We often see gluten sensitive patients who don’t tolerate dairy products. The reasons behind this seem to be three-fold.
- Enzymes: First the villi of the small intestine not only give the small intestine its surface area for absorption of nutrients but also provide the enzymes necessary for the digestion of certain types of food, dairy chief amongst them. Specifically the lactase enzyme that allows the body to digest the milk sugar lactose, is produced by the tips of the villi. Due to the destruction of the villi in the gluten sensitive patient plus considering the tips of the villi are the first to be damaged, a lactose intolerance is a likely sequellae in the gluten sensitive patient.I often use the symptoms of known lactose intolerance as a red flag for testing for gluten sensitivity.Scientific papers say that it takes about a year after gluten has been completely eliminated from the diet for the enterocytes (the intestinal absorptive cells) to start adequate production of the lactase enzyme again.
- Allergens: Secondly, casein, the most abundant protein in milk, is one of the most common allergens. A study soon to be released estimates that while 34-38% of the general population shows elevated antibodies to casein (meaning that their immune system is reacting to it), 70% of gluten sensitivity patients show an elevation.
- Morphins: Lastly, both gluten and casein have a similar molecular structure and the by-products of their metabolism form substances known as gluteomorphin and casomorphin respectively. We discuss this in our book The Gluten Effect.These “morphins” refer to a morphine-like chemical, though it is much milder than morphine itself. The substances attach to opiate receptors in the brain and can result in diminished alertness, concentration and memory. They also give a feeling of calm and reduced tension explaining why often people crave the very foods they should most avoid.
So how should you proceed? If you’re newly off gluten I would consider a several month trial of being diary-free as well. If you’ve been off gluten for longer than a year, try removing dairy for about 6 weeks and see if you notice an improvement.
Also you can get a lab test to measure if you’re immune system is reacting to dairy. Casein antibodies and casomorphins can all be measured.
Good news, butter is okay – its predominantly fat. But if you want to be completely safe use ghee – it’s 100% fat with no remaining protein.
Missing ice cream? Our favorite new addiction is Bliss – a coconut milk and agave based product that’s not only delicious but gluten, dairy and sugar-free.
(The dark chocolate is my favorite.) Enjoy!