Assessment and Diagnosis
Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary greatly and may be similar to other diseases. It can present along a wide spectrum, which is why the Center also works with children with gluten sensitivities – for example, children whose symptoms may not fit all the criteria for a celiac disease diagnosis but who may be helped by managing their intolerance or sensitivity to foods containing gluten.
At the Center, we use several diagnostic approaches. One is a simple blood test to check for the presence of several antibodies that may indicate gluten intolerance. This is a quick and painless procedure, and can be done on an outpatient basis at a laboratory.
If further testing is needed, the doctor may perform an upper endoscopy. This is a minimally invasive procedure in which a doctor uses a slender tube inserted through the mouth to take a tiny sample of the small intestine for further examination. Your child will be asleep throughout and will awaken with no memory of the procedure or lingering after effects. Pediatric endoscopy is performed at the endoscopy center at Stony Brook University Hospital. A dedicated team of pediatric anesthesiologists and nurses will provide anesthesia and care for your child during the procedure.
Treatment and Management
If celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity is confirmed, you and your child will meet with our registered dietitian for a nutrition evaluation and education session. Although several new therapies are under investigation, currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is to remove all gluten from your child’s diet. In fact, the gluten-free diet will help to heal the damage to the small intestine over time.
During these sessions, we will work closely with you to put these new dietary guidelines into action. This includes comprehensive lists of what your child can eat and what is toxic to his or her system, shopping guidelines, how to read labels for hidden gluten, recipes and strategies for eating at restaurants. We can also coach you on how to talk with teachers, other parents and your child’s friends about their food requirements, as well as how to integrate a gluten-free sensibility into your family’s day-to-day lives.
In the short term, we will give you all the support your family needs, as well as refer you to community resources and other specialties if necessary.
In the long term, we will follow your child through adulthood, doing routine assessments, plus periodic nutritional analysis, dietary intake and laboratory screenings. These routine assessments will ensure that your child is receiving optimal nutrition benefits from his or her diet, with an additional focus on growth and optimizing bone health. Because people with celiac disease need to follow a gluten-free diet for life, we will stay connected with your child, helping them stay on course as they grow and their taste and nutrition requirements evolve.
It may sound difficult to completely change your child or your family’s diet, but keep in mind that this treatment is extraordinarily safe for your child, involving no surgical intervention, medications and side effects.