Gluten intolerance and the growing child

Gluten intolerance and the growing child

As adults, we are very aware of the effect that eating certain types of foods can have on our digestive systems, with symptoms such as bloating and diarrhoea and feeling sick, or even being sick, something that we’ve all experienced.

However, with approximately 1 in every 100 of children being intolerant of gluten, getting a diagnosis is far harder to ascertain.

Coeliac disease not only includes the symptoms mentioned above but can also produce symptoms such as being irritable, not meeting growth milestones, headaches, being overtired and anaemia, along with a delay to the start of puberty. After diagnosis, following a gluten free diet is the way forward, but with fussy and demanding children to cater for, this can be a strain for all involved.

Luckily, attitudes towards living a gluten-free lifestyle have improved dramatically over the last few years. Many independent food manufacturers have sprung up who specifically cater for the gluten-free diet and major supermarkets have dedicated food sections that are growing by the day. And whereas coeliac disease used to mean following a diet that cut out a lot of the stuff that children love and crave such as bread, biscuits and pasta, more recently manufacturers are striving to simply make their own gluten-free versions of these popular food types.

Whilst it will become part of the family’s routine dealing with the gluten-free diet, it becomes more of a worry when children become more independent or are in the care of others such as when they’re at school or enjoying friend’s parties. Being organised is the way forward and not being frightened to highlight your child’s dietary needs. If this means that the parent controls the food that their child eats then so be it, but coeliac disease is no longer a rarity so schools and similar should be adept at coping with offering an alternative.

Improvements in food labelling also mean that knowing whether an item contains gluten or not is fairly easy to see. This means that whilst there are specific gluten-free foods available, everyday items will also be labelled with dietary advice.