Gluten sensitivity is quite prevalent among children, affecting up to six percent worldwide. It occurs when someone cannot properly digest gluten, which triggers an exaggerated immune system response.
This differs from Celiac Disease, as those with gluten sensitivity do not see the same level of intestinal damage. Fortunately, if the right measures are taken, this condition can be managed effectively and is not life-threatening.
Understanding Gluten Intolerance
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains and is commonly used in bread, biscuits, and other baked goods. It is also a part of many processed foods. Kids are initially exposed to gluten when they are weaned off breast milk and consume cereals and biscuits.
Unfortunately, they can develop an intolerance to gluten at any time, and the signs and symptoms may vary. The root cause of gluten sensitivity is still unknown; however, some research has indicated that FODMAPs, a group of poorly digested carbohydrates, may be a factor.
Diagnosing Gluten Intolerance in Children
Gluten intolerance is when the body has difficulty digesting foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Symptoms of gluten intolerance can include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive issues. It can also lead to other symptoms, such as brain fog, headaches, migraines, dizziness, and rashes.
If a child continues to present a variety of symptoms for a long time, a visit to a pediatrician is in order. Tests may be run to rule out celiac disease and other conditions like gastrointestinal parasites, lactose intolerance, wheat sensitivity, and hypersensitivity to food additives such as MSG.
Following a correct identification, the doctor may advise that gluten be taken out of the regular diet to see if the symptoms improve or cease. If they do, it may be possible to reintroduce gluten in small amounts to double-check the diagnosis.
The Link Between Gluten Intolerance and Child Behavior
Kids with gluten sensitivity may experience shifts in behavior once they begin to adhere to a careful diet. Signs of this may include being easily annoyed, anxious, angry, and gloomy.
Being different in terms of food choices can make them feel like outsiders during gatherings and celebrations. As the only treatment for gluten sensitivity is an exacting gluten-free diet, the child may face many difficulties in managing the diet in social scenarios. But there are ways to manage this, such as the following:
- Ensure that everyone responsible for looking after your child is aware of their gluten intolerance. Explain the importance of being careful when preparing meals and avoiding contamination with gluten-containing ingredients.
- Encourage all family members to become informed about gluten intolerance. Remind them to be understanding and supportive of the child but not over-focus on the issue to avoid causing stress or worry.
- Make sure your child has some gluten-free food with them if they find themselves in a situation where it is difficult to find alternatives.
- Encourage your child to get into the habit of reading labels on processed foods before consuming them. This skill will be beneficial in the long run and should be acquired as early as possible.
Providing emotional support to a child who has to follow a gluten-free diet is crucial. It is equally important to ensure they are comfortable with their new lifestyle and feel confident in their decision.
Gluten intolerance in children is a growing concern and should not be taken lightly. Parents, guardians, and healthcare providers must know the potential health risks associated with children eating gluten. Parents should be on the lookout for common symptoms of gluten intolerance, including bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, and speak to their child’s doctor if they are concerned. With proper care and support, children with gluten intolerance can lead healthy and productive lives.
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