Excerpt from “Our Children’s Health: America’s Kids in Nutritional Crisis and How We Can Help Them”
Celiac disease, another great imitator of allergies, is a genetic chronic intestinal malabsorption disorder caused by intolerance to gluten. Gluten, which is found primarily in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt, oats, and millet, is the “glue” that holds grains together. When the gluten cannot be absorbed, the villi on the intestinal surface are destroyed, resulting in a loss of absorptive area. Removal of the gluten from the diet allows for the regeneration of the intestinal surface. Symptoms of this disease usually appear in the first three years of life once cereals are introduced into the diet, but it may take years before a proper diagnosis is made.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance include:
- Weight loss or inability to gain weight
- Poor growth
- Malnutrition from the impaired absorption of
- protein, fat, and fat-soluble vitamins and minerals
- Gas and bloating
- Weakness and fatigue
- Foul-smelling, fatty bowel movements (often yellowish in color)
- A tendency toward bruising and easy bleeding
- Bone pain, skeletal deformities
- Muscle pain and spasm
- Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
Since the complications of this disease can be dramatic, it is important to have any child that has difficulty digesting grains tested as soon as possible. Diagnosis of this condition is based upon a thorough history, physical exam and lab work. Since this disease causes malabsorption, identifying and correcting any nutritional deficiencies is extremely important as is removing all gluten from the diet. Besides ordering blood work to evaluate for nutritional deficiencies, your physician may request gastrointestinal barium studies and a tissue biopsy before assigning a diagnosis.
People of Irish and Scottish descent are particularly prone to this genetic disorder. In the United Kingdom, gluten intolerance is often diagnosed within the first few months after the presentation of symptoms. In the United States, it typically takes up to eight years for a diagnosis to be made.
An excellent magazine is available for those who suffer from any kind of allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. Sully’s Living Without is a lifestyle guide full of ideas about life-style changes and fantastic recipes for any type of food restriction. The magazine addresses a wide variety of health issues including “allergies, food sensitivities, multiple chemical sensitivities, wheat intolerance, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, dairy allergies, eating disorders, asthma, diabetes, dermatitis, gastroenterology-related disorders, diets that heal, celiac disease, anaphylaxis and the common allergens of egg, dairy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, corn, soy and gluten” (Sully’s Living Without, 2001). Visit their website, www.LivingWithout.com or call (630) 415-3378 to subscribe.
Allergy/Food Intolerance Treatments
Many treatment protocols, conventional and alternative, offer relief of symptoms but may not address the underlying cause of symptoms. Make sure your health practitioner looks for the cause of your child’s symptoms so that the treatment plan can be designed to re-establish homeostasis in the body. Be cautious about using medicines that merely treat your child’s symptoms. These medicines can actually be suppressive and interfere with your child’s innate ability to heal.
There are select vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids that can help your child on their road to recovery. A short list is provided here with brief explanations as to their mechanisms of action. Your health care practitioner can guide you as to the use and proper dosage of these valuable tools.
- Vitamin C is an excellent, potent antioxidant which helps stabilize the immune system. It inhibits histamines thereby helping to reduce inflammation. It improves adrenal function, which can be overtaxed in allergic, inflammatory conditions.
- Vitamin B6 is extremely important in the proper functioning of the immune system. It is necessary for the production of antibodies, red blood cells and hydrochloric acid in the stomach (a powerful stomach acid necessary for proper digestion in the gut). It is an important co-factor that works with more than 60 different enzymes in the body. It is also important in strengthening adrenal function.
- Vitamin E, an immune system stabilizer, interacts extensively with other antioxidant nutrients, especially vitamin C and selenium. It supports gastrointestinal health and has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
- Quercetin, a non-citrus bioflavonoid, has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in the body. In addition to possessing antioxidant qualities, it helps to increase vitamin C uptake in cells. Because of its ability to inhibit the manufacture and release of histamine and other allergic/inflammatory mediators, it is commonly used to support the treatment of asthma and allergies.
- Magnesium plays a critical role in many enzymatic and cellular functions. It promotes relaxation of the bronchial smooth muscles making breathing easier. It is used clinically in emergency situations to halt acute asthma attacks. Magnesium interacts extensively with other minerals, especially B6. Low magnesium levels are suspected in patients with chronic allergies and/or food intolerances.
Steps to take if you suspect your child has allergies/intolerances
- Begin by keeping a symptom/food diary. Try to identify the foods or environmental stimuli to which your child may be reacting. Take this information with you when you see your health practitioner.
- Avoid all heavily refined foods, preservatives, food dyes, artificial food additives, and toxic household products. All of these, singly or cumulatively, can harm your child’s immune system. (See Chapters 11 and 13 for steps to avoid harmful products.)
- If you suspect allergies, instead of intolerances, seek help from a board-certified allergist. This specially trained physician will be able to do a complete work-up and determine if there is an overt allergy that produces an immunoglobulin response.
- If you suspect the possibility of celiac disease, notify your child’s physician so the appropriate testing will
be done. A referral to a gastroenterologist may also be necessary.
- If allergies have been ruled out, there is a great possibility that your child is dealing with an intolerance or a yeast overgrowth. You can use the elimination diet (see Chapter 13 for details to determine any intolerances that may be present).
- If your child is dealing with a yeast overgrowth, seek a qualified practitioner who is adept at determining what kind of supplementation will be beneficial. Some children may improve with the addition of digestive enzymes and probiotics, such as lactobacillus acidophilus. Re-establishing a balanced gut flora takes time. Strict adherence to a yeast-free diet is an essential part of the .