Health 101: Celiac Disease

What's the treatment for celiac?

A. There's no cure or medication for this lifelong condition, although researchers are studying drugs that may prevent gluten from entering the cells in the small intestine. For now, the treatment is to follow a strict gluten-free diet, which allows a child's small intestine to heal so it can work properly. Gastrointestinal symptoms often disappear within weeks, and kids who had trouble growing usually catch up. But your child can't go back to eating gluten. "It's important to cut out all traces of gluten because the immune system doesn't distinguish between a small amount and a lot of gluten," says Dr. Alessio Fasano, MD, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. It's in obvious sources like bread and pasta, but gluten can be hidden in everything from medications to food additives. Even Play-Doh (usually made with wheat flour) is off-limits. Fortunately, there's been a boom in gluten-free products, from chicken nuggets to brownies. Some restaurants also offer gluten-free menus.

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