Kids With Celiac Disease Are More Likely to Improve Than Adults: Study

A gluten-free diet is recommended for anyone with Celiac disease, but kids may benefit from it more than adults do, according to new research.
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A new study finds that symptoms from Celiac disease are more likely to resolve in kids than adults when both groups adhere to a strict, gluten-free diet.

Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder that affects 1 in 100 people according to Celiac.org, and it means that a person cannot eat gluten, which is found in wheat and rye products, without experiencing adverse effects like abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Research published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition found that when people follow a strict, gluten-free diet, they can see marked improvements in their condition, but children are more likely to experience this than their grown-up counterparts.

Senior study author Dr. Hilary Jericho from University of Chicago told Reuters Health she and her team noted "faster and greater rates of improvements for most gastrointestinal (GI) and extra-intestinal manifestations of Celiac disease in children as compared to adults."

Researchers looked at 513 kids and adults with Celiac disease, and their diets and symptoms over time. For kids, the worst symptoms were abdominal pain, diarrhea, failure to thrive, short stature, fatigue, and headache, which are obviously all heart-breaking. Meanwhile, adults said their worst symptoms were diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, anemia, fatigue, headache, and mental challenges, which are clearly very difficult to live with as well.

After two years of eating gluten-free, kids were relieved of bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain moreso than adults. And when it came to extra-intestinal symptoms, like mental issues, kids and adults both improved, albeit more slowly.

The important takeaway is that for all people, regardless of age, sticking to a gluten-free diet is the key to seeing improved life quality. Consider that according to the study, 34 percent of kids who stayed on the diet (versus 62 percent of kids who didn't) still had Celiac disease-related symptoms after two years. For adults the numbers were slightly less successful: 52 percent versus 70 percent.

"For children more often than adults, most GI and extra-intestinal symptoms should improve if strictly adherent to the gluten-free diet," said Dr. Jericho. "If they don't, and the patient is 12-24 months from the diagnosis and is strictly adherent to the diet, then it is very important that the physician not blow off the symptoms but look for another cause that may require an alternate treatment."

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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