Gluten allergies in children are just one of the many issues facing parents today. Approximately 5 percent of children will experience some sort of allergy to food. Of these, many will have sensitivity to gluten. Children who suffer from a gluten allergy (also known as celiac disease) will experience many physical symptoms related to the digestive system as well as possible mental issues.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein found in whole grains such as wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats. Gluten is a significant ingredient in breads, cereals, cookies, cakes and crackers, as well as many other packaged goods. It is a daunting task to avoid all foods containing gluten.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is described as an inability of the intestinal track to absorb the nutrients that a child needs to thrive. When products containing gluten are ingested, an immune reaction occurs in which the intestinal lining is attacked, preventing proper digestion and absorption of food. Gluten allergies cannot be outgrown like other food allergies. When a child has been diagnosed with celiac disease, she must always remain on a gluten-free diet.
Physical Symptoms of Gluten Allergy (Celiac Disease)
If children are suffering from the following physical symptoms relating to digestion, a gluten allergy may be present: 1. Consistent cramps, abdominal pain and bloating 2. Diarrhea 3. Weight loss, delayed growth and development 4. Foul-smelling stools 5. Nausea and/or vomiting 6. Constipation 7. Iron deficiency 8. Fatigue due to poor digestion and absorption of necessary minerals and vitamins 9. Intestinal or other digestive ulcers, including those in the mouth 10. Osteoporosis
Gluten Sensitivity Can Affect Mental Capabilities
Many still believe that gluten sensitivity can cause autism. Although this has never been scientifically proven, there does seem to be a case for eliminating gluten from the diet of children with autism. Gluten-free diets have been shown to improve the symptoms of the disorder in many individual instances. Conversely, children who have gluten allergies can display autistic-like symptoms, as well as symptoms associated with many mental disorders. Here are a few psychological signs of gluten intolerance: 1. Irritability 2. Depression 3. Autistic-like behaviors such as poor organization skills, tantrums and hyperactivity 4. Attention deficit issues 5. Forgetfulness
What Parents Can Do
Parents who suspect their child of having a gluten allergy must have him tested by a pediatrician or allergy specialist to know for sure. Before making an appointment, parents may want to keep a meal diary, noting recently eaten foods and behaviors and/or physical symptoms that follow. If wheat or other gluten product intolerance is suspected, remove the food from the child's diet and continue to monitor for symptoms. If they disappear, try reintroducing the food after two weeks, and watch for symptoms to return. Armed with this useful information, parents of an affected child can be proactive in the discussion of food allergies with their family doctor. If a child is proven to have celiac disease, the next step will be to ensure that gluten products are eliminated from the youngster's diet. This can be very difficult effort as most of today's packaged foods contain gluten, but replacing these foods with rice products or other substitutes is worth it. A marked improvement in the child's physical and mental condition will be seen almost immediately.