- Celiac disease is often confused with food allergy
- Children with celiac disease are intolerant to gluten
- Early diagnosis can help in managing celiac disease
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder which affects one in hundred people across the globe. It is a condition in which children develop intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It damages the small intestine and reduces the amount of nutrients absorbed from food. This affects growth and development of the child. The real cause of celiac disease is still not clear, however the condition seems to be a combination of both genetics and environment.
Early diagnosis and intervention can help those affected by celiac disease. It is difficult to bust myths about celiac disease. People often tend to confuse it with food allergy, which is actually an autoimmune disease. Allergies due to food, including wheat allergy are few of the conditions through which people can grow out. This is not the case with celiac disease. Nobody knows for sure what causes it, but we of course have a solution to keep it under control and manage it well.
Children with celiac disease are more likely to have digestive problems, including, nausea and vomiting, chronic diarrhoea, swollen belly, constipation and skin rash. Further, children who are affected by celiac disease might also suffer from added intestinal symptoms that involve other organs and body systems. In fact, it lowers the ability to absorb nutrients in the body which might result in failure to thrive for infants, weight loss, anaemia, irritability, short stature, delayed puberty and neurological symptoms, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, headaches, etc.
Celiac disease, if not treated could have detrimental effect on growth and well-being of children. There are simple measures which can be followed to control this disease. The one suffering from this should avoid foods containing wheat, rye, and barley. They should include a variety of foods that are naturally gluten-free and safe. These include fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, unprocessed meats, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, oils, and sugar. Including naturally gluten-free grains and starches in the diet like, rice, corn and potato, works great for celiac patients. Consuming gluten free diet is the primary and most effective way to control this disease which helps lead a normal and healthy life.
Parent's awareness on celiac disease plays a critical role in the early detection of this disease. Their awareness and preparedness with respect to the control this disease will go a long way in reducing its burden. Children who have a lot of stomach aches, diarrhoea, weight loss, or any of other symptoms of celiac disease should seek help of their doctor for a screening blood test. The child should continue to eat foods that contain gluten while being tested. If the screening tests are positive, then they should see a paediatric gastroenterologist for an endoscopy.
(Dr. Sufla Saxena, Consultant-Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, Manipal Hospitals Dwarka, New Delhi)
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