Liv and Maddie's Benjamin King on Living with Crohn's Disease: 'It's Such a Personal Battle'
10/16/2014 AT 03:50 PM EDT
"This is something that people don't really want to talk about," King, 42, tells PEOPLE. "And you don't really want to go to the doctor for it, so I'm hoping that I can help erase some of the fear and the embarrassment, especially for kids."
And King knows firsthand how tough chronic health issues can be at a young age.
At just 15, the actor was diagnosed with proctitus, an inflammation of the lining of the rectum. While his symptoms were minimal with little to no pain, King was still on medication and kept his condition quiet. Then, in 1996, his health deteriorated, leading him to lose 60 lbs. before his diagnosis escalated to ulcerative colitis, which causes irritation and swelling on the inner lining of the large intestine.
After wearing an ileostomy pouch for six months and undergoing surgery to have his colon removed, King was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2009.
"I just lost it," he recalls. "I couldn't understand why is this was happening, but there was some relief in having at least a concrete diagnosis. To know that I'm not crazy and there was a reason for why I was going through those experiences."
Now, with the success of his hit Disney Channel show and a captive audience of kids watching weekly, the father of two daughters is ready to share his story in the hopes it will help someone else. King also sits on the board of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Support Foundation and counsels kids and young adults to raise awareness for the disease.
"I always knew that I would turn this into some kind of a positive thing," he says. "This is such a personal battle, and it can be really lonely. I have a wonderful family, but when it comes time to step forward and say, 'I need a little help,' it's nice to know that there are people who have gone through this who understand."