Believe me, I thought I would be the LAST person on earth to give up gluten, but it’s been a few weeks now and I feel about a million times better!
It all started with a call from someone who was telling me they have been feeling like a zombie with zero energy, and every movement getting increasingly harder. THAT WAS ME, TOO! When they explained they learned it was a reaction from gluten, I immediately made a doctor appointment and decided to eliminate gluten. I can’t even tell you how much better I feel! After this experience, I began wondering if gluten was doing that to ME, should I be feeding my kids foods with gluten? And is there even any nutritional value to gluten? Breezy Mama turned to pediatrician Dr. Shakha Gillin, Co-founder of Coast Pediatrics Del Mar who explains why I SHOULD be giving my kids gluten-filled foods and more.
First, what exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a protein, made up of gliadin and glutelin, and found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and triticale.
Is there a point/ any health benefits to having kids eat gluten? Or should parents try and avoid it when possible?
Gluten is important. Wheat is a source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Growing children need proper nutrition to grow. Parents should not avoid gluten if they have healthy children. Not only do children need the nutrition, but many “gluten-free” food items are high in carbohydrates, fat, and sodium as well as low in fiber.
It seems like it would be harsh for children to digest — any thoughts on this?
I do not think it is harsh to digest for healthy children. Children with Celiac disease should not be eating gluten, but other children can.
Why do some people have a reaction and others don’t?
I think this is a good point to mention two conditions: Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity.
Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder. People with Celiac disease have immune mediated reactions to the gluten, that causes damage to the small intestine and causes problems with absorption of foods. Celiac disease is diagnosed by blood tests and biopsies, and is a well defined disease in the medical community. These children and adults can suffer from malnutrition as well as bloating, abdominal pain, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Individuals with Celiac Disease cannot eat gluten.
Gluten sensitivity is a condition that is a bit unknown. It is distinct from Celiac Disease, and has often been dismissed in the medical community. These patients test negative for most Celiac tests. These patients may have non-gastrointestinal symptoms as well as gastrointestinal symptoms. There is a lot to learn still about this condition. Although some reports list this condition as up to 10% of the population, I think it may be over diagnosed.
Most children are healthy, and should eat normal foods. I do not feel there is something wrong with gluten, and I do not feel that it should be avoided across the board (like I feel about sodas- all kids should avoid sodas). Gluten free is not better.
But, if a parent strongly suspects their child has a problem with gluten, then they should speak with their doctor. If the child is found not to have Celiac Disease, but the parent still feels their child has a gluten problem, then they may choose to eliminate gluten (with the guidance of a nutritionist so they can maintain proper nutrition) for a limited period of time. If their child has no change, then go back to eating gluten. If their child is significantly improved, then continue with a gluten free diet.
I have read that for those who have a gluten intolerance, when eating gluten, all nutrients is blocked from being absorbed and so they feel weak — is this true?
For patients with Celiac Disease, the immune reaction causes the small intestine to be damaged, and therefore not allow proper absorption of nutrients.
I have also read that an intolerance can lead to depression, Schizophrenia… Is this true and are there any other dangerous side effects of eating gluten?
This is the Gluten Sensitivity. I do not know. I will have to wait for more research to be done. Of course, I am cautious. I think most patients with depression and Schizophrenia need a psychiatrist, not a gluten free diet.
The dangers of eating gluten are for those patients who have Celiac Disease, for the rest of us, it is safe and healthy.
When reading labels, what should people keep an eye out for to make sure it is gluten free — for sure wheat? Flour, too? Any others?
wheat (durum, graham, kamut, semolina, spelt), rye, barley, and triticale
malt, malt flavoring, malt vinegar (generally made form barley).
Any good snack/food options you recommend?
You know what I am going to say…….fruits and vegetables.
Celiac.org is a great resource for any family that has a child with Celiac disease, or suspects they do.
Is it true people can be affected by gluten in shampoo?
I think there is gluten free shampoo because kids could eat it while it drips down their face. I sort of just want to shake my head on this one- seems too much. Gluten free shampoo….come on now!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes. I think that gluten free is extremely important for patients with Celiac. I have patients with Celiac disease, and it is life-saving. But just like other medical diagnosis, all people do not have it. So, we do not all take antihypertensive medications, diabetic medications, or other treatments. For the majority of people, gluten is healthy. For growing children, be cautious of eliminating a food group. If you suspect your child has a Celiac or a gluten sensitivity, then act accordingly. But when you are going to the grocery store to buy food for your healthy family, a party, or a picnic, you do not need the gluten free option.
I have been gluten-free for a few weeks and feel about 1000 times better, so I was going to have my kids go gluten free (for the most part) until your answers.
I think it is a good question- there are people that are gluten free and feel good. If you do, then I think stick with it. Many people eat more raw, real foods such as fruits and vegetables when they are gluten free. Just make sure you are getting all your nutrition, such as zinc. As for the kids, I would not switch them on gluten free unless they had symptoms. Then I would consider it with the guidance of a Pediatrician.
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Co-founder of Coast Pediatrics Del Mar , Shakha Gillin, MD, FAAP, has been in North County since 1990. She attended UCSD for her undergraduate education and for medical school. She did her residency at UC Irvine, and was the chief resident at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach. She practiced pediatrics in La Jolla for 5 years and Encinitas for 5 years. She has also worked at a private practice in Newport Beach and at the Rady Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.
Dr. Shakha Gillin has a special interest in preventative care, particularly healthy and active lifestyles for children. She was recognized by San Diego Magazine as a “Top Doctor” in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. She was recognized as “Best Pediatrician” by Ranch and Coast in 2011 and 2012.
For more information and to contact Dr. Gillin, visit: www.coastpediatrics.com