Signs of celiac disease

If every meal leads to an upset stomach, you might be allergic to gluten, a protein found in wheat.

Celiac disease, or gluten allergy, affects at least 3 million Americans. Many people realize they have it after they start having issues digesting foods with wheat but Celiac disease is much more than just "tummy trouble". Learn the signs and symptoms of Celiac disease so you can get on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

What is it? Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which gluten inflames the lining of the small intestine; it affects women and men equally. When your body releases antibodies in response to the gluten, the tiny intestinal villi, which absorb nutrients, can be damaged. Untreated celiac disease also can lead to osteoporosis, infertility and some cancers.

Symptoms: Signs of celiac disease vary but often include diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. If you suspect you have the condition, ask your doctor for a blood test. If positive, an intestinal biopsy might result in a more detailed diagnosis. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity are similar, but do not include intestinal damage.

Should I avoid gluten anyway? Unless you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you shouldn’t jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Experts say to keep eating gluten regularly if you have no medical reason to avoid it. Replacing foods from your typical diet with gluten-free versions might mean you’ll miss out on iron and other important nutrients. But, if you have type 1 diabetes, you should know that new research suggests you could see a decrease in your blood-sugar levels after following a gluten-free diet. And, studies indicate that people with diabetes who have celiac disease and stop ingesting gluten might have less hypoglycemia.