As moms, we share an amazing amount of parenting info with each other. And today, we can’t be at a park, birthday party or playdate without hearing about the gluten free lifestyle. Have you ever listened to someone’s story and thought, “Maybe my child would benefit from going gluten free?” First, let’s break down exactly what being gluten free means.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and is what makes the food’s texture and consistency. There are two types of people that should avoid gluten. The first group is people who are gluten intolerant, meaning they have a wheat allergy or Celiac disease. The second group is those who are gluten sensitive. These people have symptoms that improve without gluten. Gluten sensitive symptoms can range from GI upset to headaches and rashes with differing levels of severity. More and more people are avoiding gluten for non-dietary or medical needs. They are trying to live healthier and are extending the gluten free life to their children. Today there are more and more gluten free options in both supermarkets and restaurants, making it much easier to adopt this lifestyle. But is that really healthy for all children?
Children who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, have a wheat allergy or a gluten sensitivity should of course avoid eating gluten altogether. For healthy children without a need for the dietary restriction, gluten free diets can actually be unhealthy. Wheat products contain nutrition including vitamins and minerals that are part of a balanced diet and can be missing from most gluten free alternatives. Gluten free products are often made with rice, potato or nut flours and can be high in fat and calories resulting in less nutritional benefit. Unless the child’s gluten free options are limited and the diet is well supplemented with other foods high in vitamins and minerals, children could become deficient of vitamins and have weight trouble due to the higher caloric value of these alternatives.
If you are concerned that your child may have a problem with gluten, talk with your doctor about any testing that may need to be completed. If your child needs to be on a gluten free diet talk with your doctor about what your child should be eating and what to avoid. If your child is fortunate enough to not need a gluten free diet, consider making changes to your normal meals to include more fruits and vegetables resulting in a more well rounded diet.
If your child needs to see a specialist, you can rest assured that the GI Pediatric Division is the most qualified. We realize that children have gastrointestinal diseases that are different from adults and require a unique approach. Our team consists of two pediatric gastroenterologists, a nurse practitioner, registered nurses and medical assistants. Our pediatric gastroenterologists are specifically trained to help children with gastrointestinal disorders. They have dedicated nurses and staff members to make the pediatric patient and family feel more at ease. You can find out