Gluten, Coeliac Disease and Its Effect on Lactose Consumption

Coeliac Disease Effects On Lactose Consumption.

An allergic food reaction sends someone to the emergency room every three minutes on average. (Facts and Statistics | Food Allergy Research & Education, 2018). An inappropriate immune response is a clear symptom of such. Food allergies have an adverse health effect when exposed to a specific food (Cunningham, 2016). When exposed to such foods, the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are harmless. Cunningham (2016) further states that responses can occur within seconds of the exposure to the trigger food through to 24-48 hours later. The severity of symptoms can be very minimal (itching, hives) to life-threatening (throat tightening, difficulty breathing).  A food intolerance reaction is to a food allergy in its symptoms. The body is disturbed by the trigger food however it does not affect the immune system as an allergy does (Dean, 2000).

Food intolerance is less serious in nature (Dean, 2000).

In 2011-12 The Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients identified 17% of Australians aged 2 years or over (or 3.7 million people) reported avoiding a food type due to allergy or intolerance. The most common type of food reported causing allergens/intolerance was Cow’s milk/Dairy (4.5%), followed by Gluten (2.5%). This survey showed that food allergy occurred more in males aged 31-50 years (17%) and females aged 51-70 years (25%).  On a global scale, researchers estimated that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. Of which 5.9 million children are under age 18. 30% of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food (Facts and Statistics | Food Allergy Research & Education, 2018). 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant to some degree (Facts and Statistics | Food Allergy Research & Education, 2018).

Prevalence Of Coeliac Disease

Coeliac Disease (CD), is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition. Coeliac Disease (CD) occurs with the ingestion of rye, wheat, barley and related cereal proteins in humans genetically predisposed(Ojetti et al., 2005). In Coeliac Disease (CD), immune cells mistakenly attack the lining of the small intestine and can occur when exposed to as little as 10-50mg per day with a single slice of bread containing 1600mg of gluten (Allen, 2015).  Coeliac Disease (CD) affects 0.3-1% of Caucasians. Woodward (2015) states that high prevalence also occurs in North African and Middle Eastern Populations. Woodward (2015) also affirms that there are seldom reported cases of Coeliac Disease (CD) in oriental or black Africans and that Coeliac Disease (CD) is mainly confined to the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent.


Gluten, the protein complex found in the endosperm portion of certain grains is responsible for CD (Lundin and Alaedini, 2012). Lundin and Alaedini, (2012) say that the inflammatory response in the small intestine due to consumption causes villous atrophy. The official diagnosis of Coeliac Disease (CD) is based on symptom history (ability to reproduce), family health history. Also, by the distinguishing changes found in the small intestinal by way of a biopsy i.e. absence of villi, lymphocytic infiltration and crypt hyperplasia (Lundin and Alaedini, 2012).

Figure 1: Some examples of side effects reported in association with Coeliac Disease


Coeliac Disease Treatment & Diagnosis

The introductions of a gluten-free diet are currently the only known treatment for Coeliac Disease (CD). Also, for and any diagnosed gluten-related disorders (Allen, 2015). Ironically, many of the foods that are gluten-free foods are natural whole foods that have not been synthetically created or modified. For example, all vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy products that have no added ingredients are all gluten-free (Brehm-Curtis, 2015). Brehm-Curtis (2015) explains that bread without wheat and gluten is a suitable choice for people with Coeliac Disease (CD).

In 2005 a study conducted by Ojetti et al. noted that CD is a common cause of secondary lactose intolerance. Ojetti et al., (2005) found that of all those studied with lactose intolerances, an outstanding 24% had villous atrophy, confirming Coeliac Disease (CD). Those with Coeliac Disease (CD) have extensive damage to the gut lining due to the consumption of Gluten. The enzyme lactase resides in the brush border of the small intestines. Meaning that the body isn’t making enough lactase or that the lactase enzyme is faulty (Ojetti et al., 2005). There is a greater incidence of lactose malabsorption in people affected by Coeliac Disease (CD).

Cunningham (2016) explains that even with the rising prevalence over recent years and the potentially fatal consequences that have made food allergies a daunting public health issue, there still has not been any developments in effective therapies to completely overcome Coeliac Disease (CD). Patients suffering from Coeliac Disease (CD) are to strictly avoid the allergens and understand the immediate care actions to take if exposed.


At The Chief Life, our plans are gluten-free and whole foods based. To learn more about gluten, click more.  If you need assistance in understanding how you can continue to enjoy life on what to eat to stay healthy. We are here to help you get through your nutrition fears by getting in touch. We’d love to hear from you.



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Amanda de Souza
Amanda de Souza

My health and fitness journey began in 2012 and although I am still a work in progress I am learning more every day and want to educate others as much as I can. Follow more great advice from Amanda on Instagram.