The Celiac Child and
Celiac Disease affects people of all ages. However, the effects of the disease on children are particularly dramatic.
Similarly, the effect of a gluten free diet on a celiac child produces one of the most miraculous responses seen in medicine.
Signs and symptoms of Celiac Disease in infants and children are irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, growth failure, chronic diarrhea, rarely chronic constipation, fine hair, luxuriant eyelashes, decreased sub-cutaneous tissue, loss of muscle mass, protuberant abdomen, gluteal wasting.
What's special about children and celiac children? Celiac Disease does so much damage in babies, as the infant relies on its full digestive capacity to maintain growth in the first few years. The child doubles its birth weight in six months and triples birth weight in a year, In order to achieve this spectacular growth a child has to consume approximately ten per cent of body weight daily. By contrast, an adult consumes approximately 3.5% of body weight daily.
Celiac Disease severely impairs the infants digestion, resulting in weight loss as an early sign. Growth in height ceases after a few months. Similarly, when the child is put on a gluten free diet, weight will precede resumption of growth. The body effectively waits 2-3 months to see if good nutrition will be sustained before investing in growth. Because the response is so dramatic, it is tempting to diagnose celiac children according to their symptoms. However, many other conditions similarly improve with a gluten free diet and it is easy to be misled if you rely on symptoms alone.
There is continuing work on blood tests for anti-gladin and anti-endomysial antibodies.
However, at present these are only used as screening tests are only used as screening tests or to monitor for compliance with the diet. As ion adults, it is imperative to confirm the diagnosis of celiac disease by intestinal biopsy. The reasons are below.
Any dietary intervention has more powerful
and serious effects on the young child. Similarly, when illness interrupts feeding,
babies get into trouble much more quickly.
However, increasingly, non professionals such as naturopaths, chiropractors and well intentioned neighbours are giving diet advice without appropriate training. Inappropriate dietary restrictions are better tolerated by adults who have completed growing. However, dietary advice in youngsters is a potentially more dangerous proposition. Celiacs have a responsibility to share this message with the public. Presently, qualified dieticians on whom Celiacs depend are being challenged by other with an interest in diet
Celiacs have a special interest in seeing that individuals must have appropriate training and qualifications before givein advice to the public. This is important for all, but especially true when it comes to babies and children.
In summary, celiac disease is very dramatic in the young child. Children are particularly vulnerable at this time. However, we can't yet rely on symptoms to diagnose the condition and should discourage others from doing so because the natural result will be poorer health both for the child with true celiac disease as well as children without the condition.
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