Much misinformation has been spread through the Internet, on TV and in the newspapers about gluten and gluten-free diets. We’d like to answer some of the common questions surrounding gluten and its effects on adults and children.
What is the problem with gluten and why all the interest in it?
Gluten is a protein found in certain whole grains, like wheat, barley and rye. People born with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten and must be kept on gluten-free diets. In the 1960s and 1970s, a few doctors speculated that there was a link between gluten and casein, a protein in milk, celiac disease and neurologic disorders like autism. Although those claims have never been proven, they set off more than 50 years’ worth of concerns about these proteins.
How common is celiac disease in the United States?
It’s not common. About 0.8 percent (that’s less than 1 percent) of the population has celiac disease. That means about 1.5 million of the 320+ million people in the US are affected. People with the disease can develop damage to the lining of the small intestine, causing frequent diarrhea, anemia, bone pain and other symptoms.
My child has autism or another related disorder. Should I try the diet?
Talk with your pediatrician or nurse practitioner about the diet, and then use your best judgment. They will help you understand some of the drawbacks to the diet. Foods containing gluten, like wheat and other whole grains, are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Your child can easily develop nutritional deficiencies on a gluten-free diet. In addition, the diet is much more expensive and time-consuming to maintain than a normal diet.
I’ve heard that introducing foods with gluten to my baby before one year can cause celiac disease. Is that true?
No. That is untrue. In a recent study, more than 6,436 newborns from Finland, Germany, Sweden and the United States were followed and tested at intervals for 5 years. The study results showed that gluten introduction before 17 weeks or later than 26 weeks did not cause an increased risk of developing gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
At 24/7 Pediatric Care Centers, we’ll be happy to discuss your concerns about your child’s diet and celiac disease or any other condition. Children’s nutrition is one of our favorite subjects, and one that we often review with new parents.
To schedule a visit for your child, contact 24/7 Pediatric Care Centers at one of three Jacksonville locations!