Could A Gluten-Free Diet Protect Your Child From Diabetes?

If Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) runs in your family, you may be on constant alert for signs and symptoms of the development of this autoimmune disorder in your own child – excessive thirst, weight loss, or increased urination. While T1D can strike otherwise healthy children seemingly at random, there is some increasing evidence that cutting gluten from a child's diet (or even a pregnant mother's diet) can lower the risk of developing this illness. Read on to learn more about the relationship between gluten and diabetes so that you can make a better-informed decision about your child's diet. 

What is the connection between gluten and diabetes?

Although there have been a number of studies on the relationship between ingestion of gluten (as a fetus, infant, or toddler) and the later development of T1D, none have reached an unassailable conclusion that gluten consumption causes diabetes. However, a number of strong connections between gluten consumption and the development of T1D has been shown. That may drive your decision to change your child's diet.

In one study, young mice whose mothers were fed a gluten-free diet during pregnancy and weaning showed a much lower incidence of diabetes than mice whose mothers were on a gluten-containing diet during this time. Another study found that diabetic mice who were fed a gluten-free diet had a significant decrease in the volume of certain microbes found in their guts, suggesting that the inflammatory response that can often be triggered by gluten (even in those who don't have celiac disease) could make one's immune system more vulnerable to the later development of T1D. 

Should you cut gluten out of your child's diet?

Because of the inflammation a high-gluten diet can cause, those who are more susceptible than others to conditions that are autoimmune in origin – from eczema and plaque psoriasis to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis – can usually benefit from cutting out or at least reducing the amount of gluten in their diet. The wide availability of gluten-free options in today's restaurants and grocery stores can make this elimination diet much easier, and because gluten has no independent nutritional value of its own, your child's diet won't suffer even if gluten is never reintroduced.

If your child has already been diagnosed with T1D, you may still want to consider a hiatus on gluten consumption to see how this affects his or her blood sugar levels. Because many high-gluten foods are also high in sugar, they can cause blood sugar spikes that lead to crashes, making it difficult to administer the appropriate dose of insulin when needed. After some time on a gluten-free diet, you may find that your child has less frequent blood sugar spikes and crashes or even needs fewer insulin injections throughout the day.

For more information, contact Deyarman Allergy & Asthma Clinic or a similar location.