We all know when it comes to our children we want only the best for them. In recent years, gluten has been under the spotlight with many non-coeliac disease sufferers opting for a gluten free diet. These people may have an intolerance to gluten, which is a reaction that does not involve the immune system. It’s a heavily debated topic on whether removing it entirely from your diet will actually cause any harm. Some commentators believe we need a balanced diet involving all food types and others believe removing it is generally better for all-round gut health.
We are not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t be doing. We simply love that we can provide tasty meals to a segment of the Australian market who has felt left out of eating ‘normal’ foods for too long. Having said that – we thought we would put together some commonly asked questions and see if we can help with the kids + gluten riddle.
When should my child follow a GF diet?
Only after diagnosis. Commencing a gluten free diet before testing can result in inaccurate results and may give a false negative. A blood test for coeliac disease cannot distinguish between a child who has coeliac disease but is on a gluten-free diet and a child who never had coeliac disease to begin with.
How do I get my child tested?
Always consult your GP first if your child becomes symptomatic. Never commence any sort of strict diet without consultation with a medical professional. Basics steps towards diagnoses according to Coeliac Australia involve:
- Gluten Challenge – a period of time (at least 6 weeks) where you must eat a pre-determined amount of gluten so that testing is accurate.
- Blood Tests – these measure antibody levels in the blood which are typically elevated in people with untreated coeliac disease. They can be less reliable in children under the age of 4 as their antibody levels can fluctuate.
- Bowel Biopsy – A coeliac disease diagnosis should NOT be based on blood tests alone.
What's so bad about gluten?
Perhaps nothing – as long as you don’t have coeliac disease or a gluten sensitivity. However - in a child with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity gluten is widely believed to cause many detrimental physical and behavioural issues. Ranging from low attention span to difficulty absorbing nutrients and vitamins our children need to grow and thrive.
Eating natural = 'gluten free'!
When you think about it. What really is a gluten free diet? We're not necessarily talking excessively modified food. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, quinoa, nuts and seeds are all naturally occurring products and were once considered a wonderfully varied diet. If you do some research into a Paleo-style diet, you’ll see some interesting points about the prevalence of processed foods since the industrial revolution and what effects they have made on our health.
If you find that your child does suffer from a gluten issue it is best to change their diet only in consultation with a registered dietitian or nutritionist combined with regular consultation with your child's GP.
The Good News
If your child is diagnosed and you successfully follow a well-balanced, gluten free diet you will find (particular for gluten sensitivity, less so with coeliac disease) that your child's growth can return to normal and many symptoms simply disappear. Remember – you must only embark on any sort of restricted diet with the guidance of medical professionals.