While you may be devastated to learn that your child has celiac disease, it may be some comfort to know that you and your child are not alone. About 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease, a condition triggered by a protein called gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley.
You’ll succeed in navigating the ins and outs of your child’s diagnosis when you have a trusted medical professional in your corner. At Advanced Pediatrics of Rockland in Pomona, New York, pediatrician Andrew Satran, MD, and our staff provide expert diagnosis and treatment for patients with celiac disease. Dr. Satran and our staff can provide you with an individualized treatment plan, instructions for managing your child’s disease, and referrals to professional and community resources to ensure your child’s physical and emotional health.
Dealing with a new diagnosis can be challenging. While every child’s experience with celiac disease is unique, here are some ways to help you and your child adjust to living with this condition.
Understand celiac disease
It’s important that you have a clear understanding of how celiac disease affects the body if you’re going to achieve successful disease management.
If your child has celiac disease, their immune system treats the protein gluten as a threat and attacks it. In the process, the villi (tiny projections from the surface of the small intestine) become damaged and unable to properly absorb nutrients from food.
While celiac disease can cause many symptoms, children with celiac disease can experience developmental delays that interfere with reaching their expected weight and height or advancing to puberty. An accurate diagnosis and elimination of gluten from your child’s diet can help their bodies heal and potentially achieve some degree of developmental alignment with their peers.
Understand the treatment
While there is no cure for celiac disease, successful disease management can allow your child to remain healthy.
The only effective treatment for celiac disease is to avoid all foods that contain gluten by following a completely gluten-free diet. If your child has been experiencing symptoms due to celiac disease, you should see improvement within a few weeks of transitioning them to this type of diet.
Maintaining a gluten-free diet includes avoiding all foods that contain gluten as well as those that might have had contact with gluten. While foods that have had cross-contact may not produce a significant reaction, they can damage the intestine. To avoid cross-contact, your child must also avoid foods prepared with appliances or utensils used on foods containing gluten.
You may be advised to consult with a registered dietitian, who can educate you on implementing a gluten-free diet for your child. They will teach you which foods are safe, how to read a food label, and where to find hidden sources of gluten. You will also benefit from guidance on meal planning and ways to ensure that your child’s diet is nutritionally balanced while avoiding gluten.
You may be surprised to learn the variety of foods that your child can enjoy on a gluten-free diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables, red meat, sports drinks, yogurt, and even some varieties of ice cream.
Educate your child
It’s important to maintain open and age-appropriate discussions with your child about their condition. While you’ll be able to control the diet of a very young child, they should be aware of foods that they must avoid as they become more independent.
As your child grows older, you can allow them to take a more active role in their dietary selections and food preparation. Explore new recipes with your child and teach them how to read food labels and prepare foods safely to avoid cross contact. Help them learn the foods they can and can’t consume, and what to do if they’re unsure.
Helping your child maintain some input over their diet while remaining gluten-free can help them assume more responsibility for managing their condition as they grow.
Seek out resources
As a parent of a newly diagnosed celiac patient, you’ll find value in seeking out the experience and expertise of other parents who have been in your shoes. As you encounter the challenges of managing a child with celiac disease, you’ll benefit from finding a support group and connecting with other parents via social media.
While it may feel restricting to have to manage a gluten-free diet for your child, you’re likely to find gluten-free options to be relatively common. Since many people follow a gluten-free lifestyle by choice for health benefits, you’ll find a variety of gluten-free alternatives in grocery stores and restaurants. You may even have a gluten-free bakery in your area.
Learn more about helping your child to remain healthy with a diagnosis of celiac disease. To schedule a visit, request an appointment online or call our office.