Celiac disease is not as uncommon as it used to be. As more and more diagnoses are coming up, gluten-free products have been crowding all along the shelves at several supermarkets. For those who have researched the disease a little deeper, they have already found that celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease.
Because it is a genetic disease, some people display it at an older age while others experience symptoms much earlier in their lifetimes. This has led a few people to wonder whether or not it was possible to prevent celiac disease, especially those with children who have had relatives suffering from the disease. However, what is known about this subject so far, is not so fortunate.
The truth is that, so far, there is no proven way to prevent the appearance of celiac disease. However, parents who have celiac disease or relatives with celiac disease, may be worried about the possible scenario of having their children suffering from this condition, especially when they have not been born yet. If the child has already been born, there are still some things the family can take into account if the child is considered to be at high risk.
Although none of these steps can actually prevent the disease, there are some that can lower the risk or at least help people identify the disease earlier. It is worth mentioning that if a child is not considered to be in the high-risk category then there is no need to be concerned because they are not too likely to develop celiac disease in the future.
Learning more about celiac disease
Celiac diseases can be defined as an immune reaction triggered in the small intestine when someone consumes gluten, a typical protein found in barley, wheat and other types of food. In most cases, this response to damage prevents the body from absorbing all nutrients that it should get from the food the person ingests. Some of the consequences triggered by this disease are:
In some cases, these types of problems are called “celiac-flare.” It has been demonstrated that, especially in children, celiac disease may also affect their growth and normal development. Regarding those people who can develop celiac disease, it is a condition that can be seen in anyone, regardless of gender, race or age. However, it is known to be more common among people with a family history of the disease.
According to studies and investigations in this area, there is only 1 percent possibility of getting celiac disease for people who do not have any relatives with celiac disease. If there is at least one parent or sibling with celiac disease, the possibility of suffering from this disease rises to approximately 5 to 10 percent.
There are also certain autoimmune conditions, such as type 1 diabetes or thyroid diseases, that are associated with a higher level of risk of celiac disease. With children, genetic disorders, such as trisomy 21 and Turner syndrome, have been found to affect the possibility of children developing the disease.
Timing in including gluten in children’s diet
According to a couple of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the timing of introducing gluten in a child's diet does not affect the risk of developing celiac disease in the future. But, there are some suspicions that a delayed inclusion of gluten in a child’s diet may increase the risk of getting celiac disease in the future. Also, some experts believe that the amount of gluten that is introduced to a child’s diet may also play an important role, but there is no clear data yet on what the right amount of gluten required is.
With these findings as a base, there are some recommendations from experts given to parents with children who have been demonstrated to be at a high risk for celiac disease. Thee guidelines were issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, focusing on how gluten should be introduced in a child’s diet:
- For all those families with at least one relative suffering from celiac disease, it is a great idea to have children tested to check if they have a kind of permissive genotype that is quite common among people with celiac disease. This genotype is known as HLA DQ2/8 and if the child is not carrying it, then there is no need to worry about celiac disease in the future.
- In case HLA DQ2/8 is found in the child when getting screened then food including gluten should still be introduced, according to what the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines state.
- Nevertheless, it is important to keep screening children in order to determine whether there are symptoms related to celiac disease or not. Screenings should be more repetitive around 3 to 5 years old.
- In case of seeing any symptoms of celiac disease in a child, it is important to speak to a child’s health care provider in order to clear all doubts or adapt any extra recommendations an expert can give. Also, experts in pediatrics can help you understand how children’s small intestines can be affected by specific foods or substances.
It is important to recall that people with celiac disease must avoid all kinds of consumption of gluten-containing foods, which may seem like a difficult task to overcome in the beginning. However, since there are more and more gluten-free products available in the market every day, there are also guidelines that you can use to help you, or your child, to transition into the strict gluten-free lifestyle.
Also, it is worth noting that treatments to reduce the possibility of triggering a celiac reaction are always being studied and under development. New treatment, other than being on a gluten-free diet, may not be available now, but it will hopefully be available in the future.