What is coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is common in babies and children as well as in adults. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) causes an immune reaction in people who suffer from the disease. If other members of the family have the condition then children have a 1 in 10 chance of getting it, according to Coeliac UK.
How is it treated?
Coeliac disease is treated by following a strict gluten-free diet so forms of gluten must be cut out. 'Gluten' describes the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Some types of oats contain similar proteins to gluten so should be avoided but pure, uncontaminated oats are safe for most people with coeliac disease. It’s important to know which food are naturally gluten free and substitute foods that have gluten with gluten-free alternatives.
How do I know if my baby has coeliac disease?
The symptoms may develop after you have started weaning your baby onto cereals that contain gluten.
Celiac disease can only be diagnosed once gluten is in the diet, so it needs to be introduced. You can do this once your baby is 6 months old and, once your baby has been introduced to gluten, it should be a regular part of his or her diet. If symptoms do occur a diagnosis can be made quickly.
What are the symptoms?
There are a range of symptoms to look out for if you suspect your baby or child might have coeliac disease. You might notice symptoms develop after your baby is 6 months old and after the introduction of foods that contain gluten.
What signs should I look out for in my baby?
- Muscle wasting in the arms and legs
- Bloated tummy
- Failure to gain weight or lose weight after previously growing well
Other symptoms in small children are loss of appetite, unhappy or clingy behaviour, small stature, muscle wasting, abdominal distension or bloating, abnormal stools, constipation, diarrhoea, and vomiting.
If you think your baby may have any of these symptoms then there’s a diagnostic procedure you should follow. Visit Coeliac UK for more information.
Top Tip: Babies should be closely monitored to make sure the condition is diagnosed early
How do I feed my baby if members of family have already been diagnosed with celiac disease?
If you have a new baby then breastmilk is known to provide some protection against the development of coeliac disease and all infant milk formulas are gluten-free.
Even if your baby has an increased chance of developing coeliac disease he or she should still be weaned in the same way as any other baby.
Your baby will be ready to start eating solid foods along with breast-milk or formula milk. Although some babies are not satisfied with milk alone and may need to be weaned earlier it is not recommended before 4 months.
If you do start to wean before 6 months, make sure to avoid foods including gluten and foods that may trigger other allergies, such as eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts and seeds.
Once your baby is 6 months old you can start to introduce gluten as a regular part of his or her diet. This will make it easier to identify symptoms of coeliac disease early.