What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease, or Celiac for short, is one of the most commonly diagnosed autoimmune disorders. It affects the digestive system by damaging the small intestine and interfering with nutrient absorption. Celiac results from an immune reaction to gluten, a protein substance found in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. Unfortunately, children are just as susceptible to Celiac as adults. However, it can be controlled and even healed with a gluten-free-diet.
Why do Children Get Celiac Disease?
Little is known about the pathogenic mechanisms of gluten immunogenicity in children with Celiac. However, studies have shown a link with genes, certain types of viruses, as well as the timing of birth and initial gluten feeding.
About 95 percent of people with Celiac have the HLA-DQ2 gene, and the remaining five percent have the HLA-DQ8 gene. For children with the HLA-DQ2 gene who were breastfed for fewer than four months, their risk for Celiac is ten-fold of other children.
Celiac Timing of Gluten Feed
Children born in the winter and fed gluten-containing foods before the age of six months doubles the risk of developing Celiac compared to other children.
How Can Children Heal from Celiac Disease?
The only way children can heal from Celiac Disease is by not eating gluten-containing foods. This can be difficult because many foods contain this harmful protein substance. However, a gluten-free diet will allow the small intestine to heal. Though it doesn’t mean that gluten can be eaten once healing occurs. Children with Celiac will need to refrain from gluten-filled foods for the rest of their lives as its reintroduction will start the disease process again.
After gluten foods have been removed from the diet, the small intestine should completely heal within three to six months. For older children, it may even take up to two years to entirely heal. Though this may seem like a long time, healing can take place.
What Foods Contain Gluten?
Following is a list of foods that contain gluten. As a parent of a child with Celiac, you should always read labels to make sure the foods do not contain gluten. However, this can be difficult because prepackaged foods don’t always declare a food contains gluten. Some foods may also be cross-contaminated with gluten if they were processed in the same manufacturing plant. Children with Celiac should always stay away from these foods.
Gluten-Containing Grains & Their Derivatives
- Wheat varieties & derivatives (durum, emmer, einkorn wheat, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat, semolina, spelt, wheatberries)
- Wheat starch
- Malt derivatives (malted barley flour, malt extract, malt flavoring, malted milk, malted milkshakes, malt syrup, malt vinegar)
- Brewer’s yeast
Gluten-Containing Common Foods
- Baked goods (brownies, cakes, cookies, pie crusts)
- Beverages (beer, malt beverages)
- Breading (breadcrumbs, fried chicken, Panko breadcrumbs)
- Breads & pastries (bagels, biscuits, cornbread, croissants, donuts, flatbreads, muffins, naan, pita, potato bread, rolls)
- Breakfast foods (French toast, pancakes, waffles)
- Cereal (corn flakes, granola, oatmeal, rice puffs)
- Crackers (goldfish, graham crackers, pretzels)
- Croutons (dressings, stuffings)
- Crusts (pie, pizza)
- Gravies & sauces (traditional soy sauce, cream sauces made with a roux)
- Pastas & noodles (chow mean, couscous, dumplings, egg noodles, gnocchi, ramen, raviolis, soba, udon)
Possible Gluten-Containing Foods
- Candy & candy bars
- Cheesecake filling (wheat flour added)
- Communion wafers
- Eggs served at restaurants (pancake batter added)
- Energy bars (oats processed in gluten manufacturing plant)
- French fries (wheat batter or cross-content from fryers)
- Lunch meats (processed)
- Marinades (malt vinegar, soy sauce, flour)
- Meat substitutes (vegetarian burgers or sausage, imitation bacon or seafood)
- Nutritional supplements
- Over-the-counter medications
- Potato chips (malt vinegar or wheat starch)
- Pre-seasoned meats
- Rice mixes
- Salad dressings (malt vinegar, soy sauce, flour)
- Self-basting poultry
- Soup (especially cream-based)
- Starch or Dextrin (wheat)
- Tortillas or tortilla chips (flour-based)
When it comes to eating gluten-free, the best way is to eat a natural, whole foods diet that contains the following without flour and prepackaged marinades and sauces:
Naturally Gluten-Free Protein
- Wild game (bison, elk, venison)
- Poultry (chicken & turkey)
Naturally Gluten-Free Carbohydrates
Naturally Gluten-Free Fats
- Cheese (aged, hard)
Your child’s happiness begins with health, so be sure that you help him or her to stay on track with eating the appropriate gluten-free foods. Celiac disease will only progress if it’s not treated properly. In fact, it can lead to some serious diseases including thrombosis, heart disease, stroke, epilepsy, organ disorders, and other autoimmune diseases. When a gluten-free diet is applied, your child’s health will return to normal and he or she can live a life symptom free from Celiac.