What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an intolerance of an individual to the protein “gluten” (more specially the gliadin function of gluten) found in wheat, oats and barley. To put it quite simply, when any individual (which includes toddlers) ingests any food containing wheat, oats or barley, there is a progressive destruction of the mucosal surface of the small intestine which leads to progressive damage.
Who is the toddler where you would suspect Celiac Disease?
The disorder has a very varied presentation but you should take notice when you find that your little one appears to be eating well and interested in food but still not gaining in weight and height. As the young toddler displays no obvious symptoms, the diagnosis of Celiac Disease is delayed in such children and it is called “silent Celiac”. The young toddler may be irritable and point to the abdomen indicating pain, may have repeated loose stools or may have difficulty in passing stool (hard stool) or have irregular stool frequency (constipation). All these may be possible symptoms of Celiac Disease.
Who is the specialist who deals with Celiac Disease in the toddler?
You need to consult a “Pediatric Gastroenterologist” (a specialist in stomach, liver and digestive disorders in children) if:-
• Your little one is not gaining in weight and/or height.
• Your little one has a protruding belly but the rest of the body is very thin.
• Your toddler has recurrent abdominal pain
• Your toddler has abnormal bowel pattern (loose stool, hard stool or irregular passage of stool.)
What can you do as a responsible parent help in detecting Celiac Disease early?
• Check the weight of your child at least once a month and observe if the weight is progressively increasing with age, remaining almost the same or decreasing. If the weight remains almost the same or decreases over a period of 4-6 months without any explanation, you must consult a Pediatric Gastroenterologist.
• If you little one keeps complaining of “stomach pain” off and on – do not ignore the symptom assuming that the child is trying to seek your attention but do consult a pediatric gastroenterologist.