Gluten-Free Diet Compliance

As children grow, they become more independent.  This is our goal as parents, to teach our children the things they need to know about life to live independently,  happily & successfully.  If it was only that easy, right?

Every parent has their challenges with their child(ren).  Some of those challenges are more stressful than others.  Having a child that requires a special diet requires a lot of planning & control on the part of the parent(s).  As the child grows older & matures, some of this planning & control begins to transfer over to the child/teen.  Every family is different and may begin this phase at a different stage.  Some kids aren’t ready to take on the added responsibilities, while others run with it.

Then comes compliance.  Following said diet.  It is one thing to accidentally ingest gluten, it is another to purposefully ingest it.  Kids are not the only ones who may not comply with the gluten-free diet; I have read of many adults not complying as well.  I don’t understand, but then again, gluten makes me really sick.  However, knowing what I do know about Celiac Disease and the effects of gluten on my body, I don’t ever see myself eating gluten intentionally.

While the reaction may not be immediate, there are long-term effects that must be considered.  For those with Celiac Disease that either hasn’t been diagnosed or choose to ignore the diagnosis, they continue to damage their body. The villi (finger-like projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients) are damaged when the body mounts a defense against the gluten (which it can’t digest in people with Celiac Disease). If those villi are damaged or non-existent, they can’t properly absorb nutrients. The person can become malnourished, vitamin deficient, etc. Additionally, untreated, this can lead to a host of complications down the road, which can include cancer.

Teens often only see today, what is right in front of them.  They don’t see down the road.  I know that is how I was as a teenager/young adult.  I try to remember that as I parent my kids, while helping to guide them try to understand that the choices they make today can and will impact their future.

Sometimes, despite all the guidance, they make bad choices.  Jon made one of those the other day by eating a Pop Tart.  When he first told me about it, he prefaced it by telling me that I was going to be mad.  I told him that while I might be mad, I still wanted to hear what he had to say.  It took a while to register what he said.  At first I was mad, but that quickly changed to disappointment & concern.  I asked him why he ate it and he said that a friend had dared him to eat it.  I know that they are just teen boys and this is what they do, but that doesn’t change the fact that if this were to become a habit – eating gluten regularly – it could have some serious repercussions down the road.  Interestingly enough, he did not seem to have any ill effects, which didn’t help my case about why he had made a bad choice.  I guess I should be thankful that they weren’t experimenting with drugs or alcohol, that it was just a Pop Tart.

After I was able to collect my thoughts about all of this, I chatted a bit with Jon.  He has told me that he doesn’t believe he has Celiac and wants to be retested.  He went on to say that once he turns 18 he is not going to follow the diet and he will eat whatever he wants.  He is due for a GI follow-up, so maybe she can help him understand the importance of adhering to the diet.

While his compliance concerns me, I can only do so much.  I can educate him the best that I can and continue to support him until he turns 18.  I have to come to accept that there is a point where I will have to let go of the reins.

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