When your child was first diagnosed with celiac disease, you may have been distraught or overwhelmed. Understandably, learning your child has to modify their diet for their entire life can be upsetting. But you should take comfort in the fact that your child was diagnosed early.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where your body attacks the small intestine when you eat foods containing gluten such as wheat, barley, or rye. Celiac disease affects about 3 million people in the United States. But sadly, the vast majority of people with celiac go undiagnosed.
If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to malnutrition, depression, and anxiety. It can also delay children’s growth. Furthermore, the longer your child’s celiac disease goes undiagnosed and untreated, the higher their chance of developing other complications.
But that still doesn’t make changing your lifestyle any easier. Here at the Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, we like to give our patients practical ideas for living with their gastrointestinal conditions. Here are some tips to help your kids cope with the dietary changes that come with celiac disease diagnosis.
1. Educate your child
It can be hard to get your children to eat healthy with or without a digestive disorder. But when eating the wrong thing can negatively impact their health, it’s more important that they follow your rules than other children. When you explain the situation to them, don’t dwell solely on what they can’t eat. Be sure to explain all the yummy foods they can still enjoy as well.
2. Inform the adults in your child’s life
Be sure to educate your child’s teachers, school nurse, friends’ parents, coaches, babysitters, and other adults that may be around your child while they’re eating. It takes a village to make sure your child makes good choices when it comes to snacks and meals.
3. Find a support group
Look around your town for a support group so that your child doesn’t feel alone. Support groups often sponsor or plan fun, gluten-free activities. Check with us to see if we can link you up with other parents of kids in the area with celiac disease. Even having just one friend with the same condition can make your child feel less alone.
4. Stock up on gluten-free items
The best way to make sure your child doesn’t feel like they are missing out on gluten-filled foods such as bread, crackers, and cookies is to make sure they have their own. Stock up on these items to pack in their lunches or to offer when other kids are having a snack. Give your child’s teacher a stash of gluten-free items to give your child if the class is having a treat at school.
5. Bring your own holiday treat
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s best to start planning for gifts and food in advance. The easiest way to ensure that there are things your child can eat at holiday parties and family get-togethers is to make sure you take along a gluten-free dish and/or treat.
6. Provide the school with gluten-free alternative craft supplies
Often non-food craft supplies contain gluten, including some clays, glues, and paints. Be sure to keep in touch with all of your child’s teachers so you can be ready to swap out supplies with gluten-free options for your child.
For more information on diagnosing and treating celiac disease, call for an appointment with our specialists at the Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, or request one online.