Unfortunately, gluten intolerance in children is becoming more and more common. Many parents are not even aware that their child has gluten intolerance until the symptoms become noticeable enough and potentially disturbing. If gluten intolerance in children is left untreated, it can become serious and cause more stressful celiac disease symptoms upon adolescence and adulthood.
Some researchers believe gluten intolerance may be closely tied to the increased rate of autism in children. Suffice to say, if you believe your child is struggling with digestive problems, you really should consult your physician to determine the role of gluten in your child’s life. Children with celiac disease deserve more attentive and serious consideration than we previously understood. This condition can hinder a child’s growth and development if it goes undiagnosed for too long.
Many people do not know the difference between gluten intolerance and celiac disease symptoms because they are actually very similar. Gluten intolerance is rather broad and refers to all types of gluten sensitivities. It is sometimes thought to be less serious than celiac disease, but that subtle difference won’t help you or your child feel better. Celiac disease was the first type of gluten sensitivity that testing was devised for in the 1940s. This disease is only one type of gluten intolerance and many people tend to test negative for it despite suffering from gluten intolerance symptoms. In these instances they may be experiencing a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
What Are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance in Children?
The symptoms for children can be different than those experienced by adults. Young children usually experience weight loss and extension of the abdomen (abdominal distention) as well as a distinct failure to thrive. Upon reaching adolescence, children will become more irritable and more prone to vomiting. Some children also experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
For a more expansive discussion of gluten intolerance symptoms please see the home page of my site or read gluten allergy symptoms or to develop a better understanding of the confusion surrounding diagnosis in children read gluten allergy symptoms in children.
How Can Gluten Intolerance Be Diagnosed?
Endoscope, biopsy and blood panels are often used to determine if a child has celiac disease. However, these tests are specifically for celiac disease. Testing negative does not necessarily assure that there is no level of gluten sensitivity and you must still watch for celiac disease symptoms in children even after an initial negative test. Blood tests must usually be performed twice for accuracy. I will discuss the more common test in another specific article about the celiac disease blood test.
The only sure way to determine gluten intolerance in children is to remove gluten completely from their diet and see if their symptoms improve. Gluten-free living may be intimidating at first, but I’m sure you will agree that it is worth it when it comes to your child’s well-being.
How Do You Manage Your Child’s Gluten Sensitivity?
Gluten intolerance can be managed by removing gluten from the child’s diet. The child will no longer be able to eat bread products, any type of rye, any form of wheat, most pastas, or barley. Spelt must also be avoided. Keep in mind just because something is labeled wheat-free doesn’t mean it is gluten-free. Unfortunately, you will often need to contact manufacturers directly to make certain some products don’t somehow feature gluten in some subtle manner.
While it may seem difficult at first once you adapt to a gluten-free lifestyle it will become second nature and the good news is there are some great gluten-free alternatives for favorite childrens foods that traditionally contain gluten.
Thankfully, more and more grocery stores and manufacturers are improving their selection and labeling of gluten-free foods. There are also some great gluten-free recipes and cookbooks available. If you want to learn more about gluten-free flours and baking read my gluten-free pantry article: Gluten-Free Pantry
Once the gluten-free diet is started, the child’s health should improve; in some cases it can improve very quickly. When symptoms resolve, children with gluten intolerance can start to enjoy a better quality of life. In the near future, I will also include some ideas for helpful supplements and foods to help withe the recovery of gluten intolerance in children.