Stories about: gluten intolerance

Celiac disease: 5 things parents need to know

Dr. Dascha Weir, associate director, Boston Children’s Celiac Disease Program

It may be difficult for parents to hear that their child has a chronic illness. When the diagnosis is celiac disease (CD), an autoimmune disorder caused by an intolerance to gluten, there is good news. CD is treatable by changes in diet.

How it works: When food enters the stomach, it’s broken down into tiny digestible particles, which then travel through the small intestine. The small intestine is lined with villi — tiny finger-like projections that absorb nutrients from the food passing through.

In celiac disease, gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats, damages the intestine and causes the villi to break down, leaving a flattened lining that can no longer absorb nutrients as effectively.

Dr. Dascha C. Weir, associate director of the Celiac Disease Program in the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, discusses the disease and offers tips to help families recognize and manage the condition.

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One mother's story: celiac disease

The Tafts have turned Erica's gluten-free diet into a family affair.
The Tafts have turned Erica's gluten-free diet into a family affair.

by Tara Taft

Although my husband called her “Smiley,” our happy baby, Erica, was clingy and cranky. For two months, we cleaned up after our 22-month-old as she vomited every day and watched in growing alarm as her tummy grew more and more distended, while her arm and leg muscles atrophied. Her pediatrician thought she had a virus, but she wasn’t getting any better. After four weeks, he referred us to Children’s Hospital Boston, where her gastrointestinal doctor suspected celiac disease.

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