What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is caused by the baby’s intolerance to gluten. It is an autoimmune disorder also known as celiac sprue. Gluten is the name of a protein found in grains like barley, rye, and wheat.
In babies suffering from celiac disease, the gluten affects the villi of the small intestine that is responsible for absorbing nutrients from the food consumed. When the villi are damaged, it is unable to perform its function of absorbing nutrients, as a result of which, the child might become malnourished.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
The symptoms of celiac disease may occur the first time the child is exposed to gluten while in some children it develops after a prolonged term of gluten intake. The very first signs of a celiac disease may begin to occur when the infant is started to be fed solid food that contain gluten. The baby may start having stomach aches, diarrhea and may stop gaining weight at the normal rate. Skin rashes might begin to appear around the buttocks, the elbows and the knees. Failure to gain height and weight as per normal expectations is also one of the effects of celiac disease. The child may become irritated and develop mouth sores and anemia over time.
Celiac disease is also linked to a hereditary occurrence. A family history of celiac disease makes the child susceptible to catching the disease. If a baby has celiac disease, his immediate family should be tested too as undetected celiac disease has long-term repercussions on health.
The occurrence of celiac disease can be tested with a blood test that measures the presence of certain proteins in the baby’s intestine. The blood test also measures the level of antibodies produced by the baby’s immune system to counter gluten. In case of severe results, the pediatrician may initiate a biopsy of the small intestine for extensive testing.
Gluten containing foods such as wheat, rye and barley should be completely eliminated from the baby’s diet. It is advisable to feed the baby home-cooked food as one cannot be sure if any gluten product has been used in a food prepared outside of home.
However, a small amount of gluten if ingested does not lead to any severe reactions. The lining of the small intestine is capable of renewing itself every 3 to 4 days. Hence the damaged cells are replaced frequently. Prolonged exposure is however to be avoided. It is also important to inform the same to all the people who spend considerable time that the baby. Making the teacher, the nanny and the babysitter aware of your child’s condition will ensure that your baby is kept away from a gluten diet.