac disease.
  3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): IBD encompasses conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which cause chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Children with IBD may experience poor weight gain, reduced appetite, and delayed growth due to malabsorption and increased nutrient requirements.
  4. Food Allergies and Intolerances: Allergies to certain foods, such as cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, or soy, can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and poor weight gain. Lactose intolerance and other food intolerances can also disrupt nutrient absorption and affect growth.


Supporting Growth and Development in Children with Gastrointestinal Disorders 


  1. Importance of a balanced and nutrient-rich diet: Providing a well-balanced diet that has all essential nutrients is crucial for children with gastrointestinal disorders. Collaborating with a registered dietitian who specializes in paediatric nutrition can ensure that the child's diet meets their specific needs.
  2. Dietary modifications for specific conditions: Depending on the specific gastrointestinal disorder, dietary modifications may be necessary. For example, children with celiac disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet, while those with lactose intolerance may need to avoid dairy products. Working closely with healthcare providers can help determine the appropriate dietary modifications.
  3. Managing symptoms and promoting comfort: Parents should collaborate with healthcare providers to manage symptoms such as reflux, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea. Medications, lifestyle modifications, and feeding strategies can help alleviate symptoms and improve the child's overall comfort.
  4. Ensuring adequate hydration: Children with gastrointestinal disorders may experience increased fluid loss due to diarrhea or vomiting. It is paramount to ensure they are properly hydrated by offering water, oral rehydration solutions, and fluids with electrolytes.
  5. A pediatric gastroenterologist would closely assess the diet of the child and may work in collaboration with a nutritionist if needed.        


Promoting Healthy Development in Children with Paediatric Gastroenterology Disorders


  1. Early intervention and treatment: Early detection and prompt treatment of gastrointestinal disorders can minimize the impact on a child's growth and development. Parents must get medical attention if they notice any concerning symptoms or growth deviations.
  2. Physical activity and exercise: Encouraging regular physical activity and exercise is important for overall health and development. Parents should consult with healthcare providers to ensure that the chosen activities are suitable for their child's condition.
  3. Emotional well-being and stress management: Chronic gastrointestinal disorders can affect a child's emotional well-being. Parents should provide emotional support, create a positive environment, and seek professional help if needed to address any psychological challenges.
  4. Sleep hygiene and its impact on growth and development: Adequate sleep is crucial for children's growth and development. Parents should establish healthy sleep routines, ensure a comfortable sleep environment, and address any sleep-related issues that may arise.


Communicating with Healthcare Providers 


Building a strong partnership with healthcare providers is essential for parents. It is important to ask questions, seek clarification, and actively participate in the child's care. Effective communication ensures that parents understand the child's condition, treatment options, and necessary lifestyle modifications.




Parents are very important in the growth and development of children with peds gastroenterology disorders. By understanding common gastrointestinal conditions, monitoring growth milestones, and working closely with healthcare providers, parents can ensure optimal outcomes for their children. 


Providing a balanced diet, making dietary modifications when necessary, managing symptoms, and promoting overall well-being are essential steps in supporting growth and development. With early intervention, regular communication with healthcare providers, and access to resources, parents can navigate the challenges of paediatric gastroenterology and empower their children to thrive.

Dr. Neelam Mohan
Liver Transplant
Meet The Doctor
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