When Should I Introduce Gluten For My Baby? Delaying Gluten Exposure Until Age 2 Cuts Celiac Disease Risk in Half

Wheat2As a pediatrician, I’m counseling parents every day on when to start solids. We used to say to wait until 6 months as early introduction of food proteins increases allergies. We were 100% WRONG!  Introducing solids starting at 4 months significantly reduces allergies, even when it comes to peanuts as shown in this study here…

But when should we introduce gluten? I discussed this in a previous blog on this topic (found here… ) For those of you with a family history of celiac disease (a severe gluten-caused intestinal disorder), your risk of getting ill with celiac disease if you eat gluten (regardless of when you start) is about 5-12% by age 2-3 years, and 16-24% by 10 years age. If you never eat gluten, guess what your rate of celiac disease is? ZERO!

In the study, “Randomized feeding intervention in infants at high risk for celiac disease,” gluten triggered celiac disease in high risk children. You can read this study here…

The recent study, “Effects of Gluten Intake on Risk of Celiac Disease: a case-control study on a Swedish birth cohort,” showed that intake of gluten before age 2 years increased risk of developing celiac disease in high risk children (those with family histories or known genetic risk factors) 2-fold (more than doubles the risk). You can find and read that study here…

As percentages of children who have challenges with wheat increase, and numbers of those with frank celiac disease increase,e we need to re-think the use of wheat all together. Celiac disease is thought to affect 1 out of every 141 people in the USA (read here… ) and as high as 1 in 22 if you have a close relative with celiac (read more… ) We know that the numbers of people who are sensitive and not tolerating wheat are much higher. The condition is sometimes referred to as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (learn more here …)  and while there is raging debate in the literature about what that is and if it even exists, those of us who are looking for gluten issues when we have patients with GI or neurological, psychiatric, or skin disorders are finding that often the elimination of gluten is the key step in healing the condition.

This begs the question: Why are we forcing this protein on our children when it causes so much pain and misery to so many? I would have to answer: Money, Politics, and Tradition. We are all raised in the post-industrial revolution era. We are products of nations that transitioned from hunter-gathering people to those with agriculture. Grains allowed us to store food for the future, then, with our processing abilities, we are able to turn what was once a wholesome bread into delicious cake and cookies, pastries, and the like. Try walking past any festive occasion and avoid gluten! To make maters much worse, through hybridization and genetic engineering, we have changed wheat so much that I suspect our immune system sees it as a foreign invader. That certainly is the case for those with celiac disease, and it seems to be the case for those sensitive to wheat and gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt).

If your loved one cannot and should not drink alcohol, do we avoid having alcohol around them?  Of course we would. Why would we sabotage our loved one? The time may be upon us that we have gluten-free homes, and attend gluten-free parties and gatherings out of respect for those among us who suffer when they eat gluten. Radical? You bet!


Am I ready to make this commitment? Are you?


Dr. Paul


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