The silent affliction causing misery in millions

Celiac disease has been getting plenty of attention lately, and for good reason: Millions of Americans have this condition or other forms of gluten sensitivity, and most of them don't even know it.

All they know is that they're miserable -- and even their own doctors often can't figure out why.

New numbers from the Mayo Clinic find that 1.8 million Americans are battling celiac disease, but only 400,000 of them have been diagnosed with the condition.

That may sound like a lot of people, and it is.

But the numbers in the American Journal of Gastroenterology barely scratch the surface -- because tens of millions more actually suffer from gluten sensitivities without having celiac.

For them, it can be even more of a challenge to get diagnosed and treated since mainstream medicine believes you either have full-blown celiac or you're 100 percent fine with gluten -- with nothing in between.

And that's simply not the case.

Between 30 percent and 50 percent of Americans have some form of gluten sensitivity... and they're routinely told gluten isn't the problem, especially when a celiac test comes back negative.

So they keep eating the foods they can't handle, and they keep feeling worse. There are the obvious symptoms, like gastrointestinal pain, gas, and diarrhea, but also less obvious ones linked to gluten sensitivity, including fatigue, headaches, depression, Addison's disease, and more.

Some doctors will try to treat those individual symptoms with meds for those conditions, and of course they'll get nowhere since the patient is still eating gluten.

But at least they're trying -- other doctors will suggest all those problems are in the patient's head. And still others will just call it a "mystery disease" and claim there's nothing else they can do.

Well, it's no mystery to me, and it's not in your head -- it's the gluten, and if you suffer from problems that can't be explained or diagnosed, then maybe you should work with a holistic doctor on a gluten-free period to see if the symptoms improve.

In many cases, they will -- and if that's your story, you're going to have to learn to eat all over again.

It won't always be easy, since going gluten-free can be so restrictive, but there's a growing number of diverse and delicious gluten-free products and recipes out there than can help make sure you still get to enjoy your favorite dishes now without having to suffer later.