Most kids can eat most types of food. But people with celiac disease cannot eat any foods that have gluten. Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, semolina, smelt and barley. In normal digestion, microscopic bumps in the lining of the small intestine, called villi, absorb nutrients from the food you eat. But for someone with celiac disease, gluten causes the body to flatten and destroy the villi, and they can't absorb nutrients anymore.
Eating gluten can make someone with celiac disease very sick. The symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Anemia (not enough red blood cells)
- Bad mood
- Mouth sores
- Small appetite
- Slowed growth
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Diagnosis and Treatment
The doctor can decide if the person has celiac disease. Sometimes, the doctor needs to take a biopsy of the small intestine.
Most people with celiac disease are diagnosed by the age of one, but sometimes symptoms can start after an injury or trauma or even just randomly. Five to 10 percent of cases are genetic, meaning they run in families.
The only treatment for celiac disease is not eating foods that have gluten in them. Lots of foods -- even ones you might not think of, like ketchup -- have gluten, but luckily, many foods also come in gluten-free versions.
Avoiding foods with gluten can be hard at first, but kids get the hang of it quickly.
If you have celiac disease, get help from friends, doctors and parents, and you'll be fine. If you know somebody with celiac disease, do your best to be understanding and supportive.
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By Julia Ransohoff, high school student writer
Reviewed by the Web Content Committee of PAMF
Gluten free recipes, GlutenFree Kitchen.org.