How do I know if my baby has coeliac disease?
Babies will show their first symptons of coeliac soon after weaning and the introduction to solids that contain gluten. Your baby may show symptoms such as:
- tummy ache
- failure to gain weight
- bloated tummy
- loose smelly stools
The damage in the intestines inhibit the absorbtion of nutrients, their faeces may be pale, runny and very smelly. Their abdomen may be swollen and your baby may vomit.
It is thought there is a one in ten chance of someone having coeliac disease if a family member has been diagnosed. It is worth the whole family being tested.
Getting a diagnosis
This should be a fairly simple process but your GP may not recognise the symptoms as they can be very different from person to person. Professionals are reluctant to assign the diagnosis to children who are showing mild symptoms.
A simple blood test can be the first step along the road to diagnosis. The blood test identifys antibodies being produced because gluten is being ingested. If blood test results show a significant level of antibodies then a biopsy of the lining of the intestines will be offered.
A biopsy (endoscopy) is usually carried out under a local anesthethic for adults and a genreal anesthetic for children. The the tissue sample will be examined under a microscope to see if the villi within the intestines are damaged.
Myths about Coeliac Disease
Research into Coeliac disease is being carried out all the time. Recent years have clarified and defined what Coeliac disease is,how it affect us and blown nonsesne myths out of the water - here we clarify a few things!
'Coeliac disease is rare' ~ MYTH
It is thought that Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK and many people do not know they have the disease. Some of these people may have no symptoms and ome may have a few symptoms.
'Coeliac disease is a food intolerance' ~ MYTH
Coeliac disease is not a food intolerance or a food allergy. Coeliac is an autoimmune disease, the body's immune system reacts to gluten by attacking its own tissues. In coeliac disease, eating gluten causes the lining of the gut (small bowel) to become damaged and may affect other parts of the body.
'Children cant get coeliac disease' ~ MYTH
Coeliac affects anyone at any age. It can present symptoms at any time. Coeliac disease may first appear for babies when they are weaned onto cereals that contains gluten. Often coeliac disease is not easy to diagnose and may take several years. The recent blood test to screen for antibodies makes diagnosis much more effective and a biopsy can be carried out to confirm diagnisis.
'Children and people with Coeliac disease are underweight' ~ MYTH
Some children and adults are underweight but many are of normal weight at diagnosis.
'People who are overweight cannot have Coeliac disease' ~ MYTH
Some people are actually overweight at the time of diagnosis [Thanks to Alex Gazzola @HealthJourno)
RESEARCH: The Celiac Disease Centre of Columbia University in New York (from 1981 to 2007) found in their research of 369 people with Coeliac disease, 60.7% were normal weight, 17.3% were underweight, 15.2% were overweight and 6.8% were obese.
'A negative biopsy means i havent got Coeliac diease' ~ MYTH
This is hopefully the case, but if the child or adult being tested for Coeliac has not consumed gluten containing foods, then their body will not have been producing the antibodies. It is essential before any blood test that gluten is in the diet in some form to ensure a false negative test result doent occur.
'Coeliac disease affects the gut' ~ Myth
Coeliac disease can affect many parts of the body. Symptoms can be mild, affect the bowels, stomach and skin etc.
'Children 'grow out' of having Coeliac disease' ~ MYTH
Coeliac disease is a life-long condition which can only be controlled effectively by comsuming a gluten free diet. It is tempting for children and teenagers to think they have'grown out' of the disease because they have no symptoms. If gluten is reintroduced to the diet, the body will react again and the intestines become damaged.
'Villi in the intestines are permanently damaged for people with coeliac diseae' ~ MYTH
Fortunately, this is not the case and the villi will regrow and be able to take on nutrients again. A gluten free diet will help remove the unpleasant symptoms of coeliac disease and allow the gut to repair.
'The odd normal sandwhich wont hurt' ~ Myth
Coeliacs should avoid gluten at all times and even a crumbs will cause an immune reaction. being 'glutened' or accidently exposed to gluten is going to happen from time to time. Inevitably, the symptoms are going to occur but continueon the gluten free diet asap! Try to avoid cross contamination wherever possible - take a look at our page about avoiding cross contamination.
How do I know if my child has coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is often diagnosed in younger children because of digestive symptoms.
Often symptoms include:
- a bloated tummy
- runny / foul smelling stools
- tummy ache
- weight loss
You may see a pattern of tummy ache after a sandwich or pizza for example. This is not a reason to start your child on a gluten free straight away.
Visit your doctor and discuss the symptoms and share your concerns. For your child to be tested for Coeliac disease, your child must be consuming gluten contained foods and will not be tested straight away.
The risk of contamination is high when living with non-coeliacs. Simple steps can be carried out to avoid the risk of cross contamination of gluten containing products. It is often easier for the whole family to eat gluten free meals but this is not always possible and not always fair on siblings.
Simple procedures will help to avoid gluten cross conatmination
- Always wash down surfaces before preparing food Use a plate or dedicated kitchen board to prepare food Assign utensils for gluten free cooking... Consider buying utensils in a colour. ie all blue or utensils are gluten free. Always wash before and after use Use gluten free saucepans, frying pans, mixing bowls, bread pans, cake tins etc. Again these could be purchased in blue Wash hands after touching or preparing gluten food.
- Never use the same utensils to serve
- Use separate containers for jams and butter. Crumbs can easily be left behind.
- Use separate bread boards
- Use a clean grill
- Never use the same cooking oil that has been used for cooking gluten contained foods
- Assign a dedicated cupboard or drawer for gluten free products.
- Be aware that a utensil draw is often situated below preparation surfaces and crumbs, flour dust etc can easily contaminate unused knives, forks and spoons etc. Always wash before use.
- For toast use toaster bags or buy a separate toaster, again blue and pink toasters are available Store cooked items in air tight bags or containers in the fridge ir freezer, again blue and pink food storage containers are available.
Hopefully these few routines will help to ensure a gluten free diet can be maintained for your child and with special cooking items and utensils will be fun too!