If you throw a child’s birthday party there’s a good chance one or more parent may ask if any of the food you’re serving is gluten-free. That’s because many parents believe their child has a
Gluten Intolerance vs. Celiac Disease
It’s important to know that gluten intolerance and celiac disease are not the same. Someone who is gluten intolerant has digestive or other problems when eating food containing gluten. Gluten is typically found in wheat, barley, and rye. It can also be found in a laundry list of foods such as pasta, cakes, bread, and crackers.
A child who has celiac disease is suffering from an autoimmune disorder that can affect and damage their small intestine. It’s often an inherited disease. In either condition, it’s important to stay away from foods that contain gluten in order to remain healthy.
Signs of Gluten Intolerance
There are signs that may signal your child has a gluten intolerance. Some are very similar to symptoms of celiac disease. Keep an eye out for these conditions that may trigger a call to the pediatrician:
Bloating can make your child feel like he has the worst tummy ache ever. The belly feels extremely full, gassy, and downright uncomfortable after eating.
2. Diarrhea or Constipation
Either extreme can be a sign of gluten intolerance. If you’re not sure if your child’s symptoms are due to gluten or are just part of a stomach bug, monitor the problems after your child eats certain foods to see if you can detect a pattern. Write everything down so you have information to show the doctor.
3. Extremely Smelly Poop or Oily Poop
While no one likes to talk about it, your child’s poop can give you signs for gluten intolerance. Poop that looks oily or is extremely smelly could indicate a problem. This can be due to the fact that their body isn’t absorbing nutrients properly.
4. Trouble Concentrating
Gluten intolerance can trigger what’s referred to as “brain fog.” Your child may be extremely tired even though they’ve slept, and may forget things and have trouble focusing.
5. Chronic Headaches or Migraines
You don’t typically hear kids complaining about chronic headaches or migraines. If your child does, call the pediatrician. Even if this isn’t a gluten issue, it could be something important to check out.
6. Numb or Painful Joints
This also falls under the category of things that are not typically found in kids. While it could indicate another health issue, it can also be a symptom of gluten intolerance.
7. Skin Problems
This goes beyond acne that pre-teens and teens may experience. Skin problems associated with gluten intolerance include rashes and itchy elbows and knees.
8. Mood Swings & Depression
A study from the Department of Gastroenterology at Monash University and The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia found that teens who are sensitive to gluten are also more prone to depression.
9. Unexplained Weight Loss
Children are supposed to grow and gain weight as they get older. If you notice your child isn’t, and is losing weight unexpectedly, call the pediatrician.
Getting sick to your stomach after eating a meal high in gluten could be a sign. Keep track of what they ate before getting sick to see if you can detect a pattern.
What to Do
If you suspect your child may be gluten intolerant, call your pediatrician and explain what’s been going on. They’ll likely call you in and do an exam. They’ll ask about family history and may even order blood tests to rule out celiac disease or a wheat allergy.
You may be referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist who will likely suggest a gluten-free diet to determine if there is a gluten intolerance. It’s not uncommon, so don’t worry if that’s the case. It will just mean a shift in your child’s diet so he can feel like a kid again.
Signs Your Child Is Gluten Intolerance — Sources
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Celiac.org — List of gluten foods
University Health News — Study on gluten intolerance and depression
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Medical News Today