3 Signs Your Child Athlete Might Have Coeliac Disease

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Hi, Mia here! Just after I got pregnant with my first child, my husband and I decided to spend a few months abroad. While it was a great experience, I made the mistake of not learning the language before I left. Getting antenatal care was difficult when I couldn't communicate with the doctors, so I had to start learning things for myself. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to continue even when I got back home to Australia. This blog is filled with everything I've discovered over the years about managing your own health (and your family's health!) with and without medical intervention.


3 Signs Your Child Athlete Might Have Coeliac Disease

2 November 2017
 Categories: , Blog

Good health is essential to good athletic performance, especially where children are concerned. If your child is an amateur or elite athlete and their health seems to be suffering, coeliac disease could be to blame. This gastroenterological illness causes gluten intolerance and can lead to a range of side effects and symptoms that affect your child's ability to train and perform at their best. Here are 3 coeliac signs to look out for in your little sporting star.

They're Tired Halfway Through Training

Although it may seem logical that your child becomes tired as their training hours increase, it's important to remember that a good coach scales up training gradually as your child's body adjusts to handle it. So, if your child suddenly seems tired halfway through sessions, don't be quick to dismiss it as a natural consequence of increased activity. A child's stamina should increase as their athletic ability does, so a lack of stamina can suggest that something's wrong internally. One potential culprit is coeliac disease, which is known to cause fatigue. It can also cause other issues which lead to fatigue, including malnutrition and anaemia. 

They Keep Getting Injured

Another symptom of undiagnosed coeliac disease is low bone mineral density (BMD), which is shown to affect up to 75% of patients with the illness. Low BMD puts your child at risk of getting osteoporosis. In addition, the malnutrition coeliac disease can cause sometimes leads to a child becoming underweight, which further increases osteoporosis risk. Osteoporosis can greatly increase your child's chances of breaking a bone, so if your child athlete seems to be suffering a lot of injuries, coeliac disease could be to blame. To make matters worse, the tiredness and 'brain fog' that come with the illness can lead your child to become disoriented during practice, making them more likely to trip or fall.

They're Smaller Than Their Teammates

While all children grow at different rates, noticing that your child is much shorter or thinner than their teammates could be a cause for concern. As mentioned above, one side effect of coeliac disease is malnutrition, which can cause a child to look thin in comparison to their fellow athletes. More surprisingly, the disease can also make children short. Sometimes the height difference between a child and their peers is the only noticeable symptom of the disease, and studies have found that 15 to 59% of children with short stature actually had coeliac disease.

If your child has one or more of these symptoms and you suspect coeliac disease could be to blame, contact a gastroenterology specialist with paediatric experience for a diagnosis. When treated with a gluten-free diet, your child will soon be able to resume normal athletic activity and train to their heart's content.