If you have a family history of gluten intolerance or celiac disease, the infant formula you choose and the possibility that it contains gluten will be at the forefront of your research for the perfect nutrition.
Most baby formulas do not contain gluten. In fact, if you look at the product label of most infant formulas, you won’t see gluten ingredients listed.
However, there is always a possibility of cross-contamination if the label does not specifically state “gluten-free,” so keep this in mind when you start reading labels.
European Baby Formula Stages
As your baby grows they will be ready to switch between European baby formula stages or develop a need for another type of European formula all together. After 6 months, many families will also introduce solid food to your little one’s diet.
At this time, gluten is introduced in some of the new baby foods. It is best to introduce one new food or formula at a time, and wait several days between introducing anything new to the baby's diet.
Switching formulas and switching foods at the same time can cause confusion as to which food/product might cause an adverse reaction. Taking caution allows you to pinpoint any adverse reactions quickly and be precise about what caused the response in your baby.
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What Ingredients are Gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye.
Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten free foods use substitutes like corn starch, xanthan gum, or guar gum to produce similar results of binding the foods together.
Grains, starches or flours that can be part of a gluten-free diet include:
- Corn — cornmeal, grits and polenta labeled gluten-free
- Gluten-free flours — rice, soy, corn, potato and bean flours
- Hominy (corn)
- Rice, including wild rice
- Tapioca (cassava root)
Gluten Allergy in Babies
For many parents reading about issues with gluten, the question of whether your baby has an allergy to gluten or a sensitivity is important.
To help you out, think of a gluten allergy as a wheat allergy, as this is the predominant cause of the allergic reactions. It will be difficult to know if your baby has a wheat allergy until you start feeding your baby foods.
There is some speculation that breastfed babies may experience wheat allergy symptoms sooner from the mother’s breast milk, but no scientific evidence supports this.
Usually you can have an allergy test for babies to identify if your baby has a true wheat allergy. The issue with these allergy tests is that they are not the most accurate this early on, and they may pick up other potential allergies that aren’t exact.
It is recommended to repeat allergy testing at 18 months to ensure the accuracy of the earlier test results. You might wonder, why take the test at all if it isn’t accurate? The allergy test for babies at least helps a parent narrow down what is causing problems in their baby and provides data to make decisions from in the future.
Gluten Allergy Symptoms in Babies
As much as 6 percent of the population may have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. When this happens it is beneficial to have a low or gluten-free diet.
By cutting or severely limiting gluten to little ones when there is a sensitivity, babies feel better in a short amount of time.
Celiac Disease in Babies
For about 1% of the babies in the United States, when gluten is consumed, it triggers an autoimmune response that can be severe and have effects that last a lifetime.
Some of the long term symptoms can range from severe psoriasis to thyroid dysfunctions and even lead to bigger health problems such as lymphoma and osteoporosis.
Celiac Disease Symptoms in Babies
Symptoms of celiac disease in infants include:
- Failure to thrive, including a failure to gain weight or even weight loss
- Swollen stomach
How can I tell if it is a gluten intolerance or sensitivity for my baby?
Your baby may not have a true gluten allergy, but gluten could still be affecting them. Sensitivities or intolerances are hard to identify and usually present themselves in slightly different ways. For gluten intolerance look for these symptoms:
- Rashes (hives/eczema)
- Bloating or constipation
With gluten sensitivity look for these signs:
- Upset Stomach
When examining both lists, you can clearly see an overlap in the symptoms. And since your baby is unable to speak, it’s hard to ask where exactly the pain is. As an intolerance is a more serious issue, completely avoiding gluten in your baby’s first year is important.
If the baby only has a sensitivity to the gluten or wheat, limited quantities may be acceptable for your baby to consume. This is baby dependent, as the level of intolerance can vary between each baby. Remember to speak with your pediatrician to determine the level of gluten sensitivity your baby may have and create the best plan to help feed your growing baby.
Here is a helpful chart to refer back to for signs of gluten intolerance or celiac disease:
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