Celiac Disease: Everything You Need to Know

September 5, 2019
Celiac disease affects a large portion of the world's population. If your child has it, it's important to understand it and balance his or her nutritional intake.

Understanding celiac disease is the best strategy to avoid its symptoms. In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about it.

What is celiac disease?

Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to changes in their autoimmune system. This can be caused by gluten, also known as celiac disease.

What is gluten and why is it bad for some people?

Gluten is a complex protein made of prolamins. It’s found in cereals like wheat, barley, or rye. Oats can affect some people too, but it doesn’t have this protein.

Prolamins, or fragments of gluten, are divided into gliadin and glutenin and cause celiac disease. A bad reaction occurs when the immune system of celiac people detect these substances. It creates an inflammatory reaction that harms the villi on the intestinal walls.

This means the nutrients can’t be absorbed properly, with possible clinical and functional impacts. However, it depends on the age and pathophysiologic condition of each person.

Celiac Disease: Everything You Need to Know

At what age does celiac disease appear?

Celiac disease can happen at any age and it’s a lifelong condition. Regarding the age of diagnosis, there are two peaks with a higher number of cases: in children between 1 and 3 years old, and adults between 30 and 50 years old.

What are the clinical aspects of celiac disease?

Depending on the patient’s age, the clinical aspects of celiac disease can vary. Here’s a chart that shows the main symptoms and signs that can be seen according to different age groups:

CHILDREN

TEENS

SYMPTOMS
Diarrhea Often without symptoms
Anorexia Abdominal pain
Vomits Headache
Abdominal pain Arthralgia
Irritability Delay in menarche
Apathy Menstrual irregularities
Introversion Constipation
Sadness Irregular bowel movements
SIGNS OF ILLNESS
Malnutrition Canker sores
Bloating Dental enamel hypoplasia
Hypotrophy Bloating
Weight-Height delayed development Muscle weakness
Iron deficiency anemia Short height
Arthritis
Follicular keratosis
Iron deficiency anemia

How to treat celiac disease?

To live a life without displays of this pathology, the only effective treatment, so far, is to have a gluten-free diet.

With a balanced diet that doesn’t include this protein, you can improve these symptoms two weeks into this diet. Likewise, after two years of dieting like this, there’s the possibility to recover your intestinal villi.

A good outlook that comes from detecting the disease early on is that, usually, children can accept, adapt and comply with the diet, better than teens and adults, but only if their parents help them do so.

That’s why it’s worth emphasizing the value that good eating habits have in children, especially in those who have food-related pathologies.

Celiac Disease: Everything You Need to Know

Nutritional recommendations

Next we’ll see some basic nutritional recommendations for children with celiac disease.

  • Don’t eat products made with grains that contain gluten like wheat, rye, or barley.
  • Pay attention to processed foods. Many of the ultra-processed foods can include flour or other ingredients that contain gluten, although it might not seem like it. The best thing to do is avoid them altogether.
  • Always read the labels carefully.
  • When you cook, avoid cross-contamination. Don’t use the same cooking utensils that have been used to prepare food with gluten. Don’t use the same cooking oil, etc.
Celiac Disease: Everything You Need to Know

  • In restaurants, make sure they have gluten-free dishes and that they follow the right hygienic standards to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Try to find alternatives to the usual cereals. For example, try amaranth, quinoa, corn, millet, sorghum, and buckwheat.
  • If you’re lactose intolerant too, try to eat dairy products without lactose.
  • Make sure you get the right amount of vitamins and minerals by eating fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

In short, it’s worth noting the importance of going to a specialist in celiac disease, so this won’t become an obstacle for your child’s development, neither physical nor social.

 

  • Polanco I. (2015). Actualización en enfermedad celíaca: diagnóstico y actuación clínica y dietética. Nutrición Clínica en Medicina.
  • Rodríguez L. (2010). Enfermedad celiaca. IT Sist Nac Salud. 2 (34): 49-59
  • Catassi C. (2018). El mapamundi de la enfermedad celíaca [Internet]. Drschaer-institute.com.
  • Polanco I, Ribes C. Enfermedad Celiaca. (2010). In Acuña MD, Franch M, Calvo C, Bedate P, Medina E. Protocolos diagnóstico-terapéuticos de Gastroenterología, Hepatología y Nutrición Pediátrica. Madrid: Ergón; 2010. p. 37-46.