When kids experience gastrointestinal issues, it’s common to take them to a physician for a checkup. Children that are then diagnosed with celiac disease are told to adhere to a gluten-free diet so that symptoms disappear and quality of life improves. Unfortunately, many children aren’t seeing their physicians for follow-up appointments so their doctor can see the outcomes of a gluten-free diet. Read on to learn more about celiac disease, how to prevent symptoms, and why follow-up appointments are so necessary.
What Is Celiac Disease?
Gluten is a protein found in certain flours, such as rye and barley, which triggers an immune response in people who are allergic to it. The immune response is triggered in the small intestine and nutrients cannot properly be absorbed into the body. The immune response damages the villi that line the small intestine, and this in turn can cause other more serious health problems, such as intestinal lymphoma, iron-deficiency anemia, gallbladder malfunction, and more. Lack of nutrient absorption itself can lead to early-onset osteoporosis, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and lactose intolerance.
How Is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
While long-term celiac disease can lead to significant health problems, in the beginning, celiac disease causes some gastrointestinal upset and concerns. In both children and adults, symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, depression, and constipation are common. Just as with any other type of GI symptoms, if symptoms persist the patient should be evaluated by a physician to see what is causing the symptoms. Celiac disease is diagnosed by running specific blood tests that check for antibodies in the blood.
Treating Celiac Disease in Children
There is currently no cure for celiac disease, and the only way to arrest symptoms is to remove gluten from the child’s diet completely. After the doctor has made the diagnosis, he or she will ask parents to replace food choices with completely gluten-free ones. Luckily, there are many choices today in most supermarkets so avoiding gluten is not too difficult. After gluten has been eliminated from the diet, the villi within the small intestine will heal, and the likelihood of developing related conditions becomes nearly nonexistent.
Why Does My Child Need Follow-Up?
A recent study revealed that an alarming number of children (around 25%) diagnosed with celiac disease were not scheduled for a follow-up appointment. Unfortunately, because they hadn’t followed up, researched and doctors can’t determine if the patients are doing well. Lack of follow-up does not necessarily mean the outcome was unfavorable. Doctors worry that children may be not adhering to a gluten-free diet. Because celiac disease is a lifelong problem with no cure other than the elimination of gluten, serious health concerns like the ones listed above are a concern. Parents are urged to keep on top of follow-up appointments, even if they seem extraneous.
To find out more about celiac disease or if you or your children are experiencing gastrointestinal upset, request an appointment at GI Associates & Endoscopy Center today. We offer three separate locations as well as concentrations in pediatric GI services.