Celiac Disease and Children

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People with celiac disease are unable to tolerate a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley.

Gluten is found mainly in foods, but may also be found in products which are used every day, including stamp and envelope adhesive, medicines, and vitamins. Because the body’s own immune system causes the damage, celiac disease is considered an autoimmune disorder.

It is also classified as a disease of mal-absorption because the nutrients are not absorbed. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, and gluten sensitive enteropathy.

Food Intolerance Classifications

It is important to recognize that celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergy are all food allergies. There are several classifications of food intolerances including food allergy, autoimmune-mediated, congenital digestive disorders, and metabolic diseases. Food allergies affect 5 percent of the population.

Celiac disease affects people differently. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body. Irritability is one of the most common symptoms of celiac disease in children.

Celiac disease is a genetic disease, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered, or becomes active for the first time, after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress.

Personality Changes

Personality changes may occur in children with celiac disease. This may cause the inability to concentrate, become irritable and have difficulties with mental alertness and memory functions. Celiac patients may experience selected symptoms which include mood changes, irritability, and depression.

The parents of a child with celiac disease may need to reduce expectancies in leaning and carrying out selected aspects of basic discipline for their child.

Symptoms of celiac disease can occur at any time in a child’s life. Some children experience symptoms the first time they are exposed to gluten, while others develop symptoms later in life after consuming gluten products without a problem for year.

A first sign that an infant might have celiac disease can occur shortly after the introduction to solid foods such as cereals. An infant who has begun consuming foods that contain gluten might have diarrhea and stomach pains. They will stop gaining weight at a healthy pace. Skin rashes might also appear and the child might develop anemia and mouth sores.


Diagnosing celiac disease usually begins with a simple blood test that measures the levels of antibodies to gluten and other proteins in the lining of the intestine. If high levels of these antibodies are found, the doctor will likely order a biopsy of the small intestine and have it tested by a laboratory.

If celiac disease is diagnosed, the doctor will offer guidance on which foods the child can eat and which to avoid. Because these changes greatly affect the every day life and diet, the doctor may suggest meeting with a nutritionist for additional advice.

Wheat, rye, barley and related grains should be eliminated from the child’s diet. There are several gluten related ingredients that should be avoided at all costs.