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Helping kids with gluten-free diets

If you are the parent or caretaker of a child with an intolerance to gluten, it's important to know which ingredients to avoid in his diet.

Check labels carefully if your child is on a gluten-free diet
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Gluten-free diets have become more popular with celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Drew Brees speaking out about their reasons for going gluten-free.

A recent article on shares symptoms of gluten intolerance which may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Anemia
  • Skin rash
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness in hands and feet
  • Joint pain

The Mayo Clinic defines celiac disease as "an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye."

For those with celiac disease, eating gluten can cause inflammation and damage over time to the small intestine. There is no cure for celiac disease; however, symptoms can be managed with a gluten-free diet.

It's not always enough to just purchase products labeled gluten-free. You should also avoid products with wheat listed among the ingredients.

Other ingredients to avoid on a gluten-free diet include:

  • Barley
  • Breading
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Graham flour
  • Malt, malt extract and malt flavoring
  • Matzoh meal
  • Oatmeal, oat bran, oat flour and whole oats
  • Rye flour
  • Semolina
  • Wheat bran, flour, germ or starch

It's important to have your child tested for celiac disease before removing gluten from his diet. Eating a gluten-free diet may result in deficiencies in calcium, thiamin, iron, fiber and other important nutrients.

Your child's doctor can perform a blood test which will detect celiac disease even if your child has only mild symptoms. The doctor may also order an endoscopy to view your child's small intestine before making a diagnosis.

Your child's doctor may refer you to a dietitian to help plan healthy gluten-free meals and snacks. Your child may also need to take vitamin supplements.

If your child has been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, following the doctor's orders is important. With so many gluten-free products in grocery and specialty stores, making healthy choices is easier than ever.

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