How to help your child avoid gluten
There is no cure for celiac disease, but parents can take steps to ensure their child’s health
Gluten — it’s found in lots of Southern favorites like cornbread, gravy and even grits. For families of a child with celiac disease, the sensitivity to gluten can result in health and social complications. There is no cure for celiac disease. There is also no medication that can fix the problem. But you can help your child feel better and eliminate symptoms.
The first step is to understand gluten basics.
The most common gluten-containing foods are those made with wheat flour. This includes bread (both “white” and “wheat”), pasta, cereal, cake and pizza dough. Gluten is also often found in sauces, gravies, salad dressings, condiments and packaged foods. Learn to read food labels to look for gluten in everything your child eats.
Giving your child a gluten-free diet can take some getting used to. Your child’s food can’t come into contact with gluten. So all of your child’s meals will have to be prepared with separate utensils. This includes knives, cutting boards, toasters and storage containers. It also means being extra careful at restaurants, parties and anywhere you aren’t preparing your child’s food yourself. One way to help avoid accidental exposure is for the whole family to go gluten-free. This can save you time and energy, and reduce your child’s risk of exposure to gluten.
Gluten can also be found in a variety of nonfood products. Accidental ingestion can occur with products such as shampoo, lotion, makeup, glue and soap. Some medicines also contain gluten, so ask your child’s health care provider what medications your child can and can’t take.
Know that it may be a strain on the whole family. Your child may be upset about feeling different from friends or siblings. School events, parties and holidays are times when your child might worry about not getting favorite foods. And your child’s siblings may resent strict controls over food in the house. If you face problems like these, a celiac disease support group can help.
Avoiding Gluten When Away From Home
Slip-ups happen — you can’t watch over your child 24 hours a day — but here’s how you can educate your child:
- Make sure your child knows that eating even a small amount of gluten can hurt the lining of the intestines. This can cause symptoms to return.
- Explain to your child that he or she will need to learn how to say “no” to foods with gluten.
- Provide safe foods for your child to bring to parties and school events. This can help keep your child from feeling left out.
- Don’t worry if slips sometimes happen — kids will be kids! Your child will learn through practice.
Your child should be seen by the health care provider at least once a year for a celiac checkup. A simple blood test can show if your child’s celiac disease is under control.
If you need a pediatric digestive disease specialist, our team is there to help.