I Have a Gluten Intolerant Child, Now What?

Your child was just diagnosed with gluten intolerance, or worse, celiac disease. You’re panicking. You know this new diagnosis is going to take a lot of extra energy and you’ve seen those high priced gluten free foods at the grocery store. Then there’s your child, how will you get her on board with all the changes she has to make. Maybe she’s like so many of us and food is comfort for her, she already doesn’t try new things. You’re thinking this is going to be impossible and you’re fearing for her health short term and long term already.

We interviewed one mom who has been right where you are. She gives insight to being the only person in her family who isn’t suffering from Celiac. She offers hope advice to families who have just found out their child is gluten intolerant or has Celiac.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

My credentials are Jennifer Phelps MS, RD/LD. I’m a registered dietitian who has worked for 11 years specializing in the care of people with diabetes and Celiac Disease.

I have a husband with Celiac, sister with Celiac, 8 year old son with Celiac, and 5 year old daughter with Celiac.

Jennifer Phelps, Gluten Free DietYou’re a dietitian, mom to two children with Celiac Disease and wife to a husband with Celiac Disease. Can you explain Celiac Disease from your perspective.

Celiac Disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder. When a person with Celiac Disease eats gluten their immune system responds by attacking the villi that line the small intestine. The damage that occurs in the small intestine prevents the body from being able to properly absorb nutrients. If left untreated, Celiac Disease can lead to other autoimmune disorders, anemia, infertility, miscarriages, neurological conditions and cancer. If a person with Celiac Disease eats even a small amount of gluten, which is found in wheat, barely and rye, it can cause intestinal damage. The treatment for Celiac Disease is complete avoidance of gluten.

You’re the only person in your family who can eat a diet including gluten, as the cook in your family is that frustrating at all? Do you also eat a gluten free diet?

Well, I do admit that I miss eating rolls and homemade breads. Those are some of my favorite foods, but not having them at home has probably saved me from gaining extra pounds. The dinners I cook are gluten free, but I do typically eat gluten at breakfast and lunch. The thing that is the most frustrating is that gluten free specialty foods like bread, crackers, and pasta are more expensive. For example, a loaf of bread comparable to regular whole wheat loaf is around $9.00. Cooking gluten free without buying a lot of expensive, specialty foods has been the most challenging.

How did you come to realize your kids are gluten intolerant and how did they handle the news?

My daughter started showing symptoms around 2 1/2 years old. She had frequent loose stools and acted like an overly tired toddler most of the time. After testing for Celiac, she started eating gluten free just before she turned 3 years old and within 2 weeks of eating gluten free she no longer had any problems. Since my husband was already eating gluten free, we told her that she needed to eat like daddy so she wouldn’t be sick. Surprisingly, it didn’t upset her. I caught her eating regular animal crackers one time. I reminder her why she couldn’t eat gluten, later on, she started feeling bad and she never did it again. Now at 5 years old, she doesn’t even remember eating foods with gluten and will always question any food that someone offers her.

My son had just turned 8 years old when we suspected that he had Celiac. His primary symptoms were tiredness and being really emotional. By 10 am, he was telling me that he was tired on most days. After about 3 months of noticing symptoms, he switched to eating gluten free. Two days later, he told us he felt much better. I could see a significant change within a week. My son cried about giving up some of his favorite foods and not being able to go get donuts with his granddad, but having other family members eating gluten free helped.

What’s one thing you want the world to know about living with Celiac Disease?

Social situations can be tricky, if you have a friend with Celiac it’s okay to invite them to your house for dinner but let them bring their own food.

What are your kids’ favorite gluten-free winter dishes and/or holiday dishes?

We adjust lots of regular recipes like potato soup, chili, and stew to be gluten free. A special holiday treat that my kids like to help make and eat is Chex muddy buddies. Our special breakfast for Christmas is cinnamon toast on gluten free bread using a recipe from the Pioneer Woman.

How does your extended family respond to your family’s dietary restrictions? Do they create gluten-free dishes when your family gets together?

Gluten free with my family was fairly easy because my sister was diagnosed with Celiac before my husband. Since there are multiple gluten free people at family gatherings, the menu consists mostly of gluten free foods. It took my husband’s family a little longer to adjust. My sister-in-law will text me pictures of labels whenever she is making something for a family event, which is a huge help. The most challenging thing is to make sure there hasn’t been cross contamination. We usually have to ask questions about each food and think through any ingredients that might contain gluten. We do a lot of checking on manufacturer’s websites.

What’s your best advice for moms who are just learning their kids have gluten intolerance and have to transition to a gluten free diet?gluten free diet

If possible, have a consult with a registered dietitian who specializes in Celiac Disease/gluten intolerance. They can help you to navigate the world of gluten free, point you toward products to try, and find those sneaky sources of hidden gluten or cross contamination.

A parent’s attitude can really impact a child’s ability to cope with the diagnosis. Help your child focus on the things that they can eat and the benefits of them eating gluten free. Just like kids who have asthma or allergies, they have to make changes. No pity parties or bad attitudes! Focus on the foods that they can eat and see if there is a way to make their favorite meal gluten free.

There is no need to make the family member with Celiac a special meal since most foods can either be made gluten free or are naturally gluten free. By making most of your family dinners gluten free it will help the child not feel singled out and different. Although it may feel overwhelming at first, over time, it will just become a part of normal life.

Have you tried any holistic or natural health remedies that have helped?

Everyone in my family has responded well to the gluten free diet, although we do supplement with omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D.

What if you discovered that a specialized form of chiropractic care has helped patients with auto-immune diseases like Celiac by rehabilitating their immune systems?

I would be interested to know more! In reading on the American Chiropractic Care website, it wasn’t clear whether specific chiropractic treatments were available. There are some people who are diagnosed with “unresponsive Celiac” that continue to have symptoms while eating gluten free so it would be good to know if there are other options for them to try.

Upper Cervical Chiropractic for Celiac Disease

[Excerpt from UpperCervicalCare.com]upper cervical care for celiac disease

The problem is, a cure for Celiac Disease has not been discovered and there is no medication to suppress the immune reaction to gluten. However, there may be a way to rehabilitate the immune system from the inside out in order to keep the immune system from “misfiring”. Upper Cervical Care has been proven to keep health conditions from further progressing and has even eradicated many symptoms altogether. This form of chiropractic isn’t just for back pain or neck pain, but for the whole body, it’s a holistic approach to finding health. Celiac Disease isn’t just a disease of the small intestine, it’s a disease that affects the whole body and it’s important to treat the body as a whole instead of individual units.

What Upper Cervical Care does best is restore the nervous system, from restoring this one function of the body everything falls into place. For example, the immune system knows when to attack, when not to attack, and how hard because the brain and the body are able to communicate without interference or subluxation. Some sources report Celiac Disease manifesting after a major life event like surgery, pregnancy, disease, or stress. These also happen to be major events that are proven to throw the immune system into mayhem. With chiropractic on the rise and a second look being given to holistic health care, many people are learning that Upper Cervical Care is a way to treat more than neck and back pain, but a way to treat health issues like Celiac Disease.