Should I put my child on a gluten free diet?
This article, of course, is not for those who have been told their child has an allergy or intolerance to gluten. If you have been told this by your doctor, follow their advice.
I’m not usually one who gives advice to parents about how to bring up their children. I am not a parent myself, and I find people who are overly critical of parent’s choices should mind their own business. However, over recent months, I have seen more and more children be placed on a gluten-free diet, not because they are allergic or intolerant to it, but instead for ‘health reasons’. This weeks investigation looks at whether placing your child on a gluten free diet is a positive thing. It is not to tell you what is the right thing, but it is to look at the information I’ve compiled and make your own decision.
Gluten-free diets have been said to cure eczema, improve symptoms of autism and ADHD, as well as improve energy levels. But unless your child is showing symptoms of GS (gluten sensivity, such as diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, wind), is putting your child on a gluten free diet a good idea?
There are, of course, the practicalities of a gluten free diet, especially for children. There are the times when you can’t be watching what they eat, such as at school, parties, sleepovers, relative’s houses etc, and for many, saying ‘No’ to a child is a hard thing to do. It can also be challenging for the child who, unless they have felt ill having eaten certain foods, can’t understand why they can’t eat a slice of bread, for instance.
Nutritionists also are sceptical of placing non-gluten-sensitive children on ‘free-from’ diets. Dr Rachael Begun says that “the typical gluten-free diet is often lacking in key nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber and B vitamins.” Because many kids already have restricted diets because they’re picky eaters or are being treated for other medical conditions, Begun warns against unnecessarily restricting kids’ diets even more. She adds, “I recommend gluten-free diets for children only when it is medically necessary.” (Source: http://www.parents.com/blogs/food-scoop/2013/08/06/diet/should-your-kids-go-gluten-free/) Jessica Corwin also agrees. “Just because a food is marked with a “gluten-free” label doesn’t mean that it is better for your kids—in fact, such a claim often means it is more heavily processed and less nutrient-rich,” she says. “Processed gluten-free foods are often higher in calories as extra fats and sugars are frequently used to make up for the change in flavor and texture.” (Source: http://www.parents.com/blogs/food-scoop/2013/08/06/diet/should-your-kids-go-gluten-free/)
Furthermore, after Gwyneth Paltrow’s controversial claim that her children were on a low-gluten diet, Dr Carina Norris, a registered nutritionist, was particularly critical of her choice and suggested that “Far too many people self-diagnose themselves with allergies, or cut out wheat to lose weight, or because they think it’s bad for them. Not only are they making their lives difficult, cutting out such an important food group shouldn’t be done without the advice of a medical professional, as it could put them at risk of nutrient deficiencies.” (Source: Daily Mail)
So there we go. After doing hours of research, my conclusion is that children should not be put on a gluten free diet unless they have seeked medical advice first. Despite the headlines claiming that gluten is ‘the devil’, it does in fact contain many vital nutrients which are important for children’s health.