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Can You Eat Dairy on a Gluten Free Diet?

The gluten-free diet removes all sources of gluten, such as is found in barley, rye and wheat, from the diet. Gluten is found predominately in food prepared from gluten grains, like breads and pasta. It may also be found in other food products, such as seasonings and additives. Many foods, however, are naturally gluten-free, including dairy.

Reasons for the Diet

The gluten-free diet is medically therapeutic for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten causes your body to attack your small intestine. Small, hair-like projections in your intestine that trap nutrients, called villi, are destroyed, which could lead to malnutrition and other complications, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. If you have gluten sensitivity, ingesting gluten may cause symptoms such as headaches, diarrhea, constipation and fatigue, but your body does not actually damage itself because of gluten sensitivity. Naturally gluten-free foods will become staples of your diet if you have these conditions. Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, plain, unseasoned meats, all beans and legumes, nuts and grains like brown and wild rice, quinoa and corn are naturally gluten-free. Meet with a dietary professional to learn which foods are included in a gluten-free diet.

Dairy Products

Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, ice cream and milk are a healthy part of a well-rounded gluten-free diet. Milk and milk products are sources of calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein, which are needed for healthy bones and muscles. Women should consume the equivalent of 3 cups of dairy per day for for the most health benefits, recommends MyPlate.gov.

Food Additives

Flavorings and other ingredients containing gluten may be added to dairy products during production. Malt flavoring, often added to some flavored milks, ice cream and yogurt, is made from barley and contains gluten. Other dairy flavors may contain pieces of cookies, brownies or other treats made from flour. Products containing candy pieces may also contain wheat flour. Read dairy product labels to be sure the product doesn’t contain gluten ingredients.

Lactose Intolerance

If you have celiac disease, there is a good chance you’re also lactose intolerant, according to Mayo Clinic. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and dairy products. Your body uses an enzyme, lactase, to digest lactose from dairy products. Lactase is produced in the lining of the small intestine. Your small intestine may be damaged from celiac disease, which may prevent adequate production of lactase for digesting dairy. Symptoms of lactose intolerance may not appear until you’ve started a gluten-free diet, states the American Academy of Family Physicians. The symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain after eating dairy. Over time, you may be able to tolerate dairy as your intestine begins to heal while on a gluten-free diet.

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.