Does Gluten-Free Mean No Dairy?

by Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

You don’t have to give up your favorite dairy foods to go gluten-free! Most individuals following a gluten-free diet can safely enjoy dairy.

Gluten is a protein composite found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). From a medical standpoint, a gluten-free diet is primarily used to treat celiac disease.

When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, it causes inflammation in their small intestines. Eating a 100% gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control this issue, prevent symptoms and disease-related complications.

Some people who don’t have celiac disease may have similar symptoms when they eat gluten, which is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and they may also benefit from a gluten-free diet.

The good news is that most dairy foods are naturally gluten-free!

The good news is that most dairy foods are naturally gluten-free! Keeping dairy foods in your diet assures that good sources of calcium, vitamin D and protein are maintained for overall good health.

Dairy foods such milk, yogurt and cheese can add flavor to gluten-free foods, including pasta, rice, granola, cereal and breads. Single-serve dairy foods — think string cheese, yogurt and yogurt-based smoothies — are easy and nutritious gluten-free snacks.

Use caution with some dairy foods: Some dairy-based foods (foods where milk or dairy is not the only component) may have flavorings or additives that contain gluten, so it’s important to read the ingredient label. If you are still in doubt, call the manufacturer or visit their website.

In some cases of celiac disease, there could be damage to the intestinal lining, causing temporary difficulty digesting lactose, which is the natural sugar found in milk. But this doesn’t mean dairy has to be avoided — lactose-free dairy foods are great options, too! Try drinking lactose-free dairy milk, eating natural cheeses, such as cheddar and Swiss which are naturally low in lactose, and enjoying yogurt, which has active cultures that help digest lactose.

Karen Bakies RD LD FAND

Karen is a registered dietitian and is the Nutrition Affairs Director for the American Dairy Association Mideast. A scientist at heart, she seeks out quality nutrition research to share with others in a profession she is passionate about. Karen is a mother of three and enjoys cooking, gardening, running and traveling.


  1. DonnaMarie | | Reply

    The villi also contain lactase, the enzyme necessary to process lactose, the sugar in dairy. So when the villi are damaged, dairy intolerance is often the result. The difficulty digesting milk products that stems from celiac damage is called secondary lactose intolerance.

  2. Folwart | | Reply

    The case for not eating dairy is built on the same bullshit as the doctors that used to say what we eat doesn’t affect our skin, which is completely asinine coming from someone with that much education.

    Many people seem to find out they are gluten sensitive, then overreact and overcompensate. They don’t stop and think. While it’s possible to be dairy (maybe lactose) intolerant and gluten intolerant, I would wager that’s pretty rare. It’s an easy test. Go gluten free for 3 weeks, I did so by eliminating carbs. After this period, add dairy. I eat a ton of cheese, yogurt, heavy cream, butter, and I’m losing weight and maintain clear skin. What gets me is a carb source, likely gluten.

    Nobody can tell you what’s right for you but you. If one is serious about finding a solution for themselves, then one will take the proper steps to figure it out. If one wants an answer given to them, it may very well be a wrong one. One that will be too lenient and not alleviate the symptoms, whatever they may be, or it may make the diet excessively restrictive. If it’s not necessary to eliminate dairy, and you like dairy, don’t do it because cows eat grain. Cows can digest it just fine. If it’s already processed through them, then by the time it gets to you it’s not the same thing anymore. If it was, I’d get symptoms from it.

    • Folwart | | Reply

      Sorry for double post, I sent it before finishing.

      Listen to Mz. Bakies, she knows what she’s talking about. Avoid the processed stuff, that’s not actually food.

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