Gluten and dairy are best friends. My doctor explained to me when I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity that gluten and dairy have a very similar structure. So similar, in fact, it’s possible one’s body may read dairy as gluten. In other words, when you eat dairy your body may react as if you had just eaten gluten. Your body then sends out antibodies to fight the invader which results in persistent symptoms. This is an example of gluten cross-reactivity and is more common than one might think.
I happen to be someone for whom dairy and gluten are best friends. This was a hard fact to swallow (pun intended), and I would not believe it until my body commanded my attention.
I naively thought that when I stopped eating gluten all of my health issues would be resolved, but I was wrong. A year into being gluten-free, I had one dramatic episode of ischemic colitis and was jolted into reality. I saw specialists, had a colonoscopy, endoscopy, and upper GI series (barium swallow). I eliminated many foods from my diet and determined it was the dairy that was affecting my system and making me sick. I was not pleased, to say the least, because my favorite food was cheese.
This seemed impossibly unfair to me at the time. I felt sorry for myself being a culinary grad, pastry chef, and personal chef. I had already given up gluten and now must also give up dairy? How was I going to live without my staples of cream and cheese? These ingredients were the foundations of my culinary education. However, the thought of colitis made the choice to go dairy-free easy. And, I've discovered that there are many delicious dairy-free products with more and more coming to market. Cashew cheese is now my favorite.
What is dairy? All products that come from animal milk, including cows, goats, sheep, and buffalo. Technically, it’s actually the protein called casein in the dairy that is the best friend with gluten. And, the casein in cow’s milk has the highest amount of problematic protein. Some people who react to the casein in cow’s milk do not react to the casein in goat, sheep, or buffalo milk. I haven’t dared to try any milk from an animal since my episode of ischemic colitis, so I don't know where I stand on milk from other animals besides cows.
Butter contains small amounts of casein, and some people don’t react to this. I ate butter for seven months after I went “dairy-free" because there are differing opinions on whether the small amounts of casein in butter are enough to affect one’s system. I discovered that I am someone for whom even the tiniest measure of casein is too much and finally realized that butter had to go. Now, I’m officially dairy-free. Gluten and dairy are not my friends anymore.