ZocdocAnswersIs being gluten intolerant related to being lactose intolerant?

Question

Is being gluten intolerant related to being lactose intolerant?

Found out that my stomach problems are caused by a gluten allergy, so I stopped eating wheat. Is this the same kind of thing as being lactose intolerant? Are they related?

Answer

Lactose intolerance is a result of a lactase deficiency leading to the inability to digest and metabolize a sugar found in milk called lactose. Sugar molecules cannot be absorbed through the wall of the small intestine into a bloodstream without the presence of lactase to break them down. Therefore, when you drink milk its lactose remains undigested and passes intact into the colon where enteric bacteria quickly take over to lactose metabolism producing significant amounts of gas that give you abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and acid reflux. On the other hand, gluten intolerance has a different mechanism. Many people blame it on wheat. In fact, gluten is the protein not only found in wheat but also in rye, barley and oats. Gluten is what's irritating your gut that leads to a mild inflammation of the mucosa of the small intestine. The good news is that eating gluten does not usually cause damage unless you have celiac disease. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the villi in their small intestine that absorbs the nutrients from food and also produces lactase. Untreated celiac disease can lead one to think they have lactose intolerance. This lactose intolerance is temporary. Lactose intolerance associated with celiac disease ceases after the sufferer has been on a gluten-free diet long enough for the villi to recover. If you've had both gluten and lactose intolerance, I would recommend a visit with a primary care doctor who may refer you to a gastroenterologist for further tests and a firm diagnosis. Celiac disease is very serious.

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