By Cathy Monaghan RD MINDI Paediatric Dietitian.

It’s perfectly natural to worry about your child’s health and lots of parents worry about gut symptoms.

But when does a symptom need investigation?

 

Let’s talk about the possibility of your child having Coeliac disease

Could my Child have Coeliac Disease?

 

What is Coeliac Disease? 

Coeliac disease is not your run-of-the-mill tummy ache. It’s an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system, triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. 

When someone with Coeliac disease eats gluten, their immune system goes haywire and damage to the lining of their small intestine occurs.

How common is Coeliac Disease?

For a long time it was thought that coeliac disease was found in about one in every 100 people. 

However, research now suggests that the incidence is nearly double this. In 2022 researchers in Norway tested more than 12,000 people, to determine what percentage of these had coeliac disease. The results were much higher than expected. They found the incidence rate was close to 1.5 per 100 – a 50% increase. 

A similar study in Finland found that more than two in every 100 people have coeliac disease.

Coeliac Ireland, estimates that 13,000 people in Ireland are diagnosed as having coeliac disease. As we have no central register in Ireland, we have no way to be certain. 

In a September 2022  press release, Coeliac Ireland estimated that there are 63,500 children and adults who are undiagnosed coeliacs in Ireland. 

The clinical impact of undiagnosed Coeliac disease are far reaching and can include growth problems, osteoporosis, anaemia, endocrine abnormalities, neurological dysfunction, infertility and low grade ill-health.

So it is not only physical symptoms, but undiagnosed and untreated coeliac disease can have an enormous impact on a person’s quality of life.

Could my Child have Coeliac Disease?

The Detective Work Begins by paying attention to those subtle, yet potentially significant signs and symptoms: 

These may include:

  • Having a close relative that already has a confirmed diagnosis of coeliac disease. 

  • Gut Troubles: Frequent tummy aches, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation or both. Steatorrhoea / fatty stools that are hard to flush can also be a clue.

  • Growth Issues: If your child’s growth seems stunted or if there is weight-loss, it’s worth investigating.

  • Fine weak hair or hair loss.

  • Fatigue: Chronic tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest.

  • Skin Problems: Unexplained rashes, such as dermatitis herpetiformis.

  • Mood Swings: Irritability and mood changes that seem out of character.

  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Coeliac disease can lead to poor absorption of essential nutrients, so iron deficiency anaemia, recurring mouth-ulcers, poor weight gain and not growing as expected.

What should I do if I suspect my child has coeliac disease?

The first step to receiving a diagnosis is to discuss the symptoms with a healthcare professional. It may be suggested that your child have a coeliac screen, which is a simple blood test. It is essential that your child is on a gluten containing diet before testing. 

Eliminating gluten before testing could lead to a false negative test result. 

If the test is positive, your child may be referred to a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy. This is not always necessary depending on the results of the blood test. 

Once diagnosed, it is advised you visit a dietician to ensure your child is receiving optimum nutrition for recovery and growth, and to correct any potential deficiencies.  

The good news is that once diagnosed, Coeliac disease is manageable with a gluten-free diet. While this may sound daunting, there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives on the market, making it easier than ever to lead a fulfilling and delicious life without gluten.

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. We can support you and your child to adapt to a gluten-free lifestyle and still have a positive relationship with food. In the end, knowledge is power, and early detection can make all the difference in ensuring your child’s health and wellbeing. 

 

If your child has been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease we would be delighted to support you in a 1:1 consultation.