If you think your child is having a reaction to gluten, it’s important to see a doctor before you go gluten free.
Watch this video to learn more about the differences between various gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease, wheat allergies, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Video: Celiac Disease and Gluten Disorders in Children
Narrator: Let's talk about gluten. There's a lot of buzz around gluten, but what is it exactly? This video will help you learn about gluten disorders, including celiac disease, wheat allergies, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. We'll talk about how to spot them and what you should know before going gluten-free.
Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley. It's made up of two proteins that act like a glue. It's what makes dough sticky and elastic. Going gluten-free seems to be a trendy thing to do, so you may be wondering, “Should my family be considering a gluten-free diet?”
While gluten can cause health problems for some people, eating gluten-free can be expensive and it's not necessarily healthy. If you think your child may have a gluten-related disorder, talk to your doctor before choosing a gluten-free diet.
Now, we're going to explain the different types of gluten disorders. These include: celiac disease, wheat allergies, and something called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is the best-known gluten disorder. This disease causes the body's own immune system to attack the intestines when gluten is ingested. Symptoms are varied and can affect any part of the body. These include: stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, poor growth, anemia and other symptoms.
Some people with celiac disease, oddly enough, have no symptoms. Celiac disease is a lifelong condition that never goes away. But most of the time, you can eliminate or reduce symptoms and heal the intestine with a gluten-free diet.
Many people self-diagnose themselves, or their children with celiac disease and opt for a gluten-free diet. However, just because you have some or even all of the symptoms, doesn't mean you have celiac disease. After all, only about 1% of the population has celiac disease, and that number hasn't changed in recent years.
To properly screen for celiac disease, a blood test is required. In order to get accurate results, tests need to be done while you're still eating gluten. This is one more reason to see a doctor before you decide to go gluten-free. Doctors and scientists don't know exactly why celiac disease occurs, but they do know that the disease can be caused by genetics. Because of this, when a person is diagnosed with celiac disease, their whole family should be screened as well. This helps to ensure that everyone who has the disease is being treated for it.
Aside from celiac disease, wheat allergies are another source of gluten-related health problems. There are several different types. The first type is called IGE-mediated. Children with this condition are allergic to wheat in the same way some kids are allergic to milk or peanuts. Symptoms happen fast and can include hives, wheezing, vomiting or abdominal pain. These can be life-threatening so you need to carry an epinephrine pen if you have this allergy.
Another type of wheat allergy is called eosinophilic esophagitis. When a child with this allergy eats wheat, an allergic reaction occurs in the esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Their throat might feel scratchy; they will have difficulty swallowing food. Other symptoms include vomiting, acid reflux and growth delays.
One more type of wheat allergy is called food protein-induced enterocolitis, or FPIES for short. This allergy affects mostly young children and infants and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
The final category of gluten disorder is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Doctors will only diagnosis a child with this condition after they ruled out all the others. For most of these disorders, a gluten-free diet will be required, but there are many other things to consider when choosing the best course of treatment.
Remember, if your child is experiencing symptoms that seem to be related to eating bread or other grains, your first step should be making an appointment with a doctor who has expertise in gluten disorders and wheat allergies. Each type of gluten disorder requires a different set of tests for diagnosis. These can include blood tests, skin tests, and endoscopy. After the diagnosis, the doctor and their team will work with you to find the most effective treatment plan. Their goal is the same as yours — to help your child feel better.
Thanks for learning with us.
Related Centers and Programs: Food Allergy Center , Allergy Program, Center for Celiac Disease, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Division of Allergy and Immunology