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Celiac Disease Program

Video: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer talks with Children’s About Celiac Disease
Children’s National gastroenterologist John Snyder talks about celiac disease with CNN
Children’s National is helping to improve the way pediatric celiac disease is diagnosed and treated. Working in partnership with concerned members of our community, our Celiac Disease Program brings together a team of expert physicians, nurses, nutritional consultants and professional counselors dedicated to developing a national model for detecting and treating celiac disease in children.

Our goal is to attack celiac disease aggressively through improved diagnosis, treatment and awareness, using a five-pronged approach.

1) Meeting Physical Needs

The only treatment for celiac disease at this time is to remove gluten from the diet. For some patients, starting a gluten-free diet can result in improvement in as little as two weeks. Our Program will:
  • Screen children with any of the broad range of celiac disease symptoms who are seen in all specialties at Children’s National
  • Offer nutritional education and practical solutions for patients beginning a gluten-free lifestyle
2) Meeting Psychological Needs
As maintenance of a gluten-free diet can prove to be a significant challenge, especially for adolescents and young adults, we offer psychological support as part of our clinic. Our Celiac Disease Program includes a psychologist to help children and their families adjust to the lifestyle changes associated with celiac disease. We strongly believe the mind and the body must be treated together to insure the best outcome for our patients. Our Program:
  • Employs integrative medical techniques, such as biofeedback, to help children deal with the stress associated with their lifestyle change
  • Empowers children to feel confident when explaining their dietary needs to others
  • Treats feelings of isolation and depression resulting from their diagnosis
  • Creates support groups for children and their families
3) Education and Training of Health Professionals
A crucial component of our approach is our Continuing Medical Education Program which teaches the best practices for diagnosing and treating children with celiac disease to other health care professionals in the community. Our Program:
  • Increases awareness of celiac disease and its potential for misdiagnosis
  • Organizes educational seminars for all groups of health care providers
  • Hosts yearly conferences to discuss new knowledge and best practices
  • Encourages doctors to test all family members of affected children to identify anyone who has the atypical form of the disease
4) Community Outreach and Advocacy
Building awareness of the disease and its symptoms among our patients and the general public will help prevent the dangerous consequences of ignorance or misdiagnosis. Our Program:
  • Visits schools to educate nurses, teachers, and students about celiac disease
5) Research
An active basic and clinical research program will bring us closer to developing new diagnostic tools and treatments for children with celiac disease. Our Program will:
  • Establish a Fellowship Program to recruit researchers, engage in clinical projects, and create new approaches to diagnose, treat and support patients with celiac disease
  • Foster collaborative, interdisciplinary research projects that will increase the understanding of this complex disease and define new approaches to diagnosis and care
  • Promote a celiac registry for education and research efforts

What is Celiac Disease?

Read a parent's letter
Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. About one in 100 children has celiac disease, making it one of the most common conditions in children.

People who have celiac disease are permanently intolerant to gluten, a protein found in all forms of wheat, rye, and barley. When ingested by affected individuals, an autoimmune reaction causes inflammation and damage to the nutrient-absorbing villi in the small intestine. If left unchecked, damage can occur in nearly every system in the body: skeletal, reproductive, neurological, and dermatologic to name a few.

Although the common belief is that gluten is found only in foods, the protein is actually used in many everyday products including medications, vitamins, adhesives used for stamps and envelopes and cosmetic products such as lotion, shampoo and lipstick.

A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for Celiac Disease.

If you are concerned that your child may have celiac disease, a diagnosis should always be confirmed with the help of an experienced physician. Children’s specialists have the expertise to make the diagnosis and help families manage the disease.

To diagnose celiac, physicians usually test blood to measure for higher than normal levels of certain autoantibodies in their blood. Fortunately, the disease is well managed with a change in diet. Because treatment for celiac is nutritional, the program emphasizes patient education, and we offer a range of patient and family-centered programs about living with and managing celiac disease.

Our team includes experts in gastroenterology (digestive disorders), laboratory medicine (testing and monitoring), and pathology (disease treatment evaluation). Counseling support is available through the Division of Psychiatry and the social work team at Children’s National.

Children’s free online resources also help make the change to a gluten-free diet a little easier:

Please explore the links below to learn more about Celiac Disease:
What is Celiac Disease?
What are the symptoms of Celiac Disease?
How is Celiac Disease diagnosed?
Who should be tested?
Treatment: The gluten-free diet
What foods should my child avoid?

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Sign-up for the Celiac Disease Digest

Our free e-newsletter Celiac Disease Digest is another resource for parents of children with celiac disease. Sign-up for the Celiac Disease Digest below.

View past editions:
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
Summer 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
October 2010
September 2010
July 2010

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