Could Your Child Have Coeliac Disease?

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Going “gluten free” is currently a popular health trend. However, for some people, ditching gluten is actually integral for their ongoing health and wellbeing.

More than just gluten intolerance, coeliac disease is an auto-immune disorder that primarily affects the small intestine.

Coeliac disease is estimated to affect 1 in 70 people, however it is believed 80% of suffers remain undiagnosed. This is because the symptoms of coeliac disease are highly variable. Some people show no signs or symptoms, while others may suffer debilitating symptoms.

As coeliac disease has a genetic component, there is a 1 in 10 chance of an immediate family member also having the disease.

Symptoms of Coeliac Disease

Coeliac Australia list the symptoms as including one or more of the following:

  • gastrointestinal symptoms e.g. diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, steatorrhea
  • fatigue, weakness and lethargy
  • iron deficiency anaemia and/or other vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • failure to thrive or delayed puberty in children
  • weight loss (although some people may gain weight)
  • bone and joint pains
  • recurrent mouth ulcers and/or swelling of mouth or tongue
  • altered mental alertness and irritability
  • skin rashes such as dermatitis herpetiformis
  • easy bruising of the skin

These symptoms may occur simultaneously or at different times.

Diagnosis of Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is difficult to diagnose due to the variability of symptoms. Diagnosis will generally be made by a gastroenterologist through a combination of blood testing for antibodies, genetic screening and an endoscopy to undertake a biopsy of the small bowel. Other testing may be undertaken to identify any other associated conditions.

For diagnosis to be successful the patient must still be consuming a gluten diet to ensure there is not a false negative diagnosis.  This is known as a “gluten challenge”.

For more information about diagnosing the disease in children read this factsheet from Coeliac Australia.

Treatment of Coeliac Disease

There is no cure for coeliac disease. The main treatment is adopting a gluten-free lifestyle.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, spelt, rye, barley and oats. As such it can be found in a wide range of foods, medications and even personal products.

Consultation with a dietitian is beneficial and in Australia this may be subsidised through a Chronic Disease Management Plan, available through your GP. Look into local support organisations who can offer support, information and sometimes even discounts for gluten-free living.

Non-adherance to a gluten-free diet can increase risk of long-term complications of the disease such as intestinal cancer, osteoporosis and other auto-immune diseases.

Resources

Coeliac Australia

Coeliac Disease Fact Sheet – GESA

Health Direct

Beyond Celiac

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About Author

Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.

1 Comment

  1. Hello Natasha! I know being gluten free sucks, but I promise it gets easier and better when your body gets used to it. I”ve been gluten free for a little more than a year and I miss being able to eat whatever I want. If I knew I had to be gluten free, I sure would”ve been a lot more food-adventurous and tried all the things I can”t anymore!! But I”m glad you”re finding alternatives you and your family can enjoy. And I”m thankful for more wonderful gluten free recipes on your blog! Wishing you and your son the best:) a plus mathematics tutorial

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