Gluten is the cause of Coeliac disease, a serious and lifelong auto-immune condition (meaning that the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues). Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, and other grains (NB some people are able to tolerate oats). Coeliac disease is genetic so your risk is increased if you have family members who are sufferers. Treatment consists of a gluten free diet for life, which leads to a full recovery in most cases. Many people with Coeliac disease do not realise they have the condition.
In Coeliac disease, the villi that line the gut are attacked and damaged leading to problems with absorption of essential nutrients. Symptoms vary from mild to serious and can include stomach pains, bloating, diarrhoea and nausea. Symptoms are often confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or stress. Recognizing and diagnosing Coeliac disease can be a lengthy drawn out process and some people go years before finding a diagnosis and some people are simply never diagnosed and suffer with general ill health. Since the disease can go on for many years undiagnosed there is the risk of developing long-term complications such as anaemia, weight and hair loss, osteoporosis, infertility, joint/bone pain and malnutrition.
Q. Does your toddler/child have more than two of the following symptoms after eating gluten-containing foods: abdominal distension or bloating; bone or joint pain; flatulence; headache, nausea and vomiting?
Q. Has your toddler/child ever been diagnosed with: anaemia; obesity; low bone density; sleep apnoea?
Q. Would you say your toddler/child is generally: tired - especially after eating; prone to swinging between constipation and diarrhoea; noted for having a poor appetite and for lingering over food?
Surprisingly enough, all the symptoms listed above and below are indicative of gluten reactions and should be checked out by a medical practitioner.
The common symptoms of gluten sensitivity and therefore possibly Coeliac disease include:
• Feeling tired or exhausted
• Want more energy
• Have low iron levels
• 'Irritable bowel' diarrhoea/constipation
• Gastric reflux, heart burn
• Get moody or irritable or depressed
• Bothered by headaches and migraine
Also, consider if your child(ren) have chronic symptoms such as:
* eczema (itchy and scratchy skin)
* stomach troubles (gastric reflux, sore tummies, diarrhoea, constipation)
* behaviour issues (being cranky, moody and irritable)
Lots of children (and adults) have chronic symptoms of gluten sensitivity but think that they are 'normal'. They experience symptoms and bad feelings every day of their lives - but this is 'normal' for them. They do not recognise that they have a problem. It affects about 1 in 10 people. So your child could be the one! If the symptoms in these lists are starting to look familiar then perhaps a test for gluten sensitivity is your next step. It is always difficult diagnosing any condition in children as they are not able to tell us what is wrong. So, it is important that you make observations about your child/toddlers behaviour, bowel movements, energy levels, eczema flare ups etc - consider keeping a food and symptom diary to see if there are any patterns. This diary could assist a doctor with their investigations and eventual diagnosis. Talk to your doctor or an allergy specialist about getting tested - a very simple blood test can help to detect the possibility of gluten sensitivity and then further tests can be carried out for Coeliac disease if necessary. It is important to have these tests done before starting a gluten free diet otherwise the tests could give false negatives.