Celiac Disease 101
Most kids can dig into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and top it off with a couple of cookies without thinking twice. But for children with celiac disease, enjoying these common foods can be dangerous.
Be a Label Reader
Wondering how to protect children with celiac disease from gluten? Look for these on food labels, which indicate the presence or possible presence of gluten (a protein):
- Hydrolyzed plant or vegetable protein (found in soups, chili, sauces and some meat products)
- Malt flavoring
- Modified food starches
- Spelt (found in some wheat flour)
- Triticale (found in some breads and cereals)
Let Them Eat Cake!
Children with celiac disease can still enjoy their favorite foods. Many health food stores have options allowing your child to eat bread, cake and cookies that contain no gluten.
Clearing up Celiac Disease
"Celiac disease is a common chronic condition that is often undetected," says James P. Keating, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist on staff at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
"But as we learn more about the condition, the lives of countless children with celiac disease are being improved."
Celiac disease is a genetic digestive disease that damages the small intestine and causes intolerance to a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Nearly 3 million Americans are affected by the disease and display varying symptoms, including:
- Inadequate growth
- Chronic diarrhea
- Pale skin
- Lack of fat under the skin
Getting the Right Test
If your child has undergone IgG or IgM testing for celiac disease, you may need to seek a second test due to the number of false positives these tests can produce. Recently, a tTG or EMA blood test has become standard for accurate screening for celiac disease.
Check with your child's pediatrician to make sure the proper test is given so the right diagnosis can be made the first time.
Currently, a gluten-free diet (GFD) is the only treatment for celiac disease. This requires parents to carefully check labels and ask waiters to ensure gluten products (see "Be a Label Reader") aren't included in their children's food.
"When a child is diagnosed with celiac disease, it's important to meet with a dietitian to learn the appropriate diet," says Christy Gilcrease, MS, RD, LD, clinical dietitian at St. Louis Children's Hospital. "Though incurable, celiac disease is manageable, and by eliminating gluten, children can live normal, happy lives."
If you suspect your child has celiac disease, consult your physician. Never attempt self-treatment of celiac disease without physician orders.
Phone -- 314.454.KIDS (5437) or toll-free 800.678.KIDS
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