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What are the Causes of Gluten Intolerance in Children?

The causes of gluten intolerance in children are unknown, although the condition is genetic. This condition occurs when the body has an inappropriate immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barely, and rye. The immune system damages the villi in the intestines; when villi are damaged, they cannot absorb nutrients as effectively. Eliminating foods that contain gluten, such as wheat based pastas and breads, is the best treatment option for children and adults to prevent a reaction to gluten and minimize the damage it can cause.

When an individual with celiac disease, another name for gluten intolerance, consumes a food containing gluten, his or her immune system attacks the villi in small intestine, causing damage. Although the cause of gluten intolerance in children is unknown, it is known that the immune system reacts as if gluten is a foreign invader. This results in pain and discomfort in the stomach, as well as decreased absorption of dietary fats and proteins.

One of the biggest concerns about gluten intolerance in children is that it can cause problems with growth and development. If the body cannot absorb nutrients appropriately, it cannot grow normally. Gluten intolerance in children can lead to delayed puberty, problems gaining weight, slow growth or reduced height, and even irritable behavior.

While no exact genetic cause for gluten intolerance in children has been found, it has been shown that celiac disease runs in families. A mother who has celiac disease is more likely to have a child with gluten intolerance or sensitivity that results in minor symptoms. Genetic testing can help determine who might be at risk for this condition.

Without knowing an exact cause, it can be quite difficult to treat gluten intolerance in children. The only real way to deal with the disease is to not eat anything containing gluten. Avoiding gluten in all of its forms is a life long commitment, but this treatment plan can help reduce the painful effects of celiac disease.

A gluten-free diet, although challenging, does not have to be limiting. Many gluten-free breads and pastas can be consumed by children or adults with a gluten intolerance, and are usually made with rice, buckwheat, or other gluten-free grains and flours. These grains can be consumed by individuals on a gluten-free diet, although it's important for anyone with this condition or who is preparing food for a child with a gluten intolerance to check the labels carefully to make sure these grains aren't mixed with those that do contain gluten. Some gluten-free processed foods are high in carbohydrates and sugar, making them not necessarily healthier alternatives, so reading the labels of every food may be helpful in making wiser decisions.

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