Lately, we have been surrounded by gluten-free products, but is this type of diet a healthy choice, or more like a fashionable trend of eating?
Maybe you have thought of starting this diet, but what about your children?
There are numerous reasons why your kids can benefit from this specific type of diet. In this post, we’ll explain these reasons, and provide you with additional tips how to make the gluten-free diet easier on you and your kids.
Why Your Kid Should Go with the Gluten-Free Diet?
For most people, gluten is difficult to digest.
One of its main elements is the gliadin protein. This protein causes releasing of the compound zonulin, which controls the “tight junctions” that constitute the intestinal barrier.
Gut Syndrome is the malfunction of this specific mechanism.
The director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center, and the pioneer in gluten intolerance and celiac disease research, Alessio Fasano, MD, was the leader of the team which found the compound zonulin back in 2000.
According to him, there are two major stimuli in our body which release zonulin, one of which is bacteria in the small intestine. This bacteria remains there and steals nutrients.
Gluten is the other stimulus in our body. Gliadin is one of its components, which releases zonulin when encountered to the cells that line the body as well flat surfaces.
This happens in every one of us. When a celiac disease patient has gluten intake, the zonulin amount increases and the intestinal barrier “door” stays open for a longer period, thus permitting the gluten to pass through, but toxins too.
The immune system of those intolerant to gluten, quickly addresses the problem.
The editor in chief of Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, Joseph Pizzorno, ND, guesses that 66% of the population have adverse response to gluten.
23% of the participants in a study developed antibodies to grain proteins, although just 3% of them really had celiac disease.
Therefore, preventing zonulin production and the resulting negative responses is beneficial to higher percentage of people.
The digestive tract of kids with gluten sensitivity won’t absorb the nutrients properly. The result will be nutritional deficiencies, as well as chances of other conditions and illnesses.
Among other things, this can result in exhaustion of the immune system.
What Are the Dangers of Consuming Gluten If You Are Gluten- Intolerant
An Italian study noticed that the longer a gluten-intolerant person ingests gluten, the more chances s/he has of developing autoimmune illnesses such as diabetes and thyroid disease.
The risk in kids with celiac diseases increased from 5% at the age of 2, to almost 35% by the age of 20.
Three types of gluten intolerance
Dermatitis herpetiformis (Duhring’s disease), celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are the 3 types of gluten intolerance.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is an autoimmune condition characterized with incredibly itchy skin rash. According to some, this can result in damages of the small intestines and immune system.
Celiac disease is genetic autoimmune illness that damages the small intestine, leading to improper absorption of nutrients.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity may have the same signs as celiac disease, without harms of the small intestine.
Wheat allergies can begin in infancy and frequently retreat by the age on one. According to some people, the current rise of this allergy is because of the higher amounts of gluten precursors (protein) in wheat crops.
This means that avoiding all gluten is completely unnecessary if your kid has only wheat allergy.
Nevertheless, considering the digestive problems majority have with gluten, this can be regarded as a healthier option.
Usual digestive symptoms of gluten issues include: chronic diarrhea or constipation, bloating, anemia, nausea, weight problems, flatulence, leaky gut, vomiting, and inability of nutrients absorption.
Since leaky gut syndrome is not so familiar to many people, we’ll explain it.
The two roles of the mucous membranes in the digestive tract are to prevent bacteria, undigested food, and leaking of toxins outside the digestive tract, and they ensure nutrients absorption.
The healthy mucous membrane should have small pores in order to prevent leakage of dangerous things in the digestive tract. If these pores are loose, they allow leakage of bacteria, undigested food, and toxins into the bloodstream- or known as leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability).
Leaky gut is related to gluten intolerance, which is often found in people with autism and celiac disease.
Kids with gluten intolerance often have behavior close to attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). More symptoms are mood swings, inability to concentrate, depression, and irritability.
The gluten-free diet has not only helped in the reduction of these symptoms, but also to many children with autism.
Nutritional deficiencies and systems problems
People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity often have nutritional deficiencies. The villi (follicles) responsible for the nutrients absorption and movement of the food along the digestive tract, are gradually disappearing because of the caused inflammation.
If your kid is deficient in essential fatty acids, folic acid (folate), or vitamin D, s/he might have gluten intolerance.
Once the gluten damage starts, it’ll affect each part of your kid’s body, including the immune, muscular, skeletal, endocrine (hormones), urinary, lymphatic, reproductive, nervous, and respiratory system.
Tips for Taking Your Kid Gluten-free
After we’ve explained the health problems caused by consuming gluten for those with gluten sensitivity, we give you important facts to consider before taking your kid gluten-free.
If the gluten-free diet doesn’t help your kid’s symptoms, make sure s/he starts avoiding dairy products too.
This shouldn’t be a problem, since there are many dairy-free alternatives nowadays, such as Daiya or Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, Earth Balance buttery spreads, and rice, soy, almond, and hemp milks. Make sure that the milk brands are gluten-free.
Non-food items which have gluten in their content
There are kids who aren’t just intolerant to gluten food, but to other nonfood items as well.
Play dough, paste, paper mâché, and clay call have gluten in their content and since a lot of kids tend to put their fingers in their mouth, gluten can be therefore ingested.
Try creating these stuff, or choosing gluten-free brands.
Helpful meal tips for children
Once your kid begins with the gluten-free diet, try avoiding “You can’t have that”, but instead focus on the things your id can eat.
Try to involve your kid in their diet, by asking restaurant staff and manufacturers relate questions, since now or then, they will have to take care of their diet themselves. Begin with something small like burger without a bun, or salad without the croutons.
Your kids may feel left out in occasions such as birthdays or sports events when all other kids eat gluten-filled foods. That’s why you should look for gluten-free snacks that can be served at such occasions, and pack some of them to your kid.
Make sure you decorate them or make them in some fun shape with their favorite ingredients.
Junk food in moderation as oppose to always healthy food
You might want to give your children just nutritious food, but remember that gluten-intolerant children already feel deprived enough.
So if you choose to give your kid healthy treats and sweet, you can go with cereals and whole grain snacks along with an occasional sugary snack.
You should aim to replace the turbinado sugar for brown sugar, or the less refined sugar for granulated sugar. Nevertheless, stick to “everything in moderation”.
In case you know that your kids will consume higher amounts of sugar, make them drink plenty of water, in order to prepare their liver ahead of the sugar. Make sure they continue drinking plenty of water in the following 2-3 days, to help the liver in the elimination of the toxins.
Planning of Menu
Let your children participate in the planning of the menu, since in this way the chances of them eating their meals are much higher. Surely, you’ll first have to educate them on a balanced diet.
At the beginning of the gluten-free diet, many kids like the attention they get, but usually that is for a short period.
Soon they start to complain about their meals, and feel left out when they can’t consume the same food as their friends or family members. That’s why you should make their meals fun.
Conclusion: Knowing When to Start Gluten-Free Diet
If you think that your kid may have issues with gluten, visit a doctor to test if s/he has celiac disease.
Then, if the results are negative, test if your kid has wheat allergy. If the doctor eliminate other possible causes, take the gluten-free diet in consideration.
Make notes of your child’s symptoms before beginning the gluten-free diet, and after 4 weeks following the diet.
Don’t forget to implement new grains one at a time.