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Questions About Glutening - 3Yr Old Gluten-Free For One Year

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Hi, Everyone.


My 3-yr old son has been entirely gluten-free for a year. He had digestive, behavioral, and perhaps neurological symptoms. We do not have a confirmed celiac disease diagnosis, but a gluten-free diet seemed to clear up these problems, and we've stuck with it. But I've never been certain whether it's gluten, specifically, that's the problem (long story).


Over the past year, he has never had an accidental glutening. He's in full-time daycare, so it's possible he's been exposed to trace amounts, but he hasn't (to my knowledge) actually ingested a food that contained gluten.


Last Friday, however, he was given a tortilla chip that my friend thought contained only corn. It unfortunately was a "multigrain" chip that did contain some wheat. I spent the next hours and days pretty terrified of what might happen.


Much to my surprise, he had no immediate, noticeable reaction: no obvious digestive stress, no clear behavioral symptoms (challenging to discern with a 3 yr old, of course, because their behavior is always a bit "on the edge"--ha!), and no neurological symptoms.


It was only on Tuesday (3-4 days later) that a potential symptom showed up: His stool has been a lighter shade of yellow for the past two days. Not "pale," as you see online in photos of pancreatic issues, etc. Just not quite normal. The stool was otherwise normal. Not at all unusually smelly. No undigested food. It didn't float or look greasy or fatty. It was neither too dry nor too runny. He's had absolutely no other noticeable symptoms. I keep asking him if his belly hurts, and he says no (and he does say yes when he's feeling ill).


Would this be a "typical" glutening episode? I expected something more dramatic. Does anyone else experience this kind of symptom--with no other evident issues--after this kind of exposure?


So grateful for your wisdom and feedback...

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It's possible that because he has been gluten-free for long, that his body is now healed and able to handle a "glutening" with more ease than if he was still ill. It might just be that you've done a good job keeping him gluten-free so he didn't get very sick.


Not everybody reacts with strong symptoms every time they are glutened either. I didn't get a stomach ache every time I ate as a kid but many evenings I was pretty sore.


I'm sure others will chime in here too.  :) Hope he stays well.

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My family tends to react rather violently to just one crumb of gluten, but I know that's not always the case. I've had a couple adult friends now in the same boat as your little one: undiagnosed, but a trial gluten free diet eliminated many symptoms.


Both of the women I know were gluten free for a year or two, and then decided to try gluten again. Both of them noticed no symptoms when they tried gluten, and both of them went back to eating gluten. 


And both of them had their symptoms slowly come back over the next few months until they had to stop eating gluten again. The symptoms went away again, too. so in their case, at least, the symptoms didn't seem to correlate to just one meal of gluten, but was more of a build up over time. That's not to say that this is the case with your son, but at least based on what I've seen among my acquaintances, it's possible to have a low level reaction that can build up.



I understand that there is research being done on testing for celiac disease now that may enable us to get tested without having to go back to eating gluten. So whether you decide to keep him off of gluten or do a gluten challenge, hopefully you can get a diagnosis either way, if you wish, in the future.

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