There are many children under the age of 3 years who suffer from different forms of food allergies. And one such common allergy is gluten allergy. Allergy to foods like eggs, wheat, peanut, milk, seafood, and soy contributes to most of the food allergies found in children in India. The allergy to gluten is often termed as celiac disease and can be a genetically inherited autoimmune disease that impacts the intestines and the absorption of nutrients in the body. So, if you are wondering, “should I put my child on a gluten free diet”, you need to know more about the allergy, what its signs are, and what food options are the best.

What is gluten and gluten allergy?

Gluten is the name of a protein that is naturally found in foods like wheat, barley, rye, and semolina. It helps the food maintain its shape, acting as glue. Wheat, rye, and barley are the most common grains containing gluten, and many food products like bread, pasta, cereals, sauces, soups, and malts are made out of them.

If your child is intolerant to gluten and takes foods containing this protein, it can trigger an autoimmune response that might harm the intestines. This can cause long term problems and other autoimmune diseases like thyroid issues, osteoporosis, lymphoma, and osteopenia.

How will you know that your child has a gluten allergy?

In some cases, the symptoms and signs might appear right after your kid consumes foods containing gluten (in celiac disease). In other cases, signs might appear after a few hours or days, after consuming such foods.

Here are some symptoms of gluten-related disorders in your kid:

  • Rash on eyebrows
  • Headache
  • Anaemia and lack of response to iron therapy
  • Bleeding and swollen gums
  • Nausea, vomiting, chronic cases of diarrhoea and/or constipation
  • The weakening of bones marked by pains in joints and numbness
  • Discoloration of teeth
  • Bloated stomach
  • Feeling of dizziness
  • Brain fog, marked by a feeling of tiredness, forgetfulness, and trouble with focusing

On seeing these signs, you might think of going for a gluten-free diet for kids. But, first consult a gastroenterologist, so that he can test for celiac disease. If you start with a gluten-free diet before testing, you might create a negative impact on your child’s health.

Tests allow doctors to confirm if it is celiac disease or something else, like an intestinal parasite problem or bacterial overgrowth, or fructose or lactose intolerance, or sensitivity to some kind of food additive like MSG (monosodium glutamate).

The many challenges of following a gluten-free diet and how to overcome them

It can be a daunting task for parents to make small kids stick to a gluten-free diet. However, with some knowledge and practice, a gluten-free diet for kids can be designed, which will keep them healthy and happy.

First, both parents and kids must be aware of what will happen if any food containing gluten is ingested. Both of you should know about the allergic reactions that might take place and can be potentially dangerous too.

Make a list of foods that your child likes and are also gluten-free, and educate them as much as possible, so that they stick to those foods. Teach them to avoid harmful foods. The biggest challenge comes with sweets and baked treats. It might seem almost impossible to keep children away from them. To cater to their sweet tooth, treat them well and regularly with gluten-free desserts and sweets at home, and let them develop a taste for it.

Can a child grow out of gluten intolerance? As time passes by, defeating the allergy will be much easier for both parents and the child. Mastering a gluten-free dietary plan is an art and needs patience, dedication, and repeated practice.

What are the foods that you should avoid giving your kid?

Gluten allergy or intolerance simply means that the body is unable to breakdown gluten found in certain foods like wheat and other grains.

Some common foods that contain gluten and should be avoided are wheat (starch, bran, and germ), durum, semolina, couscous, flour, barley, oats (oats by themselves have no gluten, but are mainly processed at the same place that also processes gluten-containing grains and hence chances of contamination are the maximum), rye, and malt. Foods like soups, vinegar, broth powders, salad dressings, soy sauce, burgers, seasonings, spice mixes, noodles, condiments, pastas, and breads should also be avoided.

There are no concrete reasons why someone develops an allergy to gluten, but even if it has occurred in case of your kid, the only thing to do is avoid gluten under any circumstances. You can give your child foods like dosa, poha, rotis made of bajra or makki. Give lassi as well. This way, his nutritional needs will be met. Khichdi made of sabudana or brown rice can be a great option too. Consult your doctor for more guidance.