Most of us don’t think twice before we eat bread, cookies or pizza crust. But for those who suffer from celiac disease, these foods can wreak havoc on the digestive system. The culprit is a protein called gluten.

Many people may not be familiar with celiac disease since it was previously thought to be common only in Europe. Recent research, however, demonstrates that it is prevalent in the United States. One study estimates that it affects one in 133 Americans.

What Are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease strikes both children and adults and affects everyone differently. Symptoms of celiac disease include but are not limited to the following:

  • Abdominal bloating or pain
  • Constipation
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Bone pain
  • Irritability

Celiac Disease Can Raise Risk for Other Conditions

If you have celiac disease, your body can’t properly digest foods that contain gluten. This decreases nutrient absorption into your bloodstream. It’s important to control celiac disease since it increases the risk of developing cancer of the intestine, osteoporosis and seizures. Recent investigations also point to a link with schizophrenia.

Why Can Detection of Celiac Disease Be Difficult?

The wide spectrum of symptoms can hamper swift detection of the disease. The condition also mimics symptoms commonly encountered with other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, depression and ulcerative colitis. If celiac disease is suspected, your doctor will check for substances called antibodies in your blood.”

What Treatment Is Available for Celiac Disease?

Although celiac disease cannot be cured, symptoms can be managed by following a gluten-free diet. This means avoiding most grain, pasta, cereal and many processed foods that contain wheat, rye and barley. Oats also may be harmful – research is ongoing.

Despite these restrictions, you can still enjoy a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, such as plain meat, fish, rice, vegetables and fruit. You can also buy gluten-free bread, pasta and other products.

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