Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Celiac Disease
Important to diagnose and manage

by Charles Vanderpool, M.D., Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Riley

March 01, 2013

Pizza, pasta, cereal, birthday cake—all foods that most kids love are not foods that all children can enjoy. These foods often contain gluten and this type of protein can wreak havoc on the digestive system in children with celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive condition that damages the lining of the small intestine when gluten, found in foods with wheat, barley and rye, are eaten. A surprising number of foods contain gluten—including most breads, baked goods and lunchmeats. Gluten is sometimes even added to unsuspecting foods such as salad dressings, soups, cheeses and spices. 


Symptoms can vary from person to person making it difficult to link them to celiac disease. While there are many symptoms, a few of the more common ones include:

-- abdominal pain, indigestion, bloating, gas

-- diarrhea

-- nausea, vomiting

Since celiac disease causes the intestines to not absorb important vitamins and nutrients from food, children can also experience:

-- depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue

-- hair loss, irritated skin

-- delayed puberty, height growth

However, there are more than 300 symptoms associated with celiac disease! If you have a child that is experiencing any out-of-the-ordinary symptoms, take note of them and schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician. 


If your child’s pediatrician suspects a gluten intolerance, he will likely refer your child to a gastroenterologist who will start with a blood test to see if your child shows signs of the disease. If signs are seen, a biopsy of the small intestine will be undertaken to confirm the diagnosis. 


There is no cure for celiac disease. However, it can be effectively managed by following a lifelong gluten-free diet. Parents will need to study food labels carefully and learn to purchase and prepare foods without gluten. While there will be challenges to changing your child’s diet, with knowledge and practice, identifying potential sources of gluten will become second nature. Plus, grocery stores are increasingly offering many gluten-free options. 

Diet adherence is important to heal damage to the intestines and prevent further damage. If left untreated, the disease can cause life-threatening complications such as osteoporosis, intestinal cancer, anemia, infertility and liver disease. 

Since there is a hereditary component to celiac disease, your child’s pediatrician will likely want to test you and other members of your family. Celiac disease can affect people of all ages—not just children.

For more information visit our website at Other resources also are available from the Internet, libraries, support groups and health food stores.