Although Coeliac Disease affects approximately 1 in 70 Australians, around 80% of those remain undiagnosed, particularly in children. As Coeliac Awareness Week draws to a close, parents are being encouraged to recognise the signs of the disease and be proactive with testing their children if they are experiencing common symptoms.
WHAT IS COELIAC DISEASE?
Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disease stemming from a reaction to the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats, which causes damage to the small intestine. When a person with Coeliac Disease consumes gluten, their small intestine (which is responsible for absorbing food and nutrients) becomes inflamed and flattened, resulting in various gastrointestinal issues.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS IN CHILDREN?
Children often can’t articulate or connect the dots if a certain group of foods are making them unwell. Therefore, Coeliac Disease in children can often fly under the radar or be mistaken as something else. Some of the common symptoms you should look out for in children include:
- Chronic low iron and B12
- Difficulty concentrating both inside and outside the classroom environment
- Abdominal Pain
TESTING CHILDREN FOR COELIAC DISEASE
As a health practitioner, it is important to get children tested if they are experiencing any of the common symptoms. If you think your child could have Coeliac Disease, it is extremely important to keep them on a normal gluten-containing diet throughout the testing process. This is because if you cut gluten from children’s diet before they are tested, it can cause falsely negative and unreliable results.
MANAGING COELIAC DISEASE IN CHILDREN
Whilst there is currently no cure Coeliac Disease, the most effective way to manage the intolerance in children is for them to follow a strict gluten free diet; allowing the body to heal. However, once children are diagnosed and the correct amendments to their diet are made, we usually see a complete reversal of symptoms and an immediate improvement in overall wellbeing. There is also the management of the gut lining itself that needs to be taken into consideration. Since those with the disease are at risk of accidental exposure to gluten, we’ve found it really important to take specialised nutrients that can not only reduce inflammation but heal the gut lining to ensure systemic effects are minimised.
COELIAC DISEASE CAN BE HEREDITARY
It’s important to take note if you or anyone in your family suffers from Coeliac Disease as it can be hereditary. Coeliac Disease tends to run in families, so if someone in your family has the condition, be sure to ask your doctor if your child should be tested.
As parents, we know our children the best, so it is important we take the time to listen to their concerns and get to the root cause of their health issues.