Celiac disease requires accommodations to ensure your child stays healthy and safe, but fortunately these changes are easier than ever to make.
The term “gluten” has popped up in relation to food and drinks quite a bit within the past decade or so, though it’s always been present in our lives. Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in some cereal grains such as wheat, barley, triticale, and rye. However, cereal grains such as corn, millet, amaranth, rice, quinoa, and oats do not contain gluten. While most people are able to digest gluten products, some conditions such as celiac disease make eating or drinking gluten a painful prospect.
While celiac disease can cause complications in your child’s development, these issues can be prevented—even reversed—when caught early enough and managed properly.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is often mistakenly referred to as a type of gluten allergy or intolerance, which is understandable, considering these conditions all involve similar symptoms and are triggered by gluten consumption. However, each diagnosis stems from a different physiological response and can be differentiated as follows:
- Gluten allergy: A potentially life-threatening immune system response that occurs after eating or drinking gluten
- Gluten intolerance: An overall feeling of illness after consuming gluten in a patient that does not test positive for a gluten allergy or celiac disease
- Celiac disease: An autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine after consuming gluten
When a celiac patient eats or drinks a product that contains gluten, it causes the immune system to start attacking the small intestine in response. Damage to the small intestine can lead to issues with the proper absorption of nutrients, so celiac disease requires careful management in order to prevent additional health issues.
If your child starts experiencing the symptoms associated with any of these conditions, contact a medical professional to begin testing. Having a solid answer regarding whether or not they suffer from a gluten allergy, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease will help you determine how to manage their diet moving forward.
What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
Patients can develop celiac disease at any age. Children tend to experience a wider range of symptoms than adults, as the resulting small intestine damage and compromised nutritional intake can disrupt normal, healthy growth patterns.
Symptoms of celiac disease in kids include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lactose intolerance
- Tooth enamel damage
- Delayed puberty
- Stunted growth
- Weight loss or difficulty gaining weight
- Bone and joint pain
- Decreased mental or behavioral function (“brain fog”)
- Pale, unusually foul-smelling, and/or floating stools
The signs of celiac disease usually occur between 48 and 72 hours after eating or drinking gluten products. By contrast, gluten allergies and intolerances happen shortly after gluten consumption. While the time between gluten consumption and the onset of symptoms is a major indicator of whether or not your child lives with gluten allergies, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, it’s still recommended to visit a specialist for testing.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Pediatric gastroenterologists typically oversee celiac disease testing in children. The diagnostic process involves three stages:
- Physical examination: Your child’s doctor will start off with a physical meant to determine whether or not your kid is growing normally or if they show signs of nutritional deficiencies that may be stunting their development.
- Blood test: Blood tests reveal any antibodies that may indicate an autoimmune response to gluten consumption.
- Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy: This outpatient procedure is conducted when your child is under anesthesia and involves a tube inserted via their upper gastrointestinal tract to inspect their small intestine’s lining. From there, the doctor collects tissue samples to examine for any signs of the damage specific to celiac.
A celiac disease diagnosis isn’t catastrophic. Unlike a gluten allergy, your child’s life won’t be in immediate danger. Celiac patients usually go on to enjoy their day-to-day lives with no reduced life expectancy, provided their condition is properly addressed.
What Treatment Options are Available for Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease currently has no cure, however it can be managed so your child can live a comfortable, healthy life and hit their expected growth milestones. The most effective way to manage celiac disease involves avoiding the consumption of gluten as well as foods and drinks that may have come into contact with gluten on the assembly line or in the kitchen.
Fortunately, an overall increased awareness of gluten-related medical issues has made it easier than ever for parents to make the necessary adjustments to their childrens’ diets. Resources such as National Celiac Association and Find Me Gluten Free offer databases of restaurants with both gluten-free menu options and kitchen practices that avoid cross-contamination.
At home, you can check ingredient lists and nutrition labels to ensure consumable products don’t contain gluten. It is also recommended to purchase separate preparation tools—such as pots, pans, and cutting boards—if the rest of your family plans on consuming gluten.
Depending on your child’s age, growth, and whether or not they contend with vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the doctor may also suggest supplements to ensure they receive proper nutrition. Supplements can help with rebuilding tooth enamel, facilitating growth, and generally setting your child’s body back on track.
Your Baytown Family ER
All Baytown parents deserve peace of mind when their children require emergency medical intervention. At Patients ER, we strive to provide the best care for your kids so you know they’re in the safest possible hands. We can be reached by phone at (281) 576-0555, and our address is 10133 Interstate 10 East Baytown, TX 77521.