Recently I ran across a question regarding lactose and dairy free labeling. I know it sounds like this doesn't deal with celiac disease, but bare with me. If you begin eating or increasing your dairy intake and notice new symptoms, increased symptoms, or don't see improvement after going gluten-free, it could be related to a lactose allergy.
Your body requires lactase to breakdown the lactose in foods. Lactase is the enzyme our bodies make to breakdown lactose. Lactose is a sugar that naturally occurs in milk and other dairy products. Here is the kicker, lactase is made by the microvilli in the small intestines. In celiac disease, the microvilli are damaged, so in turn lactase is hindered in its ability to produce. This can create a lactose intolerance, which you may never have had before.
There is a study (from the source listed below) that shows individuals diagnosed with celiac disease suffering from lactose intolerance can become tolerant of lactose again after following a strict gluten-free diet. Actually one out of 15 individuals recovered from their lactose intolerance within 6 months and nine out of the remaining 14 recovered within 12 months. It is probably safe to assume that the healing of their microvilli allowed the lactase to be produced properly again and allowing the breakdown of lactose.
It is necessary to understand that every individual that is lactose intolerant does not have celiac disease, but it could be related to a condition called lactase deficiency. This deals with just genetic make-up and the inability to produce enough lactase, but has nothing to do with celiac disease. But it is important to note that if you do suffer from celiac disease it would be beneficial to be tested for a lactose intolerance to make sure your symptoms are not continuing or being increased due to the damage that has occurred to your microvilli.
Now I want to bring clarification on lactose free vs dairy free labeling because they are different. Lactose free does not mean dairy free. Lactose free products don't contain lactose, but may still contain other dairy components. If it says dairy free you know you are safe from dairy, lactose, and casein, but lactose free you are still taking a chance with dairy. Understanding whether you are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy is important in identifying what precautions to take.
Ojetti V. et al. Regression of lactose malabsorption in coeliac patients after receiving a gluten-free diet. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2008;43(2):174-7.
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Hello, my name is Rachel. I am a wife, mother of four beautiful children, and a registered nurse. I have a passion for educating people on nutrition. I strive to "Put life back into your lifestyle," by connecting you to the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding gluten-free living and other topics on nutrition. Check out my blog, website, and feel free to drop me a line!