Raising Healthy Kids: Celiac Disease

PHILADELPHIA - April 2, 2014

He quickly learned how to monitor his blood sugar and keep it in balance with insulin.

But a follow-up test revealed something else, he also had celiac disease.

Dr. Ritu Verma of the Children's Hospital Celiac Center said, "...some will say 15-20% of the diabetics end up with Celiac disease."

Jared never had the classic signs, such as bloating, constipation. diarrhea, or weight loss.

Dr. Verma says she's seeing more silent cases like Jared's and cases with different symptoms.

Such as patients with "Chronic joint pains and mild ulcers, and some patients from the dentist who have teeth abnormalities."

In Celiac disease, the small intestine can't digest gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, and rye.

The intestinal lining can be damaged, preventing nutrients like iron from being absorbed, and causing the immune system to attack other parts of the body.

A gluten-free diet is the treatment. But that can be difficult, because it's used in so many foods.

And juggling it with diabetes was especially challenging for the Savidge family.

Jared's mom Terri said, "The diabetic people were telling us you can have 60 carbs for a meal, and the celiac people were saying you have to eat gluten-free, and 60 carbs of gluten-free pasta was a quarter cup, and he wanted way more than a quarter cup."

Terri says her family eventually worked out the kinks and Jared is feeling well.

Jared isn't the only member of the Savidge family with "silent celiac." Tests show his younger sister Delaney has sensitivity to gluten.

So she decided to eat the same diet her brother is.

Even though she never showed any signs of disease, her mother notes, "When she decided to eat gluten-free, she just became a healthier, happier child."

Dr. Verma says children should not be on a gluten-free diet unless they have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.

For kids who do, the variety of gluten-free foods is now better than ever.

Dr. Verma says there are many avenues of research underway on celiac disease around the world, including more accuracy to blood tests, and less reliance on a biopsy for a definitve diagnosis.

That would spare children from anesthesia, and parents from worry.

She also notes, " There's a vaccine that is being looked at, pills that are being looked at. They are in adult trials, but they haven't come down to children's trials yet.

She says there's hope for something new in the next 5 years.

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