This article originally appeared in the Spring 2010 edition of Celiac.com's Journal of Gluten-Sensitivity.
The Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco, recently published the results of a study they administered which indicates strong evidence that gluten-free camp is important to the physical and emotional well-being of young celiac patients. The study surveyed 104 celiac youth, 7-17 years old who attended a gluten-free camp. Before, and after attending the camp, each camper was given a 14-question survey, using a Likert scale, to evaluate their emotional outlook, overall well-being and self-perception.
Of the 77 campers that completed the survey before and after attending the camp, all of them showed marked improvement in all three categories and were found to greatly benefit from attending a gluten-free camp. The reasons for the health benefits can be attributed to providing strictly gluten-free food for the campers, so no food was off limits to them. Also cited for the improvement of the campers was that all campers shared similar food sensitivities and they therefore felt safe and included among the other campers, decreasing the social anxiety that many celiacs feel when dining with non-celiacs.
Interestingly, campers who had been on a gluten-free diet for less than four years were more positively impacted by the gluten-free camps than were the campers who had been on a gluten-free diet for more than four years. The difference in results between the newer gluten-free campers and the more experienced gluten-free campers suggests that, over time, adaption to celiac disease can decrease the social anxieties that are often associated with the disease. To accurately test the endurance of these findings, once a young celiac has returned to normal daily activities, more tests will be needed. For now, it is safe to assume that not only is camp a great break for you and your kids, it is also important for their overall health and general well-being.