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Learning to Live With Celiac Disease

You may not know you have it, but celiac disease can rob the body of nutrients it needs to thrive.

Kids With Celiac Disease

"It's a good diagnosis to get because you can get better just by hanging your hat on it. And there are no side effects to changing your diet," Green says - unless you are a kid.

"It's such an easy treatment, but if you are a kid and suddenly you can't have pizza or hot dog buns or hamburger buns, it's a big deal because there is nothing a kid wants more than to be like his peers," LaPook says.

That's where creative nutritionists like Dana Greene, MS, RD, a nutritionist in private practice in Boston, come in. Greene says living a gluten-free life just takes some adjustment. "It requires some lifestyle changes," she tells WebMD. The first step is learning to read labels and identify culprits that that may contain hidden gluten. "Hidden gluten can be found in unlikely foods such as cold cuts, soups, hard candies, soy sauce, many low or nonfat products, even licorice and jelly beans," she says.

"I like to tell people what they can eat -- not what they can't," she says.

Eating and baking gluten-free is getting easier and easier. For starters, commercial gluten-free breads and mixes with easy-to-digest base ingredients -- such as rice flours (white or brown) arrowroot, potato, and tapioca -- are available in most food stores today, she says. "Other fun 'yes foods' for kids with celiac disease include: pure cornmeal chips and tortillas, popcorn; vegetable and gluten-free nut-based chips, gelatin desserts; selected pudding mixes; and ice cream, sherbet or yogurt (without suspicious additives on the label)," she says. Harmful ingredients to be on the lookout for include:

  • unidentified starch
  • modified food starch
  • hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
  • texturized vegetable protein (TVP)
  • binders
  • fillers
  • excipients
  • extenders
  • malt

Some over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as dietary supplements may contain gluten, states the Celiac Disease Foundation web site. Talk to your pharmacist.

Gluten-Free Alternates

"In place of wheat pasta, choose potatoes, buckwheat, brown rice, wild rice, or beans," she says. "Parents are always asking about healthy gluten-free snacks to put in their children's lunch box and I usually suggest peanuts and raisins, dried or fresh fruit, a small yogurt or a bag of potato chips for a treat."

Greene also advises parents of children with celiac disease to talk to the school's lunch staff. "Today school dietitians are very familiar with lactose intolerance, diabetes, and other health issues, so they know what it takes and are willing to accommodate special dietary needs without making a big fuss about it," she says. The Celiac Sprue Association web site offers printable letters with specific advice on school issues.

"I also tell parents to tell their child's teacher to let them know if there will be a birthday party or other special snack time in the classroom, so they can send something for their child to eat so he or she won't feel too left out," she says.

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