Celiac Disease Symptoms
in Babies and Young Children

Worried that your baby may be showing celiac disease symptoms?

If you, or a close family member, has the condition then it is wise to be observant, as celiac is heredity.

The problem is, that it can miss generations and if your grandparents had celiac disease they may not have even known, as it was first reliably diagnosed in the late 1950s.

What to look out for

While your baby is on an all-milk diet everything may seem normal (bear in mind though, that gluten can pass through into breast milk).

If you are reading this page as a Celiac, you have probably been advised to keep your baby gluten free until at least 6 months of age. Don't panic, this is quite possible to manage.

But you may also be reading this page after you have started offering solid food and you are recognizing (or have been informed of) celiac disease symptoms. Typical symptoms are as follows:

  • Baby diarrhoea - many soft, smelly, pale-colored bowel movements each day
  • Vomiting after every meal
  • Refuses feeds
  • Excessive flatulance
  • Irritability - baby cries a lot more than before
  • Fatigue - baby sleeps more during the day and through the night
  • Weight gain slows or stops
  • Distended stomach
  • Skinny arms and legs - loss of muscle tone
  • Flat buttocks
  • Baby shows sign of stomach pain

In either scenario, the symptoms are more likely to appear if baby is eating "normal" food.

The recommended age to introduce solid food varies, and you should discuss your instincts or raise questions with your healthcare provider, but nowadays it tends to be between 4 and 6 months. When I was a baby, it was common to introduce solids at around 3 months.

If, after a few weeks of eating solid foods, your once happy, contented, growing baby shows any of these signs then it is worth getting him or her checked over by your doctor.

Remember, it may be that not all these symptoms are present, and of course any one of them can have a perfectly innocent explanation. But if you notice them on a regular basis then don't ignore them!

To support your suspicions, you may wish to keep a daily food record (just a quick note) to remind you what your baby has had to eat and the effect it had.

You will then have a trend analysis to support your request, as you should see no reaction to fruit, vegetables or baby rice; whereas rusks, breakfast cereals, pudding (typically where gluten is found) may have resulted in your baby feeling unwell and becoming irritable.

It is important to keep in mind that people requiring a Celiac test must not remove gluten from their diet before being tested, and this goes for babies too. If they are fed only gluten free foodstuffs then tests may result in what is known as a "false-negative" which is no help to either you or your baby.

For your bookshelf

When to see a doctor

Always take your baby to a doctor if you are worried that your baby is showing celiac disease symptoms. However, if this is your first baby, you may have a battle ahead of you!

I was diagnosed as a baby, and my mother was accused of being overly protective and told to take me home and feed more cereal to "build her up". But instead of putting on weight, I continued to lose it.

NEVER be afraid to go back again if your baby continues to show celiac disease symptoms. Ask to see a different doctor if necessary.

My mother took me back two weeks later and this time there was a different doctor on duty. He immediately admitted me to hospital, where I stayed for the following three months.

Remember, I am talking about 1960 here, and things have improved a lot since then, so please do not panic!

Today's celiac blood tests were not available when I was tiny. If these are performed and the results come back as negative then you can be reassured that your baby is unlikely to have celiac disease.

A positive result, however, does not mean that he or she does have it! Your doctor will want to follow this up with a biopsy to make a definitive diagnosis.

Celiac Disease Symptoms Confirmed?

If your baby does turn out to have the condition, it is not the end of the world.

It is treatable by diet alone. Your child will not need injections, operations or medication.

The added benefit of being diagnosed with celiac early is that your child will not have to go through the trauma of changing to a gluten free diet after eating "normally" for a period of time. If they grow up knowing nothing else, it can be a lot easier for them to cope.

The treatment

Sticking to a gluten free diet is essential for babies with celiac disease. There is a special section of this site devoted to gluten free baby food which includes simple recipes to get you started.

Basically you are cutting out foods that contain wheat, rye and barley. This includes all baked goods such as bread, cake and cookies if they are made from wheat flour.

There are, however, many alternative flours and grains that can be used in your home cooking. The shops also have a wide range of gluten free products available from a growing number of manufacturers, making it easier than ever to stick to this new way of eating.

- - Celiac disease symptoms in kids

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