The number of gluten intolerances and gluten allergies in children is growing in today’s society, and doctors are still not very suspecting of gluten, which could put you through a whole series of steps that just simply won’t help. Signs of gluten intolerance in an infant won’t rear their heads until solids containing the food are introduced into the diet. For older children who may be going through puberty, gluten intolerance symptoms may just be chalked up to hormonal changes and part of the growth process, when in reality the growth process may be hindered by the gluten sensitivity. It can be very tough to diagnose because the symptoms resemble those of many other ailments, but we’re here to make it easier for you!
Be on the lookout for the following 8 signs of gluten intolerance in your children:
1. Skin Rashes
A very common symptom of gluten intolerance in children is the skin rash. It should only take a few hours after gluten consumption for the rash to appear, so be sure to look out for it after your child has eaten a gluten-containing food. It’s also a good idea to keep checking after your child has eaten more and more gluten-containing foods since he or she may be able to handle a small amount of gluten but might not respond well to a buildup of it in the system. The affected skin will resemble the look of eczema: red, itchy, and possibly peeling.
2. Fatigue and Brain Fog
Most adults who are intolerant to gluten know how it feels when gluten brings on fatigue and decreased mental clarity. However, a child likely won’t be able to tell, and definitely won’t be able to link the two. The gluten intolerance will likely result in behavioral changes that are brought on as a result of the fatigue and brain fog. Be on the lookout for symptoms such as irritability, decreased pleasure in previous hobbies, and withdrawal from friends.
3. Eye Bags or Dark Circles
Dark circles can be a sign of both an allergy and intolerance. If it’s an allergy, the bags are called “allergic shiners,” which are caused as a result of altered blood flow due to sinus congestion. These are usually a dark purple in color and are distinguishable from those brought on by an intolerance. A gluten intolerance, on the other hand, would cause eyes that look tired and maybe a little puffy. The skin under the eyes will be darker, but it’s not so much a purple color as is the case with allergic shiners; it will look more like a faint charcoal grey.
4. Frequent Colds and Flu
Gluten intolerance can really wreak havoc on a person’s immune system, especially a child’s. When the intestines and colon become clogged up with undigested gluten, healthy bacteria in the gut are compromised, which leads to an increased susceptibility for developing colds and the flu. A decrease in the healthy gut bacteria can also result in vitamin deficiencies that can have a negative effect on the function of the immune system.
5. Mood Problems
Mood problems are a good sign of possible gluten intolerance because gluten is capable of altering brain chemistry and causing a child to have certain shifts in their personality. You hear a lot about people saying they just want to be their old selves again, and in some cases, gluten was the cause all along. Some signs to look out for in children are severe mood swings, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, and not being able to follow along with what’s going on in school.
6. Digestive Problems
Digestive problems will likely be one of the first noticeable signs of a gluten intolerance in children. Problems like constipation, a constant warm feeling in the stomach area, and diarrhea are very common. However, these types of digestive problems can be caused by many things in children, so keeping track of your child’s diet is especially important when trying to find out what is causing distress.
7. Sleep Problems
Children usually have no problem sleeping, so when they do, you know something has to be wrong, and it just may be a pesky gluten intolerance. If your child has troubles falling asleep or staying asleep, it may be time to try a gluten-free diet and see if symptoms improve. It will generally take about 2 weeks to see an improvement in symptoms relating to sleep.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can also become a painful annoyance in children with a gluten intolerance. This one is easier to spot because it’s likely your child will tell you of a burning-type feeling in the throat, and it’s pretty noticeable and easily detected by parents. GERD is going to show itself in the form of excessive spitting up and vomiting, which usually occurs about an hour after eating.
What to Do If You Notice Symptoms
If your child experiences any of the symptoms mentioned, especially in combination, without any other reason, it would be smart to try a gluten-free diet for 30 days and record progress with symptoms. If there is improvement, your child is likely gluten sensitive, and at that point it would be a good idea to go and see a doctor to plan the next steps, which will likely involve elimination of all gluten-containing foods. If you are breastfeeding, you must know that gluten does indeed pass through the breast milk, which means you must avoid it as well to ensure it doesn’t pass on to your child.
Fortunately, there are so many gluten-free foods nowadays because there’s a number of people who believe they may be sensitive, creating a higher demand. It may seem like a bit of a hassle at first, but you’ll get used to it in no time, and your child will have a much better quality of life. There’s no telling what kind of damage gluten can do if an intolerance is left untreated through childhood, so if you do find out that your child is gluten intolerant, it is super important to totally eliminate it from their diet for good.