Gluten Free Kids
Gluten-free diets have risen in popularity over the last couple of years. For some kids – and adults – it’s an absolute necessity, but in some cases, it’s one of many dietary trends.
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. You see it at work in bread and baked goods – it helps dough rise and gives bread its texture. It’s also a hidden ingredient in an array of processed foods.
Celiac disease is a condition in which some people’s immune system responds to gluten when it comes in contact with the digestive tract. As a result, they suffer from a host of intestinal symptoms and have trouble absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Over time, people with celiac may develop vitamin deficiencies, anemia, fatigue and depression.
Celiac disease is something your doctor can diagnose with a blood test or tissue biopsy. People who have celiac disease must avoid gluten every single day. As of now, there’s no cure or medical solution, other than making dietary changes.
Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity
There’s a second condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or NCGS. It can be more difficult to diagnose because the body doesn’t produce antibodies that can be detected by blood work. While there are tests that claim to detect NCGS, clinical research hasn’t shown them to be very accurate. One way to detect NCGS is by eliminating glutens from the diet for several weeks and monitoring the body’s responses.
What’s the Harm in Going Gluten-Free?
Certainly an adult or child can eat a healthy diet without eating grains, but it isn’t easy. Whole grains are an important source of fiber and other nutrients, and eliminating an entire food group out of a balanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
If you’re thinking about putting your child on a gluten-free diet, consult your doctor first. He or she can make sure there’s not another health problem involved, and can help you with the next steps should you decide to go gluten-free.
Shereen Jegtvig is a health and nutrition writer with two decades of experience counseling people on nutrition and diet. She has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Association of Health Care Journalists. She is the co-author of Superfoods for Dummies and Clinical Anatomy for Dummies. Shereen also teaches The Evidence Based Approach to Nutrition to nutrition graduate students at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.
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