Celiac disease in babies: symptoms and how to manage
If your child has celiac disease, it means that he or she is sensitive towards gluten. In other words, your little one won’t be able to digest any food item that contains gluten, such as wheat, barley, bread, pasta, and certain sauces and condiments. As parents, it is natural to feel confused and assume the worst if your knowledge about this disease is inadequate.
This article explores all the common signs of this disease along with simple ways to manage the condition. Important diet tips have also been shared to make living with this disease more comfortable.
Celiac disease symptoms in children
The symptoms associated with the disease usually become visible three to five months after consuming gluten-rich foods. However, there are some cases where symptoms appear in the first month.
- Diarrhoea: The most common symptom of this disease is diarrhoea, which affects all age groups. Young babies might suffer from chronic diarrhoea and abdominal distension, while older ones might experience chronic diarrhoea, constipation or vomiting.
- Childhood celiac disease can cause malabsorption in kids and this can lead to nutrient imbalance and deficiencies. This can result in many other conditions like:
- Anaemia, due to low levels of iron in the bloodstream
- Poor bone growth and development due to poor absorption of calcium and vitamin D
- Muscular dystrophy due to malabsorption of calcium, magnesium, and loss of potassium
- Neurological disorders due to deficiency of multivitamins
- Hormonal disorders
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Apart from the above-mentioned celiac disease symptoms in children, some other common symptoms include being underweight, poor feeding pattern, muscle wasting, irritability, mouth ulcers, dermatitis, and tiredness.
Management and treatment of celiac disease
Here are a few ways to manage and treat celiac disease:
Gluten-free diet: The first and foremost treatment you can offer your child is a gluten-free diet. If you completely cut out gluten from your baby’s diet, you will be able to see a remarkable improvement in his or her condition. But remember to supplement this loss with extra vitamins, minerals, and proteins, to avoid deficiencies that might arise due to the absence of gluten.
Introduce complementary foods: One smart way to prevent celiac disease is by introducing complementary foods that are free from gluten, at the age when your baby’s intestines are mature enough to digest gluten. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for babies until the age of six months, and then you can introduce complementary foods. In case the baby is predisposed to this disease, introduce complementary foods only under medical guidance.
Be aware of foods containing gluten: Prevention is always better than cure. The best way to prevent this disease is by avoiding food items that contain gluten, e.g., wheat, rye, and barley. Baked food items like biscuits, breads, and cakes should be completely avoided too, as they contain high amounts of gluten. Be careful while giving vitamin supplements and lip balm to your child, as these might contain gluten too. You can consult a doctor when it comes to choosing food items and such for your baby.
Find alternatives: All Indian parents know that wheat is a staple in most parts of the country. However, if your baby is suffering from celiac disease and is not able to consume wheat, you must consider alternatives. A good idea is to substitute wheat with rice, soybean, maize, and corn. You can take the help of a paediatrician or a dietician to plan your baby’s meals as well. Make sure to get your little one properly diagnosed, so that you are sure that he or she is actually suffering from this disease.