Gluten intolerance or Celiac disease is something that not many are aware of in India. Many children under the age of 3 are allergic to various foods like eggs, soy, milk, peanuts, wheat, or gluten. While the exact cause of gluten intolerance is unknown a few consider the hybrid varieties of wheat to trigger the allergy as they have high levels of gluten.
First, let’s understand what is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and barley. It gives chewiness and structure to the grain. It also helps you stay fuller for a longer time.
Is gluten intolerance common in India?
According to NIMS (Nizam’s Institute of Medical Science), Gluten intolerance is found in 10% of Indians. According to AIIMS, celiac disease affects nearly 6-8 million people in India. Gluten intolerance can manifest into Celiac disease or remain as non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
So now that we have put things in perspective, you must be wondering about ways to identify them.
So, how would you know if your kid is allergic to gluten?
Look out for these symptoms :
- Bloating: Does your child feel uncomfortable, gassy, heavy, and uneasy in the stomach.
- Diarrhea or constipation: Few kids face extreme constipation while few get loose motion.
- Smelly poop: This is a major indication that your child has a digestive issue and it needs to be closely monitored. If it’s smelly then monitor their consumption and what triggered their poop.
- Brain fog: Even after having a good night’s sleep, the child looks lost and tired. The child might seem to be forgetful. These could be major signs of gluten intolerance.
- Skin issues: itchy elbows, and knees, unusual acne, and skin rashes are the early signs of gluten intolerance.
- Extreme weight loss -Sudden weight loss, weakness, and tiredness.
- Feeling low on energy and depressed or dull throughout the day. No energy to play or do any activity.
- Abdominal pain – Sudden pain and discomfort in the abdomen.
If the kid is gluten intolerant, he /she may show these symptoms. If you see any of these unusual behaviors after consuming food, consult your pediatrician to rule out gluten intolerance. Sometimes it could just be a stomach bug or infection. The doctor might ask the parent about the food history in the last two – to three days to analyze the symptoms.
Parents need to make a note of signs and see a pediatrician confirm whether it’s gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Are gluten intolerance and Celiac disease the same?
Gluten intolerance and celiac diseases are different. Kids with celiac disease show an autoimmune response to gluten as their body tries to fight against the gluten as if it’s a virus. This causes inflammation in their body and disturbs their digestive system, resulting in abdominal genes and a lot of antibodies in their body. Even though the symptoms of celiac disease and gluten intolerance are the same but kids with gluten intolerance, don’t have too many antibodies like kids with celiac disease.
How is gluten intolerance diagnosed?
Close monitoring and case study of all the symptoms and history, food logs, and analysis of food is done. To rule out gluten intolerance or celiac disease, blood tests and skin tests are done after a child eats gluten-rich food.
If the kid is diagnosed with gluten intolerance, then the child has to go for a gluten-free diet. Adding gluten-free grains or millet-based food and probiotics to a child’s meals can reduce abdominal pain and improve their gut.
Gluten intolerance can be managed by eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet, and keeping a track of its triggers. Include millets in their daily diet and read the labels carefully before picking packaged food for the children.
If the child accidentally has gluten after being diagnosed with gluten intolerance then follow the tips below:
- Make your child drink a lot of water.
- Feed small, easy-to-digest meals. Avoid oily food.
- You can add ginger or peppermint to their meal to soothe the pain.
- Include curd rice, and buttermilk as it has prebiotics that helps cleanse the gut. Contact your doctor immediately.
Do not ignore or self-examine your child and stop gluten from your child’s diet without speaking to the pediatrician. Any health decision needs to be taken after consultation with the doctor.
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