The dish on gluten

Have you ever eaten gluten? No, not glue — gluten! If you’ve ever eaten a piece of bread, a slice of pizza, or a bowl of cereal, chances are you have. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats.

Most of us eat food with gluten with no trouble. For those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity it needs to be avoided. Celiac disease damages the small intestine and keeps the body from using nutrients from food. It can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. People may also have a headache and feel really tired. If not treated, it can affect growth and cause damage to the nervous system. It can also cause people to be malnourished.

It isn’t always clear which foods have gluten in them, and it can be very challenging to try to eat only foods that are gluten-free. People who have to eat this way get very good at reading nutrition fact labels to see if a food is gluten-free.

People who have food allergies, sensitivities or other restrictions often have to deal with others not understanding their situation. In social situations, such as birthday parties, it may be uncomfortable for children who have to eat special, gluten-free treats. Sometimes other people can be unkind about it, or put their friends at risk by not being careful.

Use our Health Powered Kids lesson, “The Dish on Gluten” to help your child understand why some people need to eat only gluten-free foods and to be kind to them rather than teasing or treating them differently.