Coeliac disease is a digestive disorder characterised by the body’s inability to tolerate a substance called gluten. Kids who have coeliac disease may have digestive problems like frequent diarrhoea, bloating and gas, and abdominal pain. Coeliac disease can lead to more serious problems like malnutrition and certain cancers, but it can be successfully managed with a strict gluten-free diet.
What causes coeliac disease?
The gluten found in wheat, rye, barley and oats damages the little hair-like structures called villi, found in the small intestine. Without villi, the small intestine can’t absorb the nutrients from the food we eat. Doctors aren’t really sure why this happens, but many children who have coeliac disease have a relative who has it too, so genetics may play a role.
Is coeliac disease serious?
Left untreated, coeliac disease can result in malnutrition, lack of bone density due to the loss of calcium, lactose intolerance, certain cancers, and neurological complications.
Can I prevent coeliac disease?
Since doctors don’t know what causes coeliac disease, it’s hard to know exactly what to do to prevent it. However, although coeliac disease is not curable, it is treatable.
How do I know if my child has coeliac disease?
Kids with coeliac disease most often have chronic diarrhoea, abdominal pain, gas and bloating. Other symptoms include:
- Bulky, foul-smelling bowel movements
- Nausea and vomiting
- The inability to gain weight
- Growth disorders
To diagnose Coeliac Disease, a biopsy of the small bowel is analysed. A correct diagnosis can only be obtained if the person is still eating a gluten containing diet.
How do I treat coeliac disease?
There is no medication to treat coeliac disease. The only way to treat it is to put your child on a gluten-free diet. Your child will have to avoid gluten for the rest of her life. There are a plenty of foods your child can eat, though, and many gluten-free alternatives to the gluten-rich cakes, breads and pastas kids are so fond of. Even small amounts of gluten can be damaging even if your child doesn’t react to them.
Make sure you get individual advice from a dietitian who will ensure you receive a balance of vital nutrients.
It is important that people are properly diagnosed to determine if changes to their diet are required and to get the appropriate treatment, information and monitoring. Once diagnosed, you are entitled to join the Coeliac Society and receive subsidies on certain food items.
Should I call the doctor?
Always call the doctor if your child is having any of the above symptoms. Your doctor can run tests to determine if your child has coeliac disease and refer you to the right health professionals to help you manage the disease.
What you need to know about coeliac disease
- Coeliac disease is a digestive disorder caused by intolerance to gluten, a substance found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.
- Doctors aren’t really sure what causes coeliac disease, but it seems to run in families.
- Kids with coeliac disease will have to avoid foods that contain gluten for the rest of their lives.
- Coeliac disease is manageable with a strict dietary regimen.
Find more relevant articles and information about coeliac disease:
- Find more about diarrhoea
- Learn more about stomach and intestinal infections
- Know how to keep kids healthy on a vegetarian diet
- Know more about fever?
Last revised: Thursday, 12 March 2015
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.