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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Should I avoid dairy products if I have Celiac disease?

I have Celiac disease, and I keep reading that Celiacs should stay away from dairy because it promotes inflammation. But dairy has always been one of my main "foods."

I use raw milk and make my own kefir, yogurt, butter, and cheese, in addition to just drinking it. Is raw milk as bad for Celiacs as processed milk? Also, would I need to stay away from yogurt and kefir? (I cannot take probiotics in capsule form.)

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Foods made from fermented milk, including yogurt and buttermilk

There is some research that indicates many Celiac patients may be intolerant of diary products. There is, however, more than one explanation for this.

One is that many with Celiac disease are also lactose intolerant. There's a large number of the population who can't tolerate lactose-containing foods because of the lack of production of the enzyme, lactase, that breaks down lactose.

There have been some reports of intolerance to milk proteins in many of those with Celiac disease. Studies have shown elevations of antibodies to milk proteins in up to half of those who are gluten intolerant. You may not be one of those.

Even with some of these concerns, there are also reports that many with Celiac disease respond well to processed dairy like yogurt. You may be one of those. I'm sorry I can't be more specific in your case - you will need to try different milk products and record your reactions in order to know which products (if any) might be a problem for you.

Thanks for writing.

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet