By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
Reviewed by: Kelsey Sorvick, RN, Penfield Children’s Center

These days, the topic of gluten has found its way into many conversations about health and weight-loss. Many diets have also popped up to support a food plan that does not include gluten, but focuses on eating more proteins, vegetables and non-gluten containing sources of carbohydrates such as rice. While this trend might help shed pounds, the gluten-free life is extremely important for people diagnosed with a condition called celiac disease.

Celiac disease causes an immune reaction in the small intestine after eating foods that contain gluten. Gluten can be found in wheat, barley and rye.  This often poses quite the challenge for children diagnosed with the disease because many foods on the market today, including bread, pasta, cakes and other commonly ingested foods all contain gluten. It is actually dangerous for someone with celiac disease to eat these types of foods because over time, the immune system response can damage the lining of the small intestine and prevent vital nutrients from being absorbed into the body. This can actually lead to malnutrition and affect a child’s growth or cause him to develop anemia or osteoporosis.  It can also make him very uncomfortable and experience diarrhea, bloating and many other issues.

While experts don’t know exactly what causes someone to develop celiac disease, it is believed that genetics do come into play. If a child’s grandparent or parent has the disease, he is more likely to get it in contrast to children who do not have affected family members. Unfortunately, there is no cure for celiac disease, but a carefully managed diet can allow for a healthy, active life. Because of the trend towards gluten-free meals, there are many different variations of flour-free and all around gluten-free products on the market that are good alternatives.

How can I tell if my child has a wheat sensitivity or actually has celiac disease?

This is a common question for many children and adults. Those with a wheat sensitivity might experience bloating, a foggy mind, diarrhea and other symptoms commonly related to celiac disease, but will not actually be diagnosed with the condition. If your child complains often of these issues, it’s important to take him to a doctor to figure out what is causing the discomfort. To diagnose celiac disease, the doctor will first look at your child’s medical history and also do a physical examination. He/she might then order a blood test. According to Kids Health, if the test comes back with a high level of antibodies to gluten, the doctor can then order a biopsy of the small intestine to properly diagnose celiac disease.

 My child was diagnosed with celiac disease. What is safe for my child to eat?

Since a strict gluten-free diet is essential for those with celiac disease, it is important to pay close attention to food labels and recipes. Safe ingredients include:

  • Noodles, breads and baked goods made from corn, rice, quinoa or potato flours
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Seeds
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables

Many grocery stores have a gluten-free aisle with a myriad of products that your little one can eat, such as noodles, dessert mixes, cereals and other items that usually contain gluten, but are made especially for those who need to avoid it.

A diagnosis of celiac disease can seem scary, but with some careful attention to diet and routine check-ups with the doctor, your child can live a fun life full of delicious and nutritious foods.

Does your child have any food sensitivities?




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