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Does gluten cause your child to be irritable and disturb their sleep?


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#1 Genabee

Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:32 PM

DD (20 months) has recently had a trial period of being gluten free, based on our paediatrician's advice, due to suspected coeliac disease (or at the very least, gluten intolerance). DD began to lose weight, in addition to a whole host of other symptoms, and as the paed wasn't sure how long a wait it would be until we saw the gastro, she wanted us to stay gluten free as DD had begun to put weight on. (I am aware this is against the normal protocol for those being tested for coeliacs, and questioned this myself initially).

Fast forward 2 months and we have seen the gastro, have been tested for the gene (currently waiting for the results), further bloods will be done next month (testing for other things as a precautionary measure) and a biopsy has been booked for March. In the mean time we have begun to reintroduce gluten, starting with small amounts, increasing daily. Since the reintroduction of gluten to her diet, DD has been increasingly irritable, either completely refuses to have a day sleep or only sleeps for an hour (previously would happily sleep for up to three hours) and is waking up overnight (previously would sleep through uninterrupted).

Previously to going gluten free, her stools were frequent and often explosive and she was always irritable. On a gluten free diet, stools normal and she was averaging 1 to 2 per day; she has been sleeping well and she has been a much happier toddler. Over this past week, stools have increased in frequency again, but at this stage they are still seemingly normal. Her tummy is extremely bloated and her facial rash has reappeared.

I am interested to know if anyone else's children (coeliac or otherwise) have similar behavioural reactions to gluten? Is this coincidental and I am just hyper sensitive to it (as we are keeping a diary of inputs and outputs), or can gluten send our kids feral???!!!! OR is this suggesting there is definitely some underlying intolerance or coeliac disease and this is how she reacts?

#2 FeralZombieMum

Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:38 AM

My DD with Coeliac disease was quite irritable - part of that was because she was low in iron and lacked energy, the other part was because she felt sick.

Her sleeping was shocking too - but she woke up most nights with night terrors and was very difficult to calm down and she could easily scream for a couple of hours. Our solution at the time was for me to co sleep in her bed and I did this for about 12 months until she was finally diagnosed.

She also had a few red flags for Aspergers, but within 2 weeks of being gluten free, she was a completely different child.

#3 Genabee

Posted 26 January 2013 - 06:29 PM

Thanks Zombie Mum.

DD is doing a gluten challenge at the moment and within a day of her having the smallest amount of gluten, her behaviour has changed completely. She is constantly irritable and lethargic. Also has become unusually clingy and is waking screaming at night (after sleeping through for ages).

I phoned the gastro to ask if this was normal and she basically told me that it has nothing to do with giving her gluten, even if she is coeliac! But there is nothing else we can attribute the sudden change to. It's so frustrating.

So, we are still hanging in there and giving it to her, counting down the days until the biopsy...

#4 VintageEyes

Posted 26 January 2013 - 07:03 PM

Since starting gluten free DS has been sleeping much better. He still wakes up a couple of times a night, but he now will be still, whereas before he would be writhing around all night even when being held.
It makes sense that he is also less irritable because he is getting much beyer quality of sleep.

I wasn't all aware that this could be a side effect, so there is no chance it is just a coincidence/placebo.

#5 75etd

Posted 26 January 2013 - 07:38 PM

My 2.5yo DD has been on a gluten free and lactose free diet since she was about 12 months. This change to gf and lf coincided with her beginning to sleep through the night. In my opinion it was no coincidence. There have been times when we've been on holidays when she has not followed her gf and lf diet and sure enough night waking started occurring again. She also has eczema and dry skinafter a period of time eating a diet containing gluten and lactose.

As she doesn't sleep as well when not following her gf and lf diet she is definitely more irritable, however this could also possibly be attributed to her having a pain in her belly.

Follow your instinct. Numerous doctors have previously told me my DD couldn't be lactose intolerant, nor could her ezcema be attributed to food intolerances-well I can tell you they are wrong. Doctors are not always a font of all knowledge.

Do you have a family history if celiac disease? Am interested as we have made a decision not to test for celiac at this point in time, however it is always in the back of my mind. My DD does seem to be able to tolerate gluten more readily than she did a year ago. Also my DD has never had the explosive poos our problems with gaining weight.



#6 libbylu

Posted 26 January 2013 - 07:48 PM

Have you also had her iron checked?
Kids with coeliac sometimes have low iron, and low iron is associated with night waking and irritability.
Of course, she could just be waking at night and be irritable because the gluten is giving her a tummy ache.

#7 ~Joanne~

Posted 26 January 2013 - 07:56 PM

My DS was diagnosed at 21 months after months of trying to find out what was wrong with him.

As a baby and a young toddler he was an angel...slept well, very content but that all changed with the onset of Coeliacs Disease. His sleep was often disturbed, his tummy bloated and he was so very irritable. He would lose it at the smallest of things which was so out of character for him. Nobody wanted to babysit him as he had become so difficult to handle.

After diagnosis and a strict gluten free diet he returned to his old self.

Are you seeing a pediatric gastro?

#8 mum2cooper

Posted 26 January 2013 - 07:57 PM

My children don't react to gluten but we have a friend who is 6 who says his head feels funny and he has behavioural problems when he has gluten - no other side effects from what I know. He is now on a gluten free diet and doesn't have the issues he has when he eats gluten. If you think there is a link I would be inclined to believe it after seeing what gluten can do to this friend of ours.

#9 ~Joanne~

Posted 26 January 2013 - 08:04 PM

QUOTE (libbylu @ 26/01/2013, 08:48 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Have you also had her iron checked?
Kids with coeliac sometimes have low iron, and low iron is associated with night waking and irritability.
Of course, she could just be waking at night and be irritable because the gluten is giving her a tummy ache.


Very true!

Make sure your doctor checks for mineral deficiencies. DS was very deficient in iron and vitamin K.
Our doctor was very hesitant in doing our son's initial biopsy because of the vitamin K deficiency as it affects the ability of the blood to clot.

#10 Carmen02

Posted 26 January 2013 - 08:11 PM

DS does become very lathergic when he has gluten! He was diganoised almost 2yrs ago at a guess! (his 8) Time goes way to quickly, his behaviour doesnt change his the most easy going boy around!

#11 FeralZombieMum

Posted 26 January 2013 - 08:15 PM

If your DD has Coeliac Disease - then her body is treating gluten like poison. Symptoms can be like gastro or food poisoning.

Imagine how you'd be feeling if you ate something that didn't agree with you - you'd have trouble sleeping, and you'd feel irritable because you just feel sick. sad.gif She might also be feeling hungry, but might not feel like eating. She might also be having cramps.

Unfortunately, even some medical people that are supposed to be knowledgeable, lack proper understanding of all the symptoms a gluten reaction can cause, and give incorrect advice.

It's a pity the paed suggested trialling the gluten free diet first, but unfortunately this isn't uncommon. sad.gif

My DD didn't have severe immediate reactions prior to being gluten free, but once it was removed, she became extremely sensitive. We have even had to ban cooking with normal flour in our kitchen to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
These days she does get irritable if she's been exposed to trace amounts. She also gets sick. sad.gif

It's really hard to watch your child react this way, knowing that what you're feeding them could possibly be making her sicker. It's good that she's a young age - in some ways it would be so much harder if this was happening when she was at school because she might miss weeks of her education. And I'm assuming she's still in nappies, so easier on her to deal with those side effects. (not so easy for mum wink.gif ).


Make sure you are giving her as much gluten as possible - you want that damage to show up in a biopsy (it can be patchy), because then it won't drag out for too long.

#12 Genabee

Posted 26 January 2013 - 08:51 PM

Thank you everyone for your responses and support.

To answer a few questions:

Yes, there is a history of coeliac disease in the family; my father and sister both have it and I carry the gene. I currently test negative for coeliac, but I am pretty sure I am gluten intolerant as I feel much better on a gluten free diet. Hence we are confirming/ruling out CD as a diagnosis for DD.

Yes, we are under a paediatric gastro.

Her iron levels tested at the low end of the normal range. Her vitamin D levels were 'good', thyroid and liver function were normal. We are going to be doing a whole lot of repeat bloods at the end of Feb, and also testing for a range of other allergies and further looking at the immune system. We are still waiting for her gene test for CD to come back (if it is neg, I assume they won't be going ahead with the biopsy that is currently scheduled for March).

She is now having gluten in all major meals and it is definitely impacting on the gut. Today we had 5 dirty nappies...  sick.gif She seemed to be constipated for the first week back on gluten (which she has rarely been in the past, but there you go), but now we are back to loose bowel movements - not quite liquid, but give her another couple of days and I am guessing they will be.

I am convinced she is having gut pains, as when she cries out in her sleep, she is moving all over the cot trying to get comfortable (usually with her bum up in the air). Other times you see her irritable as, trying to pass wind or do a poo, then once she does, she is happy for a little while...

She hasn't lost any weight since reintroducing it, but she hasn't gained any either. Bloated tummy is back though. sad.gif




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