Gluten-intolerance: Does my child require additional nutritional support?

When you discover that your child is allergic to gluten, a parent often wonders what they can do to help. One question that is often asked is if a gluten-intolerant child requires additional nutritional support, or if a healthy diet is sufficient? Claire Latham discusses…

gluten-intolerant children

As a parent, we often worry about our children. Each developmental stage brings with it a different concern, but one that always seems to remain is if we are feeding them the correct food and providing them with everything they need to be fit and healthy. After all, it is the very basis of what a parent is supposed to do, but with the huge surge of information that is out there now, coupled with different viewpoints and philosophies, it is little wonder that most of us are left feeling confused. Add to that the concern that having a child with coeliac or gluten-intolerance brings, and it can make us wonder if there is anything else that we can be doing. I’m sure many parents will agree that there are times, especially when your child has accidentally eaten gluten and is feeling unwell, that you do feel helpless and want to do everything that is available to support your child and make them well again. But does a gluten-intolerant child actually require additional supplements, or is a balanced healthy diet sufficient? It was certainly something that I wanted to find out for myself.

Now the first thing that I should mention, and it is also found on the Coeliac UK website, is that, if you feel that you or your child might require supplements, it is always best to visit your doctor or a registered nutritionist. In researching this article, I came across a very useful page on the Coeliac UK website entitled ‘keeping healthy’ which can be found under the ‘Gluten Free Diet and Lifestyle’ tab. Here I found a wealth of information to help people with coeliac disease and gluten intolerance to eat as well as possible whatever their food requirements. I was pleased to see they also discuss a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle which is very helpful.

At the time I discovered that my children were also gluten intolerant I was seeing a nutritionist myself. She explained how it is important to repair the damage caused by gluten to the small intestine, often referred to as ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’. Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs when an allergen (in this case gluten) has worn away the lining of the intestine to allow nutrients to escape into the bloodstream and not be absorbed. To help repair this damage it was recommended that I eat probiotic food such as sauerkraut, while also taking a probiotic tablet.

Now I don’t mean the probiotic drinks that you find in the supermarket, but one that contains a high count of good bacteria. For the children it was recommended that they take an iron supplement and a probiotic powder that is sprinkle over cereals or into a smoothie. It was also recommended that they took a good multivitamin and again she recommended a good brand that could be purchased at a health food store or online. I have to admit that I am normally quite sceptical about such things, but the difference after a month or so of taking this was impressive.

The Coeliac UK website also states that ‘research looking at whether people with coeliac disease get enough calcium, iron and B vitamins in their gluten-free diet found that specific nutritional deficiencies are not a big problem for people with coeliac disease who are following a strict gluten-free diet’. As a general rule, people are advised to eat naturally gluten-free foods containing plenty of fibre, along with a selection of fruit and vegetables and, by doing so, you can hopefully eliminate the need for supplements and provide foods that give the energy and nutrition that your children and the rest of your family, need. This is certainly the change that has been made to our diet as a family as our journey has taken us along a path of learning how important food is and how it impacts our health so greatly. Yes, there are snacks and treats, but we generally try to follow a diet that offers lots of fruit and veg and is full of real foods, along with reducing the processed foods and sugary foods where possible. Since making these changes, I feel that the need for my children to take supplements has massively reduced and we are eating well as a family.

So, in answer to the question of requiring supplements, yes, they can be necessary and useful in some cases, but always seek medical advice before doing so, along with ensuring that your family and children are eating the best diet possible.

About the author

gluten-free parentingClaire Latham is a freelance writer and mother who specialises in gluten-intolerance. You can find her at