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The Importance of When to Introduce Gluten to a Baby

I received the following question from one of my readers who has celiac disease. It’s an extremely important issue for parents to be aware of, as we all want to be cautious of potentially increasing damage from celiac disease and gluten intolerance by introducing gluten inappropriately to a baby.

“I have been gluten free for almost two years. I am now pregnant with our first child, almost full term. I have of course been strictly gluten-free for the whole pregnancy, but now I have questions about our soon-to-be newborn. I am planning to breastfeed, so there is no change of gluten there, of course. But I have read and heard conflicting reports on if, or when, to introduce gluten-containing foods into his diet once he starts eating solids. My gut instinct is to keep our kitchen gluten free, but do I need to do any special testing for him? If so, when? I don’t want him to have to grow up being the “food intolerant kid”, but at the same time, I don’t want to introduce anything into his system that will cause permanent damage. What’s a mom to do?

Thanks, Kelly”

Being Cautious Without Being Overly Restrictive

I think all parents can relate to this dilemma. They don’t want their children to be the “different one”. But at the same time they want to protect them from ill health.

How Long to Breastfeed?

Breastfeeding for the first year is a must. Both mom and baby should get good probiotics into their respective GI tracts as soon as possible. Babies are born with sterile guts, so the good probiotics come from their mother. If mom is deficient, baby will be as well.

Kelly has been gluten-free for two years and she’s obviously feeling better, which is a great sign. It doesn’t necessarily mean that her leaky gut is completely healed, so probiotic replenishing would be a great idea.

When Shouldn’t You Introduce Gluten?

If baby is going to receive immunizations, which are a stressor to the system, any potential gluten introduction should be avoided when immunizations are occurring. This goes for teething, colds, etc. Any weakening of the immune system is a time when a gluten introduction could be problematic as infections are known to cause a transitory leaky gut.

What Does the Research Say?

Epidemiological evidence suggests that gluten should be introduced gradually while still breastfeeding between months 4-6. They also stipulate that breastfeeding should continue for at least 1 year. This is now the official advice of the European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology.

There is a clinical trial being conducted in Europe that is testing the effect of introducing gluten during this 4–6 month window while receiving breast milk.

Why I Don’t Fully Agree with the Above Research Findings

Between teething, vaccinations, the introduction of other foods, and the fact that babies are born with sterile GI tracts that take some time to properly colonize, I personally feel that introduction of gluten at 4 or 6 months of age will prove to be too soon. This is based on over 20 years of clinical experience, not personal research.

If I was having babies with the knowledge I now possess, I would do a genetic test both for celiac and gluten sensitivity before ever considering introducing gluten. So much data is coming out regarding gluten and its ill effects that it would be difficult to justify any other course of action.

Enterolab provides genetic testing for both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in a simple test that can be performed on an infant. Cyrex Lab offers a saliva test for celiac and gluten sensitivity. This isn’t a genetic test but it is one of the most comprehensive tests available currently. A child would have to be able to spit for this test, unlike the genetic test, which is simply a swab to the inner cheek. (I have no affiliation with either laboratory.)

Here is What You Can Do:

  1. Perform a genetic test for both celiac and gluten sensitivity.
  2. Based on the knowledge we currently have: no gluten for the first year of life at least.
  3. No introduction of gluten when the immune system is at all stressed.
  4. Probiotic supplementation using human strains (about 20 billion per capsule of a combination of probiotics strains such as lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidus, etc.) to start immediately for mom during and after delivery, minimally throughout the breastfeeding time frame.
  5. If you choose to introduce gluten, validate that your decision created no problems by performing a test such as the Cyrex Lab test that evaluates for both celiac and gluten sensitivity. This is a saliva test so it won’t involve a scary blood draw for a young child.

I hope this was informative and I know that you all will join me in wishing Kelly an easy delivery and a wonderfully healthy and happy baby!

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance or answer any more questions. Doing whatever we can to prevent the initiation of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity in the next generation will be critical in increasing our longevity.

To your good health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author The Gluten Effect”


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The information provided in this site is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice and is not intended to provide complete medical information. KidsMisdiagnosed, Inc does not offer personalized medical diagnosis of patient-specific treatment advice. All medical information presented should be discussed with your healthcare professional. Remember, the failure to seek timely medical advice can have serious ramifications. KidsMisdiagnosed, Inc urges you to discuss any current health related problems you or your child are experiencing with a healthcare professional immediately.