Celiac disease can be a confusing condition, and the parents of children with celiac need all the help they can get. Recently, Children’s National released a free celiac smartphone app called the Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diet Resource Center.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is a disorder that affects the body’s ability to safely digest gluten. When individuals with celiac disease eat gluten, the body triggers an immune response that attacks and damages the small intestine’s villi – small projections that help absorb nutrients. When the villi become damaged, the body has trouble absorbing nutrients.

Celiac disease affects 1 percent of children worldwide. The disease is also hereditary; meaning a child’s risk of developing the disease is higher if someone in their immediate family also has the disease. Around 2.5 million Americans remain undiagnosed, putting them at risk for other disorders if left untreated.

One of the most confusing aspects of celiac disease is that it can develop at various times after children first eat gluten. Some children have allergic reactions to gluten almost immediately after it is first introduced into their diet. Others may not develop the disease and symptoms until years later. Celiac disease symptoms in children vary by age, but the most common ones include bloating, vomiting and bowel issues.

The only treatment for celiac disease is maintaining a strict, gluten-free diet. With many children being picky eaters in the first place, it can be difficult for parents to find appropriate gluten-free recipes and convince their children to try them. Although there are a lot of resources on gluten-free diets online, they are often spread out across the Internet, making it harder for parents to easily find relevant, helpful information.

To help parents plan gluten-free meals and access resources for living with Celiac disease, the Celiac Disease Program at Children’s National has released a free smartphone app called the Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diet Resource Center.

According to Vanessa Weisbrod, the app’s creator, “The Celiac Disease and Gluten-Free Diet Digital Resource Center was designed to offer patients and families all of our educational tools in one place. We have so many incredibly valuable resources, but all were housed in different places, making it very difficult to show people where to find them.”

Features of the app include:

  • Lists of safe and unsafe ingredients for gluten-free diets
  • Tips for buying gluten-free foods in grocery stores
  • A grocery store scavenger hunt to help parents become familiar with food labels, recipes and safe ingredients
  • Gluten-free recipes accompanied by instructional cooking videos
  • Nutrition education videos
  • Monthly podcasts
  • News from the celiac and gluten-free community
  • Continuing education seminars by gluten-free experts

“We are one of the few Celiac Programs in the country truly dedicated to developing high quality in-house patient education tools for families living with celiac disease,” Weisbrod says. “As we’ve shown our materials to other Programs, they always ask us to share them. Through the App, anyone living a gluten-free lifestyle now has access to these remarkable tools.”

The Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diet Resource Center app is available on both the Apple App Store and on Google Play for free.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Vanessa Weisbrod is the Community Programs Director at Childrens National and works in the Celiac Disease Program. She has also published two cookbooks that include gluten-free recipes.

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