Celiac Disease and Wheat Intolerance

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When children with this problem eat these things it causes an immune mediated reaction that damages the small intestine and impairs absorption of nutrients.

The good news? It is completly treatable by diet. Although the diet can be tricky, with a little know how and creativity parents can successfully eliminate gluten from their child's diet and help them control their disease and wheat intolerance.

What are the symptoms of Celiac Disease?

  • Digestive symptoms are the most common in children. They include:
  • Weight loss or failure to thrive
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Pale, fatty or foul smelling stool
  • Irritability

What are the complications?

If you think your child has celiac disease or wheat intolerance it is very important to get him diagnosed so dietary treatment can be started. If it goes undiagnosed, it can result in:

  • Delayed puberty
  • Failure to thrive
  • Short stature
  • Dental enamel defects

How is it diagnosed?

The two major tests for celiac disease are blood tests and intestinal biopsy. The blood test is looking for high levels of proteins that react against the body’s own cells and tissues. The biopsy is usually done to confirm the diagnosis and takes tiny pieces of the intestine. Both of these tests require the person to continue eating gluten until a diagnosis is made.

If you suspect your child has it do NOT eliminate gluten until after the test is done or you risk a false negative result, which means it will look like she doesn’t have it when she really does.

What is the treatment?

Treatment is very simple: Avoid gluten. This is easier said than done however. Gluten is found in wheat and many grains, but is also found in many processed foods including jams, baked goods, salad dressings, and many other foods. It is even found in lotions and lip balms, which can make complete removal of gluten very difficult. Because of this it is highly recommended you make an appointment with a dietitian who can help you identify gluten containing foods and plan your child’s new diet in the beginning while you are getting used to the new restrictions. The good news is, in children the small intestine completely heals within 3 to 6 months of eliminating gluten.

Another thing to remember is to tell all caregivers, family and friends about your child's condition and special diet requirements. Many times a well meaning person will unknowingly offer your child a baked treat that he is not allowed to have. Because of this, having a child or children with Celiac Disease requires communication. It’s important that everyone, including your child, knows and understands your child’s gluten-free diet. You'll find some great tips at Gluten Free Cooking.

Gluten Free Diet

delicious bread http://www.flickr.com/photos/41061319@N00/3195546454/

Although it can be difficult to follow a gluten free diet, many food manufacturers are now making gluten free foods to make it easier for people who cannot tolerate wheat. Health food stores often have a large section of gluten free foods, and many online retailers also carry these foods. If you are shopping online, be sure to check out the gluten free mall.It has a wide variety of foods that are wheat free and flavorful. Of course, a general healthy diet is also a great place to start. Although your child cannot have wheat based bread, pasta or baked goods, they can still have whole, fresh fruit and vegetables, plain meats, dairy and legumes. There is nothing wrong with emphasizing these foods. By encouraging intake of these foods your child will have a healthier diet than many children who are allowed wheat!

If you suspect your child has celiac disease, get them tested. The treatment is very simple and does not have the side effects most medications have, and if followed carefully the diet is extremely effective. It is highly recommended you make an appointment with us to review your child’s diet for hidden sources of gluten.