Bellyaches are a common complaint among children. For parents, determining whether tummy trouble is run-of-the-mill or perhaps a chronic and more serious condition is not always easy.
One chronic digestive disorder that can cause such symptoms is celiac disease. Celiac disease is a digestive disorder in which the small intestine becomes inflamed and damaged by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains.
Symptoms of celiac disease in children (which are not necessarily the same as in adults) typically include abdominal bloating and digestive issues. Because celiac disease interferes with nutrient absorption, it can also lead to growth problems. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 133 people have celiac disease. Considered an autoimmune condition, the condition is genetic. The only way to “treat” celiac disease is to adhere to a gluten-free diet. Abstaining from foods with gluten not only allows the small intestine to heal, it also helps manage uncomfortable symptoms and allows the body to take in necessary nutrients.
Diagnosing celiac disease promptly is important because undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease can lead to bone problems, short stature, and, in rare cases, cancer of the digestive tract, as well as other serious problems. Yale Medicine’s pediatric gastroenterologists are experienced at diagnosing and treating children with celiac disease—and other gluten-related disorders—offering comprehensive care for children and their families.