What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains of wheat, barley, rye and some oats. It can be found in food we’d expect like pizza, pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals, but might also pop up in unexpected foods, including soy sauce and cooking spray.
What are the symptoms and how do I know if my child is suffering from Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity?
Some of the symptoms of Celiac and Gluten Sensitivities include weight loss, gas/bloating, diarrhea, constipation, delayed growth, irritability, behavioral changes, low bone density, vomiting and dental enamel defects. If you think that your child might be suffering from Celiac Disease, speak with your pediatrician about your concern and ask for a blood test. Unfortunately, there is no way to test for Gluten sensitivity, since it will not show up in a test, but it is still important to discuss your concerns with your child’s pediatrician for more information.
Does a Gluten Free diet help children with ADHD or Autism?
While it might help some kids, at this time it is unclear if a Gluten Free diet benefits all children with ADHD or Autism. Studies have revealed a relationship between a gluten free diet with lowered distractibility and impulsive behaviors in children diagnosed with ADHD. There has also been a decrease in symptoms, such as tantrums, poor eye contact, and impaired speech, noted in children diagnosed with Autism. However, it should be noted that these are correlations and still need more research for definitive conclusions.
What are the benefits or what can you expect to gain from a Gluten Free lifestyle?
Starchy foods are high in empty calories and can cause sugar/carbohydrate spikes and crashes. By eliminating these foods, many people report that they feel:
- An increase in sustainable energy
- Reduced inflammation
- Less problematic behavior (such as tantruming in children)
- Better sleep patterns in children
- Easier and more regular digestion (in children and adults)
What are the cons/negatives or potential risks of a Gluten Free diet/lifestyle, if you are not diagnosed with Celiac?
It used to be that eliminating gluten naturally meant a diet more rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins; however, this is not necessarily the case anymore. Due to the increasing awareness and diagnoses of Celiac, major food companies are mass producing many Gluten Free foods, making “Gluten Free” and “Non Processed foods” no longer synonymous. As a result:
- Gluten Free foods may lead to inadequate amounts of vitamins, especially B-vitamins, Niacin, Folic Acid, Iron, Zinc, and Fiber
- Gluten Free products are often genetically altered which may include more sodium, sugar and fats to compensate for taste. This could actually lead to weight gain and other health risks.
- Gluten Free diets often lead to a higher exposure of inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen that has rice-based ingredients.
The bottom line is that everyone must make a decision based on what is best for your child and your family AND be aware that no two children are exactly alike. There is no question that diet can drastically affect kids overall mood, demeanor, concentration level and health. We recommend consulting your child’s pediatrician before making any dietary alterations. However, if you do adopt a Gluten Free lifestyle in your home, based on our research we suggest reading labels carefully, making fruit, vegetables, lean protein and dairy the bulk of your child’s diet and eating grain based foods that are naturally Gluten Free such as rice, quinoa, millet, corn, buckwheat and amaranth.
Follow these guidelines and discuss any concerns with your pediatrician to ensure that you have a healthy, happy and nutritious little one! However, for those days, like Halloween, when you can’t control everything your child is eating, here are some Gluten Free Halloween candy treats to help keep you on the Gluten Free diet track.
- All M&M’s excluding Krispies and pretzel
- Big Hunk
- Dove Chocolate bars
- Hershey bars (plain)
- Life savers
- Mars bars
- Milky way
- Rolo Caramels
- Three Musketeers
- Tootsie Rolls
- Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and Zours
*Note: those diagnosed with Celiac should never consume gluten in any amount since that is the only way to regulate the disorder.