SOUTH BEND — It is estimated 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease, and 97 percent of those who have it have not been diagnosed. Celiac disease is an often misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed autoimmune disease that damages the lining of the small intestine. Gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley — causes an autoimmune reaction that is harmful to people with celiac disease. By destroying the small intestine lining, the body cannot absorb many important nutrients. Celiac disease can occur at any age, and is difficult to diagnose because there are about 300 associated symptoms and conditions. In children, symptoms may include bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and mood changes. Continued and prolonged exposure to gluten can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, diabetes, thyroid disease, and lupus, among other diseases. The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet for life. Many gluten-free products are now available in grocery stores and natural food stores. Foods such as rice, potatoes, fresh fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed meats are also gluten-free. “After you've been on the diet for a while, the intestines will heal, the villi will grow back and the body will begin to absorb the nutrients again. And you will get healthy. You'll feel better, your symptoms will go away,” said Jeannie Derrow, RN, Memorial Hospital. This week, Memorial Hospital is putting on a Celiac Disease Awareness event. Educational materials will be on display Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the hospital's Chocolate Café. Local vendors that carry gluten-free products will also be on hand. On Wednesday evening Dr. Stefano Gaundalini, an internationally recognized expert on celiac disease, will speak at the Indiana School of Medicine at 1234 Notre Dame Avenue in South Bend from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.. Both events are free, and open to the community.