Gluten intolerance: Is my child allergic to gluten?

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Celiac disease, more commonly known as gluten intolerance, affects more and more people each year. Explanations on this autoimmune disease.

Celiac disease in two words: it is a permanent intolerance to the enzyme the body uses to absorb gluten. This leads to the destruction of villi in the small intestine, which causes the malabsorption of nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamins or folic acid. Eventually, this disease can destroy the intestinal mucosa.

How is the disease diagnosed? 

First, a blood test should be performed to look for specific markers of the disease. If the test is positive, an endoscopy should be performed with samples taken from the upper part of the small intestine. As long as these two tests have not been performed, the patient should not stop eating gluten, as this could distort the test!

How many people in France are intolerant of gluten? 

We don't know exactly, but we think one in 10,000 people would be gluten intolerant. These are cases that are clinically proven. But in reality, it is very likely to be one in 100 people.

At what age is celiac disease most likely to occur? 

One out of every two people who are intolerant of gluten has been intolerant since childhood. The disease also occurs frequently around the age of 25 or 30. But often, when you make the diagnosis in an adult, you discover that the person has always had digestive disorders with a lack of medical management. For example, one in two adults for whom a diagnosis is made reveals a long history of digestive disorders. Between the ages of 15 and 30, there is sometimes an improvement in symptoms.

How do I detect gluten intolerance in a child

Symptoms can be digestive with bloating, gas, stomach ache, vomiting. Celiac disease can also be suspected when children have growth disorders, weight loss, mood swings.

Is my child allergic to gluten?

Gluten allergy, not to be confused with gluten intolerance, is an important allergy of increasing frequency, especially in children. Focus on this disease, too often overshadowed by some gluten-free who have no health concerns.

In recent years the gluten-free movement has gained in importance, not only because the number of people who are intolerant of gluten has risen sharply (1 in 100 in France is said to be intolerant), but also because there was a time when this wheat protein was singled out as a weight gain factor. This has overshadowed a less well-known disease than celiac disease(gluten intolerance): allergy. We became interested in the matter with the help of Dr. Caroline Klingebiel, specialized in Allergology.

An allergy that can be very violent

First of all, why are we allergic? In allergic patients, the body does not recognize the wheat proteins to which gluten belongs, it then produces immunoglobulins E, that is to say, a category of antibodies that wants to compete with the protein. It is these antibodies that produce allergic reactions.

What are the symptoms of gluten allergy?

These reactions produce immediate physiological symptoms: a few minutes to two hours after ingestion of the offending food. The symptoms can be impressive and especially very dangerous: hives, asthma, rhinitis, angioedema, anaphylactic shock. They can appear in isolation or grouped and depending on the symptoms, the “level” of Allergy and the reaction time, the prognosis can be very quickly engaged (one can die of angioedema and anaphylactic shock).
Note that the symptoms are the same in adults and children

Gluten allergy or intolerance: what differences?  

Gluten intolerance or celiac disease is different from allergy in that it causes symptoms and risks.

So gluten intolerance is an autoimmune disease: the body makes antibodies against the enzyme that degrades gluten, so in reality, the body does not react properly against gluten but prevents this enzyme from doing its work, the body does not manage to digest gluten.

This intolerance translates into symptoms mainly not digestive disorders which can be important. The body doesn't absorb gluten and eventually, the intestinal mucosa can destroy itself.

Diagnosis, treatment and progression

•    Diagnosis

The diagnosis of allergy is made mainly on the clinical history, that is to say it was found that swallowing a certain food one reacted in such a way within two hours. A skin test can then be carried out or upstream: a small drop of gluten will be injected into the skin and it will be observed if there is an immediate reaction. If you are allergic a papule (a full pimple) and a redness appear at the level of the sting. Blood tests can also be carried out: immunoglobulins directed against gluten will be tested in the blood.

Gluten allergy may change over time, for example, it may disappear spontaneously, especially during adolescence or after treatment.

•    Treatment 

Of course, the first reflex when you notice an allergy is to avoid any food (or drink) containing gluten. Fortunately, in recent years there has been a growing awareness of the danger of allergies, and both the public authorities and private initiatives are helping to make the composition of foods, particularly processed foods, more transparent.

It should be noted that for people with allergies and even for people who are intolerant of gluten, the slightest trace can be dangerous and should be avoided as much as possible. As for the actual treatments, science is progressing step by step.

For the moment, there is one: oral immunotherapy also known as desensitization. This involves getting the body used to meeting gluten proteins. The dose that the child can ingest (in the order of a milligram) is determined at the beginning, and each day he is given his “crumb”, the amount of which is gradually increased. However, there is no established scientific protocol as no large-scale studies have been conducted. Desensitization can take years.

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Significant increase in allergies in general

Gluten allergy is increasingly common in the population. Its origin cannot be clearly determined today, it is thought to be multifactor and may have a hereditary component. The reason for the skyrocketing rise in the number of allergies is also mysterious.

Allergies in the world are generally on the rise. 25% of the world's population is affected by allergic diseases whether they are food or respiratory, some specialists even speak of “endemic”.

Let us recall that the most common food allergies in children are in the order: that to cow's milk proteins, that to egg then nuts and finally peanuts.