Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Celiac Disease

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage in the small intestine of the digestive system. When someone with celiac disease eats gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale [a wheat and rye hybrid]), it causes an immune system reaction. The body starts to attack and destroy the villi (very small, finger-like projections in the small intestine). Without villi, the body cannot absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from food.

Celiac disease is an ongoing (chronic) illness that cannot be treated with medicine or surgery. It can only be managed by getting rid of all gluten in the diet and not eating foods that contain gluten.

Celiac Disease in Children

A person can be diagnosed with celiac disease at any age. It is not uncommon for a child to begin showing symptoms at an early age, sometimes as early as 6 months to 2 years. This is when children begin eating solid foods, including foods with gluten. At Seattle Children’s, we treat children of all ages, although most of our patients are diagnosed between 2 and 15 years of age.

Celiac Disease at Seattle Children’s

Our team works to make sure your child can simply be a kid – not a sick kid. Our first priority is to make an accurate diagnosis. From there, we offer nutritional education and support, and provide the ongoing care your child needs to be healthy and live a normal life with celiac disease.

Our approach to care improves quality of life

Celiac disease is a different kind of medical condition. Unlike many other medical problems, celiac disease is a chronic illness that cannot be treated with medicine or surgery. The only way to treat celiac disease is to eliminate gluten in the diet and eat and drink only gluten-free foods.

Food plays a major role in our lives. Many families have lifestyle preferences, cultural practices and religious beliefs that may make it challenging to move to a gluten-free diet.

At Seattle Children’s, we work with your child and your family to move to a gluten-free diet in a way that works for your unique lifestyle. Our nutritionists listen to your concerns, answer your questions and offer recommendations that allow your child and family to continue enjoying food and life.

The experts you need are here

Our doctors are board certified in pediatric gastroenterology, and our advanced practice providers (nurse practitioners and physician assistants) are trained in pediatric care. Our providers are some of the top experts in diagnosing and treating celiac disease in children. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranked Seattle Children’s Gastroenterology Program as one of the best in the country in 2016. We stay informed of the latest clinical research on celiac disease and constantly strive to find new ways to help children with this condition heal faster and live a normal life. This is our priority and commitment to your child and family.

Everyone at Seattle Children’s got into medicine to help your child feel better – and we are here to support your child and family every step of the way. From the lab staff who draw your child’s blood to the gastroenterologists who perform diagnostic procedures, our providers are specially trained to care for children. We work together to help your child heal and feel better.

We treat children of all ages

Your child may develop celiac disease at any time in their life. Our team of providers, nurses and nutritionists are trained to treat children of all ages, from infants to young adults. We will help your child learn about what they can and cannot eat using language and hands-on demonstrations that they can understand.

Your child and family get support

A team of doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nutritionists and child life specialists work together closely with your family to help your child transition to a gluten-free diet as easily as possible. Because celiac disease is a lifelong illness that has to be managed by changing your child’s diet, we are always here to provide your child and family with the information, resources and physical and emotional support you need to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with Seattle Children’s Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department, start by asking your child’s primary care doctor for a referral. If you have a referral, call 206-987-2521 to schedule your child’s appointment.