Gluten & Dairy Free? Here's What You Should Consider First.

Gluten & Dairy Free? Here's What You Should Consider First.

Have you noticed a spike in gluten-free and dairy-free trends lately? Many people are following this trend to help find relief from inflammation, food sensitivities, digestive issues, or chronic disease. Gluten and dairy are two of the top allergens that spike symptoms in the body, but when you need to get rid of both gluten and dairy, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Here’s what you’ll need to know before you “gut started”.

As always, this info is for education and inspiration only. None of the information in these posts is meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or prescribe. Please talk to a medical professional before making any changes.


What The Gut Is Gluten?

Gluten can be found in the endosperm of grains such as wheat, barley, and rye.  It’s a type of protein known as a prolamin and is essentially the “glue” that holds baked-goods together giving them their stretchy quality.

Although it has become a fad to cut out gluten, only those that suffer from Celiac disease or have wheat and gluten allergy are truly at risk. Celiac is an autoimmune disease where the presence of gluten prompts the body to attack the small intestine, which is where our nutrients get absorbed. If this intestine is under attack, it can cause bloating, digestive distress, malabsorption, and long-term health problems.

Those with a wheat and gluten allergy will experience rashes, hives, sneezing, or a runny nose after eating wheat products.This is similar to someone with a peanut allergy eating a peanut. 

Those with non-Celiac gluten intolerance struggle with digesting gluten, but the root issue of the inflammation usually stems deeper and should consider taking a holistic approach to figuring that out.

Please note the difference between an allergy and intolerance here. Allergy meaning it could be life threatening and an intolerance being inflammation. These two are often thrown around in the same context, but they are quite different.


What The Gut Is Dairy?

Dairy refers to the milk produced by mammals, such as cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and even camel’s milk. For those that are lactose intolerant, dairy causes symptoms like bloating or digestive distress. The other issue seen with dairy is difficulty digesting casein (the primary protein in dairy).

Quality also matters when it comes to dairy. Have you ever noticed that when you travel to Europe, you’re able to tolerate the cheese? Someone may do better with raw, 100-percent grass-fed cow’s cheese compared to a more conventional option due to their additives. Also, goat's milk is easier for the body to digest than cow’s milk.


Guttin’ Down On Inflammation With Gluten 

Basically, cutting out gluten and dairy can potentially help someone eliminate two major sources of inflammation but keep in mind this doesn’t actually heal the root cause of the inflammation, so I only recommend it as a starting point for clients. A healthy body should be able to tolerate these foods in moderation, but that’s for a different article post…

Let’s start with gluten. There are several ways that gluten can lead to inflammation in the body, and there are also several conditions that can benefit from a gluten-free diet, especially when seeking mental clarity. You can read more on the gut-brain connection here.

First off, gluten contains things called anti-nutrients, which are proteins found on some plants that inhibit the absorption of nutrients. Second, consuming gluten prompts the release of zoulin. Zonulin signals the tight junctions of the intestinal wall to open, it’s actually the only protein that does this. 

For most healthy adults, this isn’t a big deal as the junctions within the gut can generally repair the damage after the meal and you go unaffected by it. But for those with compromised digestive tracts, this can lead to larger issues such as leaky gut and autoimmunities.


Guttin’ Down On Inflammation with Dairy 

Next we have dairy. Dairy contains proteins and sugars that require specific enzymes for digestion, and if you don’t have those enzymes inflammation can occur. The problem with modern sources of conventional dairy are the additives and growth hormones.

There are two big inflammatory markers from dairy: Lactose intolerance and casein or whey “sensitivity”. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest a specific sugar contained in dairy. Digesting lactose requires an enzyme lactase. Casein or whey “sensitivity” is the body reacting to foreign proteins leaking into the bloodstream.

This could be due to intestinal barrier breakdown, allowing milk proteins to enter the digestive system from a weakened interstitial barrier or it can also be a reaction to milk proteins that have been denatured through heavy pasteurization. This is why raw dairy or goats dairy are easier to digest. They still contain lactase enzymes to help us break down lactose.


Tips for doing it right:

Test don’t guess

As with everything, test to make sure if you are allergic or intolerant, don’t guess. Eliminating unnecessary food groups can lead to deficiencies in essential minerals and vitamins. If you’d like to learn more on how to do that, I invite you to book a ‘How to Gut Started Call’ here.


Read labels 

Gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives have to be replaced with something else. This is why reading the labels on your packaged replacement are key. This also goes for the dairy and gluten options, which also often have additives. Sneaky gums, thickeners or carrageenan and added synthetic vitamins can be really hard on an already irritated gut or burdened liver. Which brings me to my next point…


Replace with REAL food

Instead of looking for gluten and dairy-free swamps, look to replace them with real foods. For wraps use lettuce or rice paper wraps and for a creamy alternative to dairy try swapping with tofu or cashew. Using these helps to eliminate the possibility of further irritation from fillers and additives.


Get to the root cause

The main reason people can’t digest certain foods is because their guts are constantly irritated. This can be due to an excessive amount of plant fibers or PUFA’s. Common, yet not often spoken about, culprits include nuts and seeds, huge amounts of raw greens and undercooked cruciferous veggies, beans and grains. If there’s bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, it can irritate our microvilli and wear them down.

As healthy adults, we should be able to tolerate both gluten and dairy in moderation. It’s all too often I see people eliminating foods without the knowledge or understanding of the root cause of the sensitivity, gut irritation or bacteria overgrowth in the small intestine. Eliminating foods without further investigating can lead to an imbalance in digestive enzymes and perpetuate these symptoms like digestive upset or autoimmunities. A healthy body should be able to tolerate all spectrum of food.

I thought dairy was a problem for my autoimmunity issues for years. Turns out it was the over abundance of nuts, seeds and raw salads. Without doing the work to get to the root cause of gut irritation, you’ll continually come up empty handed and bloated (literally). 

To learn more about this and the ways I’m helping women actually heal for good with my 8-Week Gut Accelerator, book in a quick chat with me here.