Gluten and Dairy Intolerance Connection: Is There One?

Last Updated on June 4, 2024

Today, we’re going to be looking at the gluten and dairy intolerance connection, and whether there is one. Intolerances to gluten and dairy are increasing, especially as more people are aware of the symptoms that usually come with an intolerance. However, does being intolerant to gluten, meaning you’ll be more susceptible to an intolerance to dairy? Let’s take a look.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is the collective name for a group of proteins that are found in cereal grains such as wheat, rye, barley and spelt. Gluten is most often used to help foods maintain their shape, improve texture or improve a food shelf life. You may think of gluten as a protein that is only present in foods such as pasta and bread. However, gluten can be found in a huge selection of foods, which is why maintaining a gluten-free diet can seem challenging at first.

The most common everyday foods and drinks that usually contain gluten are bread, cakes, pasta, baked goods, pastries, cereals – and even beer. However, this list is not extensive and there are many foods that may contain gluten; which is why it’s always best to check the ingredients label.

What Is Dairy?

Put simply, dairy is any food that has been made from milk. Of course, cows are the most common animals to produce dairy. However, goats, ewes and water buffalo also produce milk and can contribute to the dairy products we may come across in grocery stores.

The most common everyday foods and drinks that contain dairy are milk, butter, cream, cheese and yogurt. Much like gluten, dairy can be an ingredient that appears in a range of everyday foods such as sauces, soups, marinades etc.

What Is An Intolerance?

An intolerance (or a sensitivity, as it’s sometimes known) is when your body has a chemical reaction to a certain group of food or drinks or a specific grain such as gluten. To put it simply, your body can not break down these specific foods, due to the chemical reaction occurring in your body.

This is very different to an allergy. An allergy is when your immune system itself reacts to a certain ingredient. Allergies can be life-threatening and are most definitely not the same as intolerance.

Dairy and Gluten Intolerance Symptoms

Dairy and Gluten Intolerance Symptoms

Many of the symptoms you may experience when being either dairy or gluten intolerant will overlap, which is why it can be difficult to pinpoint which foods are causing you issues. The most common symptoms of dairy and gluten intolerance are:

  • stomach cramps
  • bloating
  • acid reflux
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea (sickness)

Rarer symptoms of undiagnosed intolerances can include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • chronic fatigue
  • imbalance to hormones

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Celiac Disease and Lactose Intolerance Connection

There is unquestionably a link between celiac disease and lactose intolerance. Before you receive your diagnosis of celiac disease, your gut will likely be suffering massively. Gluten can cause significant damage to your small intestine, which is where your body breaks down the enzyme which is found in dairy products – lactase.

Because of this, lactose intolerance is usually a symptom of celiac disease. However, it is usually only temporary and living on a strict gluten-free diet can help heal the damage, and help your body to tolerate lactose, once again.

Gluten and Dairy Free Recipe Ideas

Finding recipes that cater to both dietary lifestyles can feel overwhelming. However, many products that are gluten-free, are also dairy-free too. And there are plenty of delicious recipes you may like to try. If you’re looking for some inspiration to get you started, why not try one of these ideas from A Couple Cooks. They have recipes such as:

  • Quick Shrimp Stir Fry
  • Salmon and Asparagus
  • Vegetarian Fajitas
  • Coconut Tofu Curry
  • Honey Garlic Shrimp
  • Pan-Seared Scallops
  • Taco Salad
  • Lentil Soup

Your diet doesn’t have to be boring, just because you live with these intolerances. It’s simply about finding the foods that work for you. It’s worth noting that foods such as meat, fish and vegetables are all naturally gluten and lactose-free; which is a great starting point for any meal.


I hope this article has helped you to look more closely at the gluten and dairy intolerance connection. To put it simply, there is most definitely a connection. However, the two do not always go hand in hand, and you can certainly have one without the other. But if you’re still experiencing symptoms after removing one from your diet, it may be time to try removing the other too.

Dr Stefano Guandalini of the University of Chicago on celiac and lactose intolerance:

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