Healthy Living News From The Valley Hospital: The Truth about Children and Gluten-Free Diets
 
Learn the truth about children and gluten-free diets presented by The Valley Hos
 

The popularity of a gluten-free diet (GFD), has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. “While in some cases, going gluten free is a health necessity, in most cases it’s not. For people who don’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, children especially, there is no data supporting the presumed health benefits of a GFD. In fact, the opposite may be true in certain cases, particularly when the diet is followed without the guidance of an experienced registered dietitian or physician” explains Katherine Orellana, D.O., Pediatric Gastroenterology, Valley Medical Group.

There are a few particular concerns to having a GFD without a medical reason to be on such a diet:

  • Gluten-free packaged foods frequently contain a greater density of fat and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts.
  • Individuals on a GFD are at risk of increased fat and calorie intake.
  • A GFD also may lead to deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and iron since many gluten-free products are not nutritionally fortified.
  • Many patients become constipated after starting a GFD since most of their fiber intake previously came from fiber fortified foods.

How do you know if your child needs a diet change?

So how do you know if your child is in need of a healthy diet change due to celiac disease, a wheat allergy or otherwise? According to Diana Volpert, M.D., Pediatric Gastroenterology, Valley Medical Group, “A queasy stomach can have many causes and celiac disease, as well as food intolerance, can be amongst those causes. As such, queasiness may be the sign of celiac disease, an allergy to food or intolerance to food, but it can be difficult to pin down the source and severity of the reaction.”

Symptoms of celiac disease and food intolerance 

Celiac disease is an immune mediated inflammation secondary to exposure to gluten, which is a component in wheat and some other grains. Symptoms of food intolerance and celiac disease can include nausea, bloating, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Celiac disease can present without any gastrointestinal symptoms and may instead manifest as short stature, poor weight gain and iron deficiency anemia.

Lactose intolerance is most common food intolerance

Food intolerance is a digestive system response – the inability to properly digest certain proteins in food. It occurs as secondary response to an enzyme deficiency such as lactose. The most common type of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, when the digestive system reacts adversely to milk or other dairy products. It is due to low amounts of lactase, which is the enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar in dairy.

What is a true food allergy?

true food allergy is an immune system response – the body's way of fighting off a substance it has identified as harmful. In children, milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy and tree nuts (such as walnuts and pecans) cause almost all food allergy reactions. Avoiding whatever causes a reaction is the best way to protect against the issues that arise from food allergies and food intolerance. If you are not sure what food is the culprit, keep a food diary for your child. This may help you correlate reactions with a certain food.

Seek a doctor's help with identifying and testing 

It is important to see a doctor for help with identifying and testing for food allergies and intolerances, understanding whether changes in your child’s diet are necessary and to learn how to safely change your child’s diet.

If you are concerned about your child’s gastrointestinal symptoms, diet or ability to properly digest food, call 201-391-0846 to make an appointment with one of The Valley Hospital's pediatric gastroenterologists.

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