This immune disorder is getting more publicity, gaining knowledge, as more people are diagnosed and being successfully treated. It is not the same as a wheat allergy although wheat, barley and rye are all involved. It is the body's inability to digest these grains that leads to pain, diarrhea, bloating, fatigue and failure to thrive. The failure to thrive may well be one of the first things that are seen in children, as it is found in middle infancy but can be diagnosed at any age. Many persons remain without any symptoms at all for a long time. The three grains, barley, rye ad wheat are not shortened in the jejunum and the villi (tiny hair like projections on the sides of the intestines) so the intestinal tract ends up pushing all the nutrients from these grains out, causing pain along the way.
Celiac disease is called coeliac in England and other names are "celiac sprue, non-tropical sprue, gluten enteropathy, gluten-sensitive enteropathy and gluten intolerance." Although it has become more known in the past few years it was actually identified in the late nineteenth century and was derived from the Greek word for abdomen, hence, celiac or abdomen. It is easily misdiagnosed as lactose intolerance due to the body's inability to digest milk products later in the disease cycle. Most persons with celiac disease live with bloating, pain, diarrhea, extremely foul smelling fecal material and severe fatigue for many years.
The worst-case scenario for persons with celiac disease is a predisposition to types of cancer including adenocarcinoma and lymphoma of the intestine and the small intestine, respectively. Other complications include osteoporosis, which will increase risk of bone fractures in children, anemia, and mouth ulcers, worsening of intestinal digestive problems, ulcers in the small bowel or obstruction of the bowel itself. Longstanding and non-treated disease could end with surgery, including gastrostomy or jejunostomy, depending on where the obstruction occurs.
Nowadays there are many gluten free products on the market and many lactose free products as well, however raising a child with this disease can be challenging to say the least. One pudding cup or one piece of cinnamon toast can cause sickness that can last from hours to days. Imagine being unable to have pizza or spaghetti as a child. Many parents resort to spending hundreds of dollars a month on a special food diet that can be easier ordered online rather than trying to run all over town looking for gluten free foods.
There is no cure for celiac disease. This makes early diagnosis and consistent, proper diet of the person with this disease imperative. Major problems can occur such as decreased growth, vitamin deficiencies that will lead to problems and disease of major organs such as bones, liver, and nervous systems.
Proper and rapid diagnosis is imperative as the symptoms mimic those of Crohns disease, irritable bowel symptom or even stomach ulcers. If your child shows persistent signs of any of the following take him to their pediatrician as soon as possible. These symptoms include, tiredness, pale stool, foul smelling diarrhea that comes and goes, abdominal pain and cramping, skin rash on elbows or knees that look like dermatitis, or sores in the mouth, signs of anemia such as dry brittle hair and nails, fatigue, loss of weight, slow to no bodily growth rate.
As noted, the cause is unknown though it is suspected it may be an inherited trait. It is important that if someone in your immediate family has celiac that you are aware the risk of one of your children having or contracting celiac is a definite possibility. It has also been noticed that celiac disease can occur following trauma, infection, pregnancy or physical injury though the reasons for this remain unclear.
The continued treatment for celiac disease remains a lifelong persistence to a diet free of gluten. There can be no cheating in this diet especially as parent's; as our children's health is paramount and we do not want to be the cause for any complications further down the road. Research and talk with other parents of children with celiac disease, develop a support group and try to remain as strong as possible for your children.
Children can be very persuasive and they cannot understand the difference between parents refusing to give them a chocolate chip cookie from a friend's house compared to the chocolate chip cookie in their own cookie jar. To a child they are just cookies. Increased knowledge and education remains the key for both parents and children of this devastating disease.