Over the last few years, the gluten-free diet has gained a lot of followers and the trend continues to grow. There are those who need it for medical reasons, such as celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, which affect only a small part of the population, and others who are just following the latest fad diet. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder and gluten sensitivity is a stress response by the body to gluten.
As a dietitian, I believe the gluten-free diet is 100 percent necessary and effective for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but it does not provide a benefit for others.
If you think your child may be unable to tolerate gluten, don’t rush to cut gluten out of their diet without talking to your doctor. In order to be tested for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, your child has to be eating gluten. The initial test for celiac disease is a blood test that can be done by your primary care doctor. If this test comes back positive, your child will need to be seen by a gastroenterologist for further testing.
Gluten is a protein that can be found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Starting a gluten-free diet is a big change and definitely takes some time getting used to. There are many naturally gluten-free foods that are healthy and delicious that can be incorporated into one’s diet, including eggs, most dairy products, fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, fish, and poultry (not breaded, battered, or marinated), beans, seeds, and nuts (in their natural unprocessed form).
For those with celiac disease, it is really important to avoid cross-contamination of your naturally gluten free foods by not letting them come into contact with foods that do contain gluten.
If you are starting your child on a gluten-free diet for a medical reason, it is very important that you meet with a dietitian who specializes in that area. Prior to meeting with a dietitian the following are some ideas to get you started with the gluten free diet.
To learn more about celiac disease and the gluten free diet, I encourage you to visit the following websites: