Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease
A popular topic on social media and the news, celiac disease is getting extra attention this month. That is because May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Affecting approximately 1 percent of children in the U.S., the only treatment for celiac disease is eating a strict gluten-free diet for life.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in many common foods containing wheat, rye and barley. The symptoms associated with celiac disease are similar to other illnesses and can include bloating, irritability, weight loss, poor growth, chronic diarrhea or constipation and vomiting.
How is it diagnosed?
Symptoms of celiac disease may present after infancy. However, the average diagnosis for celiac disease is 9 years of age. Research has shown that it is most common in families of European and Middle Eastern descent. If celiac disease is suspected a blood test may be recommended. This test is generally accurate, however further testing may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis. It is important to not restrict gluten in a child’s diet until after he has been tested for celiac disease. This is because test results may read false negatives.
Can Celiac Disease be prevented?
One common question among patients is whether or not celiac disease can be prevented. There have been several studies on this important topic, yet there are still unanswered questions. The biggest question is whether or not early diet plays a role in developing the disease. Due to its uncertainty, it is recommended that small amounts of gluten be introduced between 4 to 6 months of age and to overlap breastfeeding when applicable.
While no one wants his or her child to have a chronic illness, celiac disease can be managed with diet. Your pediatrician will provide you with nutritional guidance to help you and your child make the transition to a gluten-free diet as easy as possible. If you suspect your child has a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, please call or office to schedule an appointment.