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8 Tips for Helping Kids Cope with Celiac Disease

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Celiac disease is not an allergy. It’s an autoimmune condition triggered by the consumption of gluten – a protein found in wheat but also in barley and rye. Thousands of kids have celiac disease – about 1 in every 100 – making it a common condition that can cause serious physical symptoms and take an emotional toll.

Unmanaged celiac disease has an impact on a child’s digestion and overall health. Kids may experience severe diarrhea and abdominal pain when they consume gluten. Others may suffer skin rashes and internal damage to their liver, teeth, and nervous system. Celiac disease can interfere with normal growth as it prevents a child from absorbing nutrients properly.

There is no cure for celiac disease, but it can be managed with a gluten-free diet. At Digestive Disorders Associates in Annapolis, Maryland, we evaluate your child if you suspect they may have celiac disease. We also help you learn how to manage their symptoms and eliminate exposure to gluten.

Follow these tips to help your child cope with a diagnosis of celiac disease so they can live a healthy, happy life.

1. Help your child know what they CAN eat

Instead of focusing on the foods your child can’t eat, help them celebrate all the foods they can. Fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, cheese, quinoa, rice, corn, seeds, milk, and plain meats, fish, chicken, and nuts are all perfectly healthy. 

Many certified gluten-free treats are available, including cupcakes, cookies, cereal, bread, and snack mixes. Teach them how to identify these products so they can enjoy eating a varied diet.

2. Treat celiac disease as a family condition

Consider making your entire household gluten-free. This means your child can eat safely at home and doesn’t feel “different” from other family members.

3. Inform other adults in your child’s life

Make sure adults – such as teachers, school administrators, camp counselors, babysitters, and parents of friends – know that your child must follow a strictly gluten-free diet. Meet with the staff at your child’s school at the beginning of the year so they can help your child manage their condition in the school environment.

4. Check school supplies

Remind your kids, their teachers, and their caretakers that it’s not just food that can contain gluten. Some craft supplies, such as pasta, glue, and dough, can contain gluten and cause a reaction if your child accidently gets some in their mouth. Offer gluten-free alternatives so the classroom or camp is safe for everyone

5. Help your child know the foods they should avoid

Don’t scare your child, but do help them understand the seriousness of their condition so they realize that they need to be diligent when it comes to gluten-free eating. This means they can’t cave, even when faced with a pizza party or birthday cupcakes at a celebration.

6. Find a support group

Help your child find friends that also have celiac disease so they don’t feel so alone. We can help you identify support groups or even camps that are specifically geared toward celiac disease.

7. Empower them to speak up

Let your child know that it’s OK that they have a medical condition that requires dietary caution. Remind them to always ask when eating outside the house if a product is safe, and if the answer is “I don’t know,” they should avoid the food. Marinades, homemade baked goods, and even some cross-contaminated foods can cause a reaction.

8. Have gluten free options available

We can help you identify tasty gluten-free options that your child can eat safely. There’s a wide array of cookies, cupcakes, cakes, pizza crusts, pasta, and cereal that your child can enjoy without fear of gluten contamination. If your child is heading to a birthday party or other celebration, send them with their own goodies so they can be a part of the party and not feel left out.

Celiac disease can be hard for adults to cope with – let alone kids. But support from informed guardians and the compassionate team at Digestive Disorders Associates can make it a little easier. Call today or book online to schedule your child’s appointment and take advantage of the expertise of our staff.

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