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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

May 18, 2021, Patel, Ashish, MD ,
Gut Check: Better Digestive Health for Our Kids
Gut Check: Better Digestive Health for Our Kids

In May 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared May National Digestive Awareness Month. “I urge the people of the United States and educational, philanthropic, scientific, medical, and health care organizations and professionals to take part in appropriate activities to encourage further research into the causes and cures of all types of digestive disorders” said our former president. Fast forward 32 years, and many of us live in a fast food world with little care or emphasis on our personal digestive health. Yet, there is also a swelling of attention and interest in how we can improve our gut health.

The Pediatric Gastroenterology (GI) Division here at Phoenix Children's Hospital is fully invested in helping our kids achieve this goal of better gut health. To that end, we continue to invest time and resources into programs and staff who help our kids achieve this goal. In the last month, we brought on our first pediatric GI psychologist, Dr. Rosemary Hodges, who will be working together with our medical teams to optimize care through a comprehensive approach. Our Pediatric Aerodigestive Center, led by Dr. Dana Williams, a nationally recognized leader in the field, is another shining example of that approach to comprehensive care. The Aerodigestive Center incorporates physicians across 4 specialties, gastroenterology, pulmonology, otolaryngology (ENT) and psychology alongside dedicated nurses, coordinators, and registered dieticians. Our team is dedicated to managing aerodigestive-related conditions by doing a comprehensive evaluation to find the source of your child's disorder and recommending the best treatment. Our medical experts collaborate to offer the best advice on patients’ next steps, and every decision is made on a case-by-case basis. So, while surgery is an option for some breathing, swallowing, or feeding conditions, many of these diagnoses can be treated in other ways. If surgery or an endoscopy is required, our ENT, GI and Pulmonary teams coordinate so your child receives only one procedure. This approach helps reduce risks to your child, such as multiple rounds of anesthesia.

As we think about digestive awareness this month, it also gives an opportunity to think about the things all of us can do to improve our kid’s, and our own, gut health:

  1. Relieve stress with exercise and relaxation techniques
  2. Take a probiotic supplement
  3. Assess your fiber intake
  4. Drink sufficient water
  5. Avoid inflammation triggers (common inflammatory agents are tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, and processed sugar)
  6. Wash your hands frequently, particularly important in this post-COVID world
  7. Seek professional GI care. Don’t ignore symptoms, rather recognize, and respond to them. Often, many of these digestive issues can be handled if recognized early and proper intervention is taken

Our Pediatric GI team at Phoenix Children's, consisting of 17 board certified pediatric gastroenterologists and 3 certified pediatric nurse practitioners, would be honored to have you entrust the digestive health of your children to us.

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