• Lactose is the natural sugar present in milk (dairy) and in foods made from milk.
  • People with lactose intolerance cannot digest lactose.
  • People with celiac disease may be lactose intolerant because their small intestine is damaged and they cannot break down lactose. 1
  • Symptoms of lactose intolerance vary. 2 Common ones are gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and loose stool or diarrhea.
  • Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be similar to gluten exposure. But, unlike gluten exposure in people with celiac disease, lactose does not damage your intestine.
  • There are two ways to test for lactose intolerance - a low-lactose diet trial at home or a breath test. Read the next level for more details.
  • Most people with lactose intolerance can control their symptoms on a low-lactose diet. This means they do not have to completely avoid products with lactose.
  • Some people may be able to tolerate lactose again once the small intestine heals on the gluten free diet.
  • Milk and milk products have many key nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Ask your doctor or dietitian to help you balance your diet to get all the nutrition your body needs.




  • Lactose intolerance is very common in celiac disease.
  • Lactose intolerance can usually be controlled on a low-lactose diet. Complete avoidance of lactose is usually not necessary.
  • People with lactose intolerance may find that they can tolerate milk and milk products again once their intestine has healed on the gluten-free diet. It varies greatly from person to person.


  1. Lactose Intolerance and Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease Foundation.
  2. Lactose Intolerance. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Accessed May 2, 2011.

Revision Date: 8-20-12 
Author: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN 
Editors: Suzanne Simpson, RD and Daniel Leffler, MD, MS

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