Will a gluten-free diet improve your health?

(Health.com) — Sarah Cooper was a new mom in her mid-20s, busily juggling her family and a career as an electrical engineer, when everything came to a halt.

She lost all her energy. She developed acne. And she began experiencing gastrointestinal problems: bloating, diarrhea, cramping, constipation. Her doctors, thinking something must be missing from her diet, put her on various vitamins, none of which helped.

“It was all I could do to go to work,” she says.

After years of failed treatments, Cooper’s luck changed. She saw a doctor who suspected she might have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can appear at any age and is caused by an intolerance to gluten.

A protein found in wheat, barley, and rye (and countless food products — like bread and pasta — that contain those grains), gluten gradually damages the intestines of people with celiac disease, preventing the absorption of vitamins and minerals and setting off a slew of related health problems, which can include fatigue and bad skin.