When To Start Giving Gluten To Children?
Baby foods are a much-discussed topic. When to introduce fruits and when to introduce vegetables and which to introduce first? When to stop breastfeeding? It is a very complex and complicated topic. In today's article, we look at a scarecrow named gluten and celiac disease. We find out what gluten is and when it is appropriate to include it in the children's diet, and especially in what form.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a complex of proteins found in the grain sheath of cereals such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. These cereals are part of traditional cuisine for most of the population. Cereal gluten gives dough elasticity and a gummy feel and glues the individual parts together. This dough bakes well and the resulting product is not only tasty, but also holds its shape nicely.
A healthy person can split and process the gluten but a person with a celiac disease or a gluten allergy cannot. Although a gluten allergy is often called celiac disease, it is not. Celiac disease and gluten allergy are two different concepts, let's explain them.
What Is Celiac Disease And Gluten Allergy?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease manifested by inflammation of the mucous membranes of the small intestine. If this disease is not diagnosed in time, it can lead to the complete loss of the villi and microvilli, which enlarge the surface area of the small intestine. This reduction in the surface area significantly prevents and reduces the body’s ability to absorb and digest nutrients such as gluten.
Both children and adults around the world suffer from celiac disease, regardless of the country's development or cultural eating habits. However, it is not an allergy, as it is often mistaken as by the general population due to its similar symptoms. Of course, gluten allergies do exist, but the course of the body's reaction is different.
How to prepare healthy snacks for children? Click here.
How The Body Shows Gluten Intolerance
There are three ways in which the body shows gluten intolerance.
Non-celiac sensitivity to gluten
In celiacs, an autoimmune reaction develops on the mucosa of the small intestine. The result of the inflammation is insufficient absorption of nutrients. Symptoms of celiac disease appear gradually, several hours after the ingestion of gluten.
For someone with a gluten allergy, gluten coming into contact with the small intestine causes an allergic reaction and swelling of the mucous membranes. The symptoms are pain, diarrhea and flatulence a few minutes after consuming gluten. In addition, scratches and swelling in the throat, shortness of breath and hives occur.
The third type of gluten intolerance is non-celiac sensitivity to gluten. This is where there is no diagnosis of celiac disease, but even so, the exclusion of gluten from the diet causes considerable relief from digestive problems.
How to prepare healthy snacks for children? Click here.
When To Introduce Gluten In A Child's Diet?
In the past, it was recommended to introduce gluten into children's diets as soon as possible. However, some experts now believe that gluten should be given to children alongside other allergens while breastfeeding. This is because breast milk has a protective effect, reducing the risk of developing celiac disease. There are currently a number of differing views on the most appropriate way to introduce gluten in children's diets.
So, how do you know when you can prepare lunch or a snack for your baby from foods that contain gluten? Is it possible to start in any other way or is it best to simply put a croissant in their hand?
Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley, and thus, in all foods made from these cereals. This does mean however, you have lots of options for getting your child acquainted with foods containing gluten. You could prepare instant baby cereal porridge or semolina porridge. Semolina can also be cooked into vegetable side dishes as well, or you could add some smooth white flour to them. Later on, various types of pasta, couscous and crisps can be included in the children's diet.
When introducing gluten, it is not recommended to start with a croissant, although they are very popular among children. A croissant contains a relatively large amount of salt and, in addition, very young children could suffocate if they don’t eat it properly. Sponge cakes are also not a good starter. Not only are they too sweet, but they also contain whole eggs, to which the child may also be allergic. It is therefore better to use them only when you know for sure that the child tolerates egg white and yolk in vegetable side dishes without any problems.
A recent study stated that whether a person is susceptible to gluten may not actually necessarily be related to when and how much gluten is introduced. Instead it suggests that the human intestinal microflora plays an important role. This is influenced by external factors such as past infections, various drugs and diet. The finding also talks about the positive effects of breastfeeding. Breast milk contains both probiotic "good" bacteria and prebiotic fiber that supports the growth of these bacteria. It therefore has a beneficial effect on the intestinal microflora, which plays an important role as one of the factors in preventing the development of gluten sensitivity.
If you decide to start serving gluten to your baby within the first foods around the sixth month, it‘s best to start with a smaller amount, which you then gradually increase. You can thicken a vegetable side dish with semolina or add a teaspoon of semolina porridge to milk porridge. This makes it easier for them to get used to the new taste. Two to three months after their first encounter with gluten, cereals should become a regular part of your child's diet. If you give them gluten-containing foods regularly, you will have a better chance of spotting any signs of celiac disease. They most often appear around the age of one, ie four to six months after you have included cereals in their diet. If they do appear, it‘s best to start a gluten-free diet and wait until the symptoms of celiac disease disappear again. This usually happens after half a year of following this diet. Symptoms of celiac disease might reappear at a later age, but also may not.
What To Do If Your Child Has Trouble Eating Gluten?
Does your child have problems with gluten? Then the only possible treatment is completely cutting gluten from their diet, for life. This means no rolls, cereal, porridge, flour, pasta or bread. Don’t just avoid the mixture of flour and dairy either, some meats and vegetables may contain gluten too as there can be hidden traces in many foods, even the ones you least suspect. Examples are meat products, sauces, steak, yoghurts, vegetable salads, mashed potatoes, mixed spices, juices, most types of yeast and more. The celiac's diet is therefore clear: a completely gluten-free diet, with no exceptions.