Contrary to popular belief, celiac disease in children is not a rare childhood disease. As a matter of fact, about 2 million Americans live with this disease. Today, celiac disease is recognized as a common genetic disorder in children.
Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that involves the small intestines. The digestive tract has an allergic reaction to the gluten in our diets. This disease can destroy the lining of the small intestine over time. This is a result of the constant inflammation due to the allergic reaction of the body. Gluten is present in rye, wheat, and barley. Gluten is a term that refers to proteins with very long amino acids.
Under normal conditions, the enzymes in our digestive tract break up the long amino acids. The enzymes, present in someone with celiac disease are unable to break the proteins down into smaller, single chains of amino acids. Long amino acids have a toxic effect on the lining of the intestine and cause an allergic immune reaction. This immune reaction causes the damage to the intestinal cells over time, which destroys the lining.
Common Signs Of Celiac Disease In Children
Symptoms of celiac disease vary in children as well as in adults. While the symptoms in adults can be very vague, infants and young children experience mainly digestive symptoms. Abdominal bloating and pain is a symptom that is often seen in celiac disease in children. Other common problems include vomiting, chronic diarrhea, and constipation. The stool of children with this disorder can have an extremely foul smell. Even weight loss can be a symptom.
Developmental Problems And Health Problems
Celiac disease makes it impossible for the intestine to absorb key nutrients in the foods. The inability to do so has an enormous impact in this stage of a child’s life. Depending on the severity of the compromised absorption, health problems and developmental problems can develop. Dental problems are commonly seen in children with this disease as well. In severe cases, a shorter statue and overall delayed growth can be present. The onset of puberty can be affected as well. This genetic disorder may delay puberty for a considerable time.
The effects of the inability to absorb essential nutrients can also have other long-term effects. Osteoporosis, seizures, bone or joint pain, depression, and even infertility, can be caused by this disorder. A number of other diseases are associated with celiac disease. Systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and insulin-dependent diabetes are such diseases often seen in conjunction with celiac disease.
A gluten free diet for children diagnosed with celiac disease is crucial to minimize the effect on the development and growth. This kind of diet is often referred to as celiac disease diet. A proper and quick diagnosis is important. The sooner the diet is changed, the less likely it is for the child to experience long-term effects of this genetic disorder. This diet for children does not include wheat, rye, or barely. These grains are substituted with rice, corn, and gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, and sorghum. Finding gluten free foods children can be a challenge. Many products contain gluten in small amounts. Ice cream and even candy bars can contain gluten.
A gluten free diet is not as hard and difficult as it sounds. Grocery stores carry many gluten-free products. As a matter of fact, many have a section for gluten-free foods already. Cook books are available online and in the book store. Many traditional recipes have been transformed to fit the requirements of a gluten-free diet. However, celiac disease in children can pose a challenge to many parents during meal times, particularly in the early years.