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  • Jefferson Adams

    How is Lactose Intolerance Related to Celiac Disease?

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Once the damaged villi and microvilli to grow back, and the gut heals, the sensitivity to lactose often disappears.


    Many newly diagnosed celiacs cannot digest lactose for a while. Image: CC BY 2.0--Senado Federal
    Caption: Many newly diagnosed celiacs cannot digest lactose for a while. Image: CC BY 2.0--Senado Federal

    Celiac.com 03/12/2020 - Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerances. Many people with celiac disease also have lactose intolerance, especially at the time they are first diagnosed.

    Lactose intolerance happens when the gut fails to produce enough lactase, and enzyme that breaks down the lactose sugar in milk. Lactose intolerance can be inherited, but it can also happen as people get older and their bodies produce less lactase. Studies consistently shows that only about one in three people worldwide can digest lactose beyond seven or eight years of age.



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    Celiacs who eat gluten can become lactose intolerant after the villi and microvilli in their small intestine become damaged, and can no longer intercept and break down lactose molecules. 

    However, most people recover on a gluten-free diet. Once the damaged villi and microvilli to grow back, and the gut heals, the sensitivity to lactose often disappears. This can take time.  In most people, full gut healing takes between six months and a year.

    In some cases the villi and microvilli damage can take up to two years to heal fully. In any case, once the gut heals, lactose intolerance issues should disappear.

    Also, most people who are lactose intolerant can eat goat and sheep products, such as milk, yogurt and cheeses, such as feta and pecorino Romano, without any problems. Many people with lactose intolerance can also consume raw, unpasteurized dairy without symptoms. 

    Links to Goat, Sheep, and Raw Cow Milk Products 

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    Guest Carol Phillips

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    My mom, sister, and 2 aunts have celiac disease. I am lactose intolerant but as long as I stay on that diet I do not have any symptoms. Recently I had a positive Lupus test which then came back negative the 2nd time. I asked my doctor to test me for celiac and he did but the blood test came back as I did not have it. I am cold all the time and my family feels these are signs of celiac and that many people get false test results. Has anyone else had this or similar experiences that can offer me some advice? I do not want to be causing hard to my body and have future effects from it, but I also don't want to go on an expensive diet if I don't have to. I am 35 and have been lactose intolerant since I was about 23. Thank you for any insight!

    My nephew was recently diagnosed with Muckle-Wells disease. His symptoms were hives (since birth), joint pain, chills and eventually partial loss of hearing and eyesight. He's 25 and has never had anyone put all the symptoms together until now. It's a rare disease and not recognized by most physicians.

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    I wish restaurant owners would read this. So many of the gluten free options in restaurants contain dairy.

    I totally agree. Even when family try to accommodate me for picnics and barbecues, they are disappointed when they go out of their way to find gluten-free foods, but find out I can't eat them because of the lactose intolerance.

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    I have been diagnosed for two years and am 100% loyal to my gluten-free diet (not including accidental cross contamination). I am also on a high salt/high protein diet for a heart condition. I have been consuming Greek yogurt for a lot of that protein. After looking at this site, I am going to greatly decrease my intake of dairy to see if there are any further improvements to my health. For those who are new on the gluten-free diet....hang in there. You will go through a "mourning phase", and a "denial phase", and an "anger phase", but eventually you will be at "acceptance" and you will find that when people are around you consuming those cookies and doughnuts, you really don't care anymore, because you know how much better you feel now over the past life with gluten. I have been on the diet loyally for two years, minus one day when we celebrated out anniversary, our should I say, I ruined our anniversary, and I am not even tempted. There are things I miss, but not enough to return to the pain and illness.

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    I totally agree. Even when family try to accommodate me for picnics and barbecues, they are disappointed when they go out of their way to find gluten-free foods, but find out I can't eat them because of the lactose intolerance.

    Lactose intolerance and celiac disease are NO fun. Shocking when dieticians from reputable hospital recommend a product and upon looking at the ingredient list it contained milk powder! They don't get it and it's very frustrating as a patient!

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    My mom, sister, and 2 aunts have celiac disease. I am lactose intolerant but as long as I stay on that diet I do not have any symptoms. Recently I had a positive Lupus test which then came back negative the 2nd time. I asked my doctor to test me for celiac and he did but the blood test came back as I did not have it. I am cold all the time and my family feels these are signs of celiac and that many people get false test results. Has anyone else had this or similar experiences that can offer me some advice? I do not want to be causing hard to my body and have future effects from it, but I also don't want to go on an expensive diet if I don't have to. I am 35 and have been lactose intolerant since I was about 23. Thank you for any insight!

    I have been diagnosed with celiac by my naturopath. I am staying far away from doctors as all of them have told me according to my blood test that I am not a celiac sufferer even though I have all the symptoms. Since I have been gluten soy and dairy free I feel fantastic. Do not trust the blood tests as most are not very correct and if you did not have much gluten in your diet on the day or day before your blood test it can come back negative.

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    I was diagnosed in 1989 with celiac disease and told no dairy for six months, which I faithfully followed.  When I resumed I had no issues other than occasional headaches. Eventually had eczema itching on my legs and only thing doctors did was write a script for cortisone cream. In about 2000 migraines began, again no reasons found. Finally I stopped dairy. Amazing, headaches all but gone as well as eczema. We have to do our own investigating to understand our bodies. Gluten free has gotten easier to accept after all these years but dairy free has been very hard!  I hope this helps someone. 

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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