Yes, it is “Safe” to Raise Non Celiac Kids Gluten Free

I’ve realized that I have not written for almost a week and I think I am okay with this. When I started this blog two months ago, I anticipated being able to post about once a week, so I think I am on track. Between working full-time, running, and trying to squeeze in some sleep, the main reason  that I have not had time is that I have four small children. I am trying my best to cherish this phase of our family life, as I know that someday I will have four teenagers at once!

None of my kids have Celiac Disease, but I consider them all to be at high risk for its development. Although I was diagnosed when I was 33, I have probably had Celiac Disease since early childhood. My mother also has it, and interestingly enough, was diagnosed after I was. Through conversations with aunts and uncles, it seems there is some “gluten sensitivity” in my deceased dad’s family. Although my husband, Tom, does not have Celiac, we do know that he is HLA-DQ2 positive, as he was tested by his GI doctor.  He has both an aunt and cousin with Celiac Disease as well. If none of my children go on to develop Celiac Disease, I will be truly amazed!

We started off my Celiac journey with a shared kitchen. I read up on this as much as I could after diagnosis, and I had my own “gluten free” cabinet, pasta strainer and pasta pot, cooking utensils, baking dish, etc. I also kept separate GF butter, peanut butter, and other condiments to avoid cross contamination.  I always put my items on a piece of aluminum foil when toasting because I was never able to find the “toaster bags” which people would discuss on the Internet forums. I thought that I was doing everything right and although our GF/non GF set-up did work for a while, I kept on getting sick. In 2012 I developed a peripheral neuropathy, which is persistent numbness and tingling from nerve inflammation, and was evaluated for multiple sclerosis. My neuropathy ended up being Celiac Disease related, as a result of continued exposure to traces of gluten. We made our whole home gluten free in 2012 and I have had minimal problems since then.  My exposure to tiny hands and mouths with gluten crumbs was much more damaging than I could ever have imagined when I was diagnosed in 2010.

Through starting this blog I have been able to interact with a lot of moms with Celiac Disease and/or raising kids with Celiac Disease. Many of us have decided to raise all of our kids gluten free, however, this seems to be controversial.  I have learned that many people are being advised by their doctors that it is not “safe” to raise their non Celiac children gluten free, because they are being told that by doing so that they are depriving their kids of essential vitamins and nutrients.  I have researched this and have not found any evidence that this is the case, as long as gluten free kids are given a wide variety of non-processed, nutrient-rich foods.

Our youngest is now 10 months old and, freakishly enough, has 7 teeth, so she is eating table foods at dinner. We eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, beans, and fish. Our “starches” consist of potatoes, rice and risotto, squash, and sweet potatoes.  Once a week or so we will make a GF pizza of some sort. Lately we have been making a cauliflower pizza crust which I adapted from a recipe I found on Pinterest (I will post it on the “Recipes” page of this blog soon). We occasionally make tacos, enchiladas and other Mexican foods, pasta or lasagna, and Indian dishes, usually a chicken curry of some sort.  For snacks our kids eat fresh fruit, applesauce, popcorn, dried fruits and nuts, yogurt, string cheese, GF crackers and rice cakes.  We always have a few “treats” in our home, usually Annie’s GF Bunny crackers, ice cream, and a tortilla chip of some sort.  I bake a lot of treats for the kids as well. We’ve made delicious chocolate chunk cookies using almond flour 2 or 3 times in the past week (see link). We’ve said goodbye to a lot of convenience foods like chicken nuggets and frozen macaroni and cheese.

I do not see any evidence that my children are nutritionally deprived. They are growing and thriving, are not anemic, and interestingly enough, my two oldest have grown quite a bit since going off of gluten last year.  I give all of them a calcium and vitamin D supplement once a day, but I have done this for years. We live in the midwest, where vitamin D deficiency is rampant in both kids and adults, and a deficiency is associated with the development of autoimmune diseases.  I have not given them any other vitamins or supplements. I am pretty certain that they are getting enough protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and calories for proper growth and development through their diets.

I am not trying to say that what I am doing for my family is right or best for all families. I am sharing my story in hopes that it may help others to make the decision whether or not to make their entire household gluten free. Looking back, I wish that I would have made the transition much earlier in my journey, as it would likely have prevented me from developing neurologic complications from Celiac Disease. Thank you for reading!

 *Also, a quick reminder that this is a blog. I am summarizing medical literature, but also adding in my own thoughts and opinions on what I have read. I am not trying to tell anyone what they should do for their own health, nor am I giving medical advice through this page. Thank you!




27 thoughts on “Yes, it is “Safe” to Raise Non Celiac Kids Gluten Free

  1. Amy Z

    It’s funny to me that people would think being gluten free would deprive a person of nutrients, considering that grains are a poor source of protein, fiber, iron, and minerals when compared to meat and vegetables!

  2. Joy

    Thanks for this blog post. I agree with your stance on raising non-celiac kids GF. After my Celiac diagnosis a year and a half ago, I quickly realized that the best thing for all of us was for Mommy to be healthy and feel good and, thus, our home is now GF. The health benefits for me are huge, but I must say it is also a huge relief for me to have at least one safe place in my life where I don’t have to worry or wash my hands a million times. And less stress for me equals a more carefree childhood for them.
    My daughters seem to be doing just fine on the GF diet, if not better than before. Growing like weeds. Super cute and sweet little weeds. 😉 Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. It’s nice to connect with other parents facing similar decisions.

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Joy,
      Thanks for your reply. You remind us that we, as moms, truly need to take care of ourselves and our health for the sake of our families. I think we moms, too often, put our own health and well-being on the back burner (at least I am guilty of this!) I am glad to hear that your daughters are doing well on the GF diet too.

  3. Anne Fitzgerald

    What adorable children! I see U didn’t mention using GF bread. I miss bread so much, that I do eat Katz Multigrain. bread. Takes care of that craving as it’s the closest I’ve tried of “real” bread. I was very interested in the fact that low vit. D is attributed to auto-immune disorders, as I check off on all points :( I take it , with CA, a multi-vit. (GF, soy, corn free). TY for. taking time out of your busy schedule for this. U hit on some very pertinent subjects.

    1. Jess Post author

      Thanks Anne for the compliment on my little ones! They are definitely keeping me motivated to be doing this (as well as those of you who are reading!) Yes, my husband and kids eat GF bread. We are in a relatively small town, about 100K total, so our local options are Udi’s and Rudi’s GF bread v. making our own. I have been cutting back on all grains and am doing a modified Paleo diet right now because I’ve found that I overall feel healthier eating this way, so I am no longer eating bread. What multivitamin are you taking? I am taking the Megafoods Women’s Once Daily.

  4. Jamie

    I agree with you completely. My entire family is GF as well, even though only a few were officially diagnosed with CD. I think we actually eat healthier than 80 percent of my kids friends – no fast food, very little processed food, lots of fruit and veggies. It is funny to me that some people think getting the few vitamins that are added to the non-GF highly processed food is better than actually eating real food with real vitamins! Keep up the good work and love those babies. I have two teens now and look back fondly on this busy years of little kids in the house!

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Jamie,
      Thanks so much for your feedback. The funny thing about the processed foods is that I wanted to get them out of our house ages ago, prior to the Celiac diagnosis. Have your teens been able to stay GF outside of the home? If so, do you have any tips or advice for other moms raising GF teens? I would eventually like to be able to write about raising teens with Celiac on here.
      Thanks a bunch!

  5. Dana

    Jess, this post is fantastic in so many ways. Thank you for your wisdom on this subject – not just from a celiac’s perspective and a mother’s (what gorgeous kids by the way!), but also from a doctor’s. I felt so validated after reading this.

    When I was pregnant, our daughter’s celiac doctor (!!) was concerned about MY gluten free diet. She was worried I wouldn’t be getting enough nutrition for me and my baby. This kind of blew my mind and I didn’t agree with her. Our nutritionist said I’d be fine, but still. I get where they’re coming from, but even gluten-filled diets aren’t necessarily healthy. Obviously.

    Anyway, this post makes me feel extra secure about having my son (15 months) be GF, at least so far. It’s easier for me and safer for our daughter to do so. I am glad you are doing the same, as it sounds like your body was reacting strongly to those gluten-y little hands and inevitable crumbs.

    Thanks again for all your informative posts. But your life sounds very full, so if it takes you more than a week that’s okay by me :)

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Dana,
      That is so crazy that you were made to feel uncomfortable about being GF while pregnant. I recently saw a similar post on Facebook where a pregnant woman was advised not to be GF due to worries about nutrition of her fetus. I think that some of the concern in the medical community must stem from the link between folic acid deficiency and neural tube defects, like spina bifida. The rates of neural tube defects went down drastically when folate was added to all of our breads and flours. However, if a pregnant mom takes a good prenatal vitamin and otherwise has good nutrition, she should ingest enough folic acid for her baby.
      Also, I read your latest post late last night and loved it. My word for this year is going to be “patience.”

  6. Paula

    Jess, I agree as long as we are feeding our non-celiac children a balanced diet of fruits, occasional rice (I’m cutting back b/c of levels of arsenic & b/c I feel better w/o it), & the occasional quinoa, veggies, lean meats, poultry and fish they should be just fine. I also give my boys a supplement of Vit D & calcium. I cook most every meal gluten-free, but I am having a difficult time getting them to eat GF bread & snacks (I keep trying to slip in gfree pretzels for a school snack, but they notice them immediately, and don’t like them). I had my boys genetically tested and one is in the high risk category, so I am trying my best to rid our home of gluten 100%. You have inspired me to do better!

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Paula,
      My oldest has rejected the GF snacks the most, but it seems with time she is gravitating toward eating fruits and vegetables as snacks out of necessity (which I am totally okay with!) Like you, I feel better when I eat less rice too. Not quite sure if this has always been the case or if I’m more cognizant of my body’s signals since going GF 3 years ago. I hope that your family’s transition goes as well as possible. I keep having to remind myself that this is not supposed to be “easy” journey!

  7. Kristine

    Thank you for a great blog!

    A bit of common sense will soon point us in direction of the obvious; that gluten free or not our diets’ nutritional value is down to making the right choices. I dare say many children on “normal” diets consume a lot more processed foods with limited nutritional value and dodgy additives, than children of coeliacs. After all we are forced to read labels, and we are forced to learn. We also cook and bake from scratch a lot more than we might otherwise have done. On a “normal” diet it is far easier to shop mindlessly.

    I did read something somewhere stating that introducing gluten into a childs diet between 4 and 6 months of age would reduce the risk of coeliacs being triggered later in life. I will try to find the source and learn more about it.

    Anyhow, I think your reasoning is sensible. Personally I can’t let any gluten into the house as I react to the smallest amount. For that reason my fiancee eats gluten free at home, and he claims he feels healthier than before. That might be because the gluten free diet brings with it healthier options on many other levels, who knows. We will eventually need to decide how to handle the diet questions when kids arrive, but I am fairly sure we will not be introducing gluten into our home.


    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Kristine,
      Thank you for your kind words. My Celiac Disease has definitely forced us to re-invent our diet and nutrition, definitely for the better! Prior to being diagnosed, and being forced to read labels, we did eat a fair amount of processed foods (I actually cringe when I think back to that time!)
      There have been several good studies, though, that have advocated introducing gluten in small amounts to babies between 4 to 6 months. If you check my archive, I wrote about this back in December 2012 (it feels like it was a long time ago, but just 6 weeks ago).
      I hope that you’ve been feeling well and am happy that so many of us are able to communicate and share ideas.
      All the best!

  8. Brooke

    I recently went thru the same thing. Found out I was allergic to gluten (not confirmed celiac, but have interstitial cystitis) and decided to change it for the entire family. My kids are healthy and happy! They are used to eating healthy, non-processed foods.

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Brooke,
      Thank you for sharing your story! I am glad to learn that your kids are also doing well on the GF diet. I hope we reach a point (sooner than later) when no parents are made to feel bad for removing gluten from their kids’ lives. I agree with you that a diet free of unprocessed foods (as least as little as possible) is the way to go. One of the greatest blessings of having my own gluten issues is the positive effects on my family’s nutrition.

  9. Steve Barrett

    Hi Jess,
    Thank you for your post. My girlfriend has celiac disease and her story is similar to yours, but complicated with an allergy to corn. She has come out from Indiana to be with me and we try to have a gluten free kitchen because of cross contamination. I guess I’m the first person in her life who was willing to do this. In the past she’s gotten a lot of “it’s all in your head” kind of dismissal of her symptoms from her friends and family.
    It has been quite a learning experience for me (and still is) because not everything lists gluten (like chicken) and I have discovered the corn is insidiously in just about everything in one form or another and doesn’t have to be listed because it’s not in the top 8 allergens marked by the FDA. My son is turning 18 this weekend and we are preparing gluten free pizza, lasagna and noodles for him and his friends to eat. The gluten free diet has been doing me some good as well as I have lost about 20 pounds now without any significant exercise regimen.
    I think a gluten free diet is not the bugbear that it’s being made out to be. Some day the medical community will realize this. I wish you and your family well.

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your message. That is so wonderful that your girlfriend is now able to be in a gluten free environment (it makes a huge difference!) I have had a similar experience with certain people thinking that my gluten intolerance is all in my head. I have also been treated as if I have an eating disorder and criticized for not taking “just one little bite” of a food that contains wheat.
      Avoiding corn seems to be so difficult. I have to avoid cornstarch because it is heavily sulfited during processing, but up until having to do this, I had no concept of how prevalent corn really is in our food supply.
      Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise though, as almost all corn is GMO.
      I agree with you that, hopefully, the stigma surrounding being gluten free will be gone. I think we, as a nation, has really undervalued the role that nutrition and what we eat plays in our overall health…I am just as guilty of this as others, until my diagnosis forced me to change.
      All the best to you and your family!

  10. Kate

    Thanks for sharing this! I have recently started going gluten free and have been thinking about how I will continue this when I have a family. Definitely planning to just keep us all gluten free since cross contamination is such an issue. On the plus side when I have kids they will just grow up this way, so there won’t be any transition issues.

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Kate,
      You are very thoughtful to be thinking of all of this ahead of time. Had I known what I know now, I would have made our entire household GF back in 2010.
      Since writing this post last year we have discovered that our baby also has gluten issues (will find out whether or not it’s celiac next week), so I am very thankful that we have a GF home for her sake. The only real transition is that she will now be unable to eat gluten outside of the home.
      All the best to you!

  11. Aleks

    Hello Jess, how is your baby now? I mean the one with gluten issue?

    Thank you for cutting a piece of your time in this article since I am wondering about when having a baby, and I want the best for her/him. I’m quiet obsessed with some really interesting websites like where I stumbled on gluten argument and I start wondering what’s the best for my future baby.

    What do you think? I have read a lot, but I’m not really clear with the idea that a gluten free diet should be healthy for every kind of child, even those without gluten related diseases.

    I hope you are good and your babies too,
    have a wonderful day!


    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Aleks,
      Thank you for writing. As I wrote about in this post last year, we had to make our entire home GF for the sake of my health. I am such a “super sensitive” celiac that the smallest traces of gluten cause my peripheral neuropathy and neurologic symptoms to recur.
      Claire, my youngest, is now 2 years old. She is the one who I wrote about in 2012. We introduced gluten to her in the form of baby oats when she was close to 5 months old. She has been gluten “light” since then. I was concerned that she had celiac disease earlier this year and we had her tested and she does not have it. I just wrote about the experiences last month. The link to my post about Claire is here.
      From everything I’ve read recently it looks the best that an expectant mom can do to help prevent celiac disease is eat in a healthy manner during pregnancy, take a probiotic, deliver vaginally (asopposed to c-section), and breastfeed. Despite this, some babies will develop celiac. But in my case I am happy to know that I at least tried to do my best to prevent it!

  12. Heather

    My third child, 21 months, has never had anything with gluten, even though I have no idea if he is gluten intolerant. (My second born is intolerant.). My question is this; do you know of any evidence that keeping him gf indefinitely will predispose him to not be able to digest gluten if he chooses later in life?

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Heather,
      Thanks so much for writing. I am not aware of any information showing that keeping a child GF for the first few years of life will lead to future problems with tolerating gluten. If I do come across any research in this area, I will post and share it with you on this thread.

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