In the past five years or so, you may have heard about and seen more products being labeled ‘gluten free’. But what is gluten exactly and could it be connected to your child’s odd symptoms? Gluten intolerance in children is more common than you might think. Read on to learn the symptoms of gluten allergy in children and what you can do to help your son or daughter feel better again.
What is Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. It is most commonly found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza, and cakes. Some less-obvious sources of gluten include condiments, flavorings, spices and medications. Children with gluten intolerance are unable to digest the protein found in these common foods. When a child with gluten intolerance eats gluten-contaminated foods, the immune system attacks the gut, flattening the cilli in the intestinal tract, which leads to chronic inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance in Children
The symptoms of gluten intolerance vary from child to child. These are the most common:
- Chronic stomachaches
- Chronic diarrhea
- Bloated belly
- Muscle aches
- Frequent colds and flu
- Unusual blood counts (ITP, leucopenia)
- Eczema and other skin rashes
- Mood swings/aggression
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory problems
Your child may be in such pain with their stomach that they are unable to concentrate on much of anything. He or she may seem to not understand simple directions and may get lost or frustrated easily. Children with gluten intolerance may also exhibit the signs of Asperger’s syndrome or attention deficit disorder because the undigested gluten has an opiate affect on the brain. Your child may stare off into space often and startle easily when touched or spoken to.
How to Test Your Child for Gluten Allergy
The jury has been out on how to test your child for gluten intolerance or gluten allergy. Some people swear by blood testing while others prefer to just cut gluten from the diet to see if symptoms improve. I am a strong proponent of the second method. Blood tests can often be inaccurate and inconclusive. Unless your child has the autoimmune disorder, celiac disease, celiac antibodies will not be present in the blood. Gluten intolerance or gluten allergy could still be causing your child’s mystery symptoms.
To test for gluten intolerance in your child, remove any and all sources of gluten for one month and then reintroduce after the 30-day period is over to test for reaction. Completely eliminate processed foods. This means no fast food, canned food or other “convenience” foods.
On the elimination diet, feed your child only whole food nutrition such as unseasoned meat, poultry, fish, cooked dried beans, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and non-gluten grains such as quinoa or amaranth. Rice is fine but be sure it is brown rice only. White ‘enriched’ rice is enriched with gluten! When purchasing cereals, condiments, and cold cuts, be sure to check the label or check the website to ensure the product you’re serving your child is gluten free. Gluten free bread will commonly be found in your grocer’s freezer. For best results, lightly toast before eating.
Most major grocery chains carry food that is clearly labeled gluten free. There may even have a separate gluten free section. Stores such as Stop & Shop, Big Y, and Ingle’s carry plenty of gluten free items. You can also visit a health food store in your area to find the foods you need for the diet.
If your child has been complaining of stomachaches or has extreme moods swings and irritability, he or she may have gluten intolerance or a gluten allergy. Eliminating gluten from the diet can go a long way in making your child feel better and decreasing problem behaviors. It’s also important to note that behavioral problems can caused by food dyes and/or the aspartame found in soda and gum.
The elimination diet may be difficult to follow at first but don’t give up, you’ll get there. Once your child starts to feel better, it will take the stress and confusion out of everyday life and give your son or daughter the childhood they’ve always deserved!
Still intimidated by the prospect of trying to cook gluten free? Get the vital information you need to keep your child safe and pain free with Felicity’s Gluten Free Handbook !
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