Gluten intolerance is an issue that adults have trouble coming to terms with. It is even more difficult when it happens to a child. Parents will have their hands full just making sure that their kid eats what he or she is supposed to and avoids the gluten based foods. The good thing here is that it is easier to inculcate good eating habits in children.
Adults, who have been eating gluten containing comfort foods for years, often face withdrawal symptoms and irritation at having to give up their favorite foods. In most cases, you will not have such issues with children. If you guide them properly when young and explain the importance of eating the right foods, they will grow up with these habits.
The first step will be to get your child diagnosed by a qualified doctor to see if they are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease.
There are a few common symptoms that are often displayed by children who are gluten sensitive.
- Constipation, cramping and a bloated stomach
- Lethargy, irritability and restlessness
- Unexplained rashes on the elbows and shoulder area
- Abnormal stools that are watery or large
- Delayed growth
If your child is gluten intolerant, it is imperative that you immediately start them on a gluten-free diet. Most children will not understand what gluten sensitivity is. You will need to approach the subject in a manner that does not make them feel different or inferior.
Initially, it would help if the parent preparing the food is able to make two different versions of the same food. One gluten version and one gluten-free one. In this way, it will look like everyone is eating the same food. Over time, your child will grow to understand that their body doesn’t assimilate gluten in the same way that others do.
However, in the transitioning phase, it’s best to keep most things constant and yet maintain a gluten-free diet for the gluten sensitive child.
As the child reaches school going age, it would help if the parents spoke to the teachers and school administrators about the child’s gluten intolerance so that there will be other adults who can keep a discreet yet watchful eye on what the child eats.
It is a wonderful idea to prepare food at home for your child to bring to school. Do explain the importance of eating gluten-free foods to them. They will face many temptations at school. Friends who may eat candy and chocolates, birthday parties that they may get invited to, school camps, etc.
The best way to ensure that your child sticks to the rules is to educate them well on the topic. In some cases, the child may secretly wish to disobey their parents just to fit in with their peers. However, the old saying applies here. A burnt child dreads fire. When your child doesn’t feel too good after what he or she ate, they will automatically avoid consuming gluten based foods.
Ultimately, there is no need to be overly worried. As long as you do your best to cater to your child’s needs, they will grow up understanding their situation and will live a gluten-free life.