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How To Treat Gluten Related Lactose Intolerance

Aug 28, 2008
People with untreated Celiac's disease, often suffer from lactose intolerance or a milk allergy as well. Unfortunately because the symptoms of the two conditions are fairly similar, and the symptoms of lactose intolerance are more obvious, appearing within a couple of hours of eating dairy products, sometimes only the lactose intolerance is diagnosed. Actually most celiacs don't actually have a milk allergy, the condition is temporarily caused by Celiac's disease and is a symptom of that condition.

How does Celiac's disease cause lactose intolerance?

In a healthy digestive system, milk sugar, or lactose is usually broken down into simple sugars that are easily absorbed by an enzyme called lactase. Lactase is produced on the tips of the villi, tube-like growths on the wall of the intestine that help with the absorption of nutrients. In the digestive system of a celiac, gluten fighting antibodies attack the gut, damaging the villi and preventing the production of lactase to break down lactose.

If milk sugars aren't broken down by lactase, they can't be absorbed and they move into the colon where they are digested by normal intestinal bacteria. Water rushes into the colon in an attempt to dilute the lactose. This causes the symptoms of lactose intolerance such as excessive gas, bloating, stomach pains and watery acid diarrhea.

Treating a Celiac related milk allergy

Eliminating foods that contain gluten from your diet is the best way to treat all symptoms of Celiac's disease, including lactose intolerance. If you stop eating gluten, the villi in your gut will gradually repair themselves and become capable of producing the enzyme lactase again. This process is not instant and it will take at least six months before you stop being lactose intolerance. Depending on the progression of your Celiac's disease it may take up to two years.

To avoid the symptoms of lactose intolerance you might want to avoid eating dairy food for the first six month of your gluten-free diet, and gradually reintroduce dairy foods after this time. This will give your gut the chance to heal more quickly and effectively, but it can be hard to avoid dairy products when you are already struggling to stop eating foods that contain gluten.

Ask your doctor to test for Celiac's disease

When undiagnosed celiacs are diagnosed as lactose intolerant, they are encouraged to reduce the amount of milk products and dairy in their diet, and to change the way they eat dairy so that it is absorbed more easily. This change in diet may significantly improve their symptoms, but will not remove them altogether, and the gut will continue to be damaged by gluten fighting antibodies attacking the tissue.

Even though these sufferers will continue to experience symptoms, some will be so relieved to have a slight improvement that they won't ask their doctor to do further tests. Lactose intolerance can be an indicator of various other diseases such as Cryptosporidium infection as well as Celiac's disease so if you are diagnosed as lactose intolerant you should always ask your doctor to investigate further. A simple blood test can indicate whether or not you are suffering from Celiac's disease rather than a simple milk allergy.
About the Author
Sean Ambrose runs http://www.gluten-answers.com the web's most thorough source on providing free information on learning to manage a Gluten free diet successfully.
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