Celiac Disease Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

Have you ever picked up a bag of potato chips and seen a label that says 'gluten free' on it? Find out why this information is important to people with celiac disease and how celiac disease affects the body.

Understanding Celiac Disease

The last time you sat down to eat a big bowl of pasta, you probably didn't stop to think much about the ingredients in the food. But if you're someone with celiac disease, then that information would be very important. That's because people with celiac disease cannot eat or drink anything with gluten. Approximately 1 out of every 100 people in the world have celiac disease, and someone is more likely to have celiac disease if they have a family member with it.

Certain grains, like wheat, barley, and rye, have a protein in them called gluten. In Latin, the word 'glutin' means glue, and gluten is like a glue that gives food shape. Gluten is found in all kinds of foods like breads, cereals, pastas, and even in some foods you might not expect, like soy sauce and soup.

Different Grains with Gluten
Grains

Gluten and the Small Intestine

Our bodies have an immune system that protects us from getting sick by fighting off germs. In some cases, the immune system will make a mistake and fight a part of the body that's healthy. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, the body reacts by attacking the small intestine.

The Small Intestine
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Food we eat moves through the small intestine. The small intestine takes out whatever we need and sends it into the blood to be used by the body. These can be things like vitamins, sugars, and fats. With celiac disease, the small intestine does not work well. It becomes hard for the body to get the nutrition it needs. People with celiac disease who continue to eat gluten can also have other health problems later on.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Because celiac disease affects a person's immune system, there are many different symptoms, a feeling in the body that happens when someone is sick. Some people might get stomachaches, while others have skin problems or feel tired a lot. Some kids have no symptoms but fail to grow or gain weight.

With so many different symptoms, it sometimes makes it hard to know when to look for celiac disease. A person's doctor can order blood work to check for celiac disease.

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