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A Parent’s Guide to A Gluten Free Diet for Kids

Gluten-free diets have become popular as more people experiment with the health benefits of eliminating gluten. Some people choose to avoid gluten, even though they don’t have specific health issues that demand it. Other people may have health conditions that warrant the elimination of gluten. For example, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that involves a gluten intolerance. Celiac disease can affect people of all ages, including children. When a child has a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten, a physician may recommend eliminating all gluten from the diet as a part of the treatment process.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that involves an intolerance to gluten which is found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. When someone with celiac disease ingests gluten, the body cannot digest it properly. In the small intestine, microscopic villi have the job of absorbing nutrients from the food as it passes through. When a person has celiac disease, gluten attacks the villi so they cannot function properly. As a result, the villi can’t absorb the nutrients in the food. By eliminating gluten, the villi absorb nutrients effectively.

Researchers are concluding that celiac disease has a genetic component, meaning that the disease is an inherited trait likely to be present in multiple family members. Someone with celiac disease has a higher chance that siblings and children will also have it. Similarly, people who have other autoimmune disorders have a higher risk of also developing celiac disease. If celiac disease is untreated, it can lead to many different problems, including the development of other autoimmune disorders. Undiagnosed in children, it could lead to growth issues, delayed puberty, damage to teeth, behavioral changes, and more. Stratford dentists can help with any potential dental issues.

Gluten Sensitivity in Children

Children with a gluten sensitivity may exhibit a variety of symptoms. Babies and very young children might have vomiting, diarrhea, foul-smelling stool, a disinterest in eating, lack of weight gain, dehydration, swollen stomachs, and irritability. Older children might have slow growth, anemia, depression, trouble learning and concentrating, problems remembering, and mood swings. If dental issues are occurring, consult Stratford CT pediatric dentists for help. Additionally, some parents may need to consider sleep apnea treatment. Stratford pediatric dentists can provide treatment assistance.

When a physician suspects celiac disease, diagnosis may involve a blood test, which can identify antibodies that indicate an autoimmune response to gluten. If a blood test confirms these antibodies, additional blood tests will likely follow. If these blood tests also confirm the celiac symptoms, the next step in diagnosis will involve an upper-gastrointestinal endoscopy which involves taking a small tissue sample from the bowel.

Treatment Protocol

Curing celiac disease is not possible. However, current treatment protocol will alleviate typical symptoms to help the small intestine function correctly. Treatment generally involves eliminating gluten from the diet. People with an intolerance must avoid foods that contain gluten. It also involves awareness of other sources of gluten, such as medications, lip balms, personal care products, toothpaste, and the adhesives found on envelopes and stamps. Physicians may also recommend eliminating lactose for a specified period. Families will usually receive assistance from a dietician to learn how to implement a gluten-free diet for a child.

Gluten-Free Diet Tips

Implementing a gluten-free diet can seem overwhelming and challenging. Learning about foods that contain gluten will take time. Avoiding wheat, barley, and rye is usually the first step. Sometimes gluten is present in foods that may seem unlikely. For example, sauces and seasoning blends often contain gluten. Gluten can also hide in self-basting meats and poultry, sausages and hot dogs, cream soups, broths, gravy, and foods that contain malt coloring and vinegar. Many processed foods contain gluten, so a gluten-free diet often involves eating more nutritious, whole foods in their natural state.

Making homemade items is another way to ensure avoidance of gluten. By making homemade breads, muffins, cakes, and cookies using gluten-free ingredients, it’s possible to enjoy treats while also avoiding gluten. As a child grows older, it’s imperative to teach about avoiding gluten to give the child the tools necessary to stay healthy. Teaching children how to read food labels to find hidden gluten is one tool. Involving a child in menu planning and meal preparation is also helpful because it empowers a child to take positive charge of health. Some families choose to make the entire household gluten-free. This can eliminate any problems with feelings of deprivation. It also prevents potential gluten contamination in a child’s diet. Maintaining a positive attitude about avoiding gluten is crucial. As health improves, this can be a daily reminder that avoiding gluten is worthwhile. It may also help to try new recipes and look for new substitutions that will enable you to add innovative tastes and styles into a meal plan. While dining out can also be challenging, many restaurants are offering gluten-free menu options for patrons who avoid gluten.

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(203) 742-1027