High Gluten Intake During Childhood Could Increase Celiac Risk

Pasta, bread and baked goods are popular — and for good reason. Many of us crave carbs when we’re tired, stressed, or even when we're happy. Food can be used to soothe and to celebrate. But it seems that a high intake of gluten as a child could lead to celiac disease later in life.

Gluten Consumption in the First Five Years

According to one study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), gluten intake that was higher than normal in the first five years of life could spell trouble later on. In the results, scientists note that children who ate a lot of gluten were more likely to develop celiac disease when they were older. Celiac disease damages the small intestine, and those who develop the condition should avoid gluten in order to keep their gut health as managed as possible. The inability to tolerate gluten, as characterized in celiac disease, can cause extreme gastric discomfort and upset.

Childhood Gluten Intake and Celiac Risk

The risk of developing celiac disease was 6.1% higher overall in people who had a high gluten intake as young children, and 7.2% higher for every additional gram of gluten a day, according to the JAMA study.

Millions of people are currently living with celiac disease, which may affect nearly one in every 100 people around the world, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. The Celiac Disease Foundation also estimates that more than 2 million people may have celiac disease without symptoms and, therefore, have not received a diagnosis but nonetheless are experiencing the internal damage caused by the disease. That means they’re still eating gluten and could be doing long-term damage to their intestinal health.

Is it Necessary to Go Gluten-Free?

The only way to manage celiac disease is to eat a gluten-free diet, says the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center. But what about people who don’t have celiac disease but who did consume a high-gluten diet as children? Should they go gluten-free anyway? For most people, eliminating gluten from their diet isn’t necessary and could even lead to weight gain and a loss of proper nutrition due to avoiding certain foods, said dietitian Julie Stefanski in a 2018 article for CNN. That’s because a lot of foods that don’t have gluten in them use white rice flour and tapioca instead of wheat. These can be higher in sugar, fat and calories. Eliminating gluten products could also mean eliminating fiber and other nutrients, which could cause further digestive system upset.

For people with celiac disease, going gluten-free is very important to protect their gut health. But the only way to know if damage is being done is to have a colonoscopy with a gastroenterologist who an check for the indicators of the disease. Nonetheless, the JAMA study is food for thought, especially for parents of young children who may want to talk with their doctors about how much gluten their kids should be consuming and whether that could affect their health in the future.

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7/2/2020 4:59:49 PM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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