Gluten Free, Casein Free and/or Low Lactose Diets

Three of the most common food intolerances are to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and kamut), casein (a protein found in milk and other dairy foods) and lactose (a sugar found in milk and many dairy foods).

Common symptoms of gluten intolerance include drowsiness after eating, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea and general tiredness. Common symptoms of dairy intolerance include chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, runny nose or chronic earaches and digestive problems such as stomach ache, gas, bloating, belching, diarrhea or constipation. Gluten, casein and lactose intolerance can all cause or contribute to depression.

There are tests to identify celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance, however these tests will not identify other forms of gluten intolerance and will not identify casein intolerance. There are also hydrogen/methane breath tests for lactose intolerance but these do not identify casein intolerance. If you suspect gluten and/or dairy intolerance, the best test is to trial a gluten free, casein free and lactose free diet.

The diet involves completely removing all sources of gluten, casein and/or lactose. Many practitioners recommend eliminating all three together as the symptoms can be quite similar and if you are, for example, intolerant to both gluten and casein but only eliminate one or the other, your symptoms may not change significantly. Even a tiny amount of gluten or casein can cause the results of the diet to be inconclusive, so it is important to be very rigorous, read labels carefully and be on the lookout for hidden sources of gluten, casein and lactose.

Sources of gluten include:

  • Anything containing wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or kamut
  • Bulgur, couscous, durum, semolina, triticale
  • Pasta (unless its labeled gluten free)
  • Breaded, battered or stuffed foods, foods that have been floured before frying
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate), HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein), TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • Anything that contains the words gluten, gliadin or glutenin on the label
  • French fries (which are often dusted with flour before freezing)
  • Processed cheese
  • Most soy sauce
  • Caramel coloring
  • Modified food starch
  • Many mayonnaises, salad dressings and sauces

Sources of casein and/or lactose include:

  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, cream, sour cream, ice-cream, buttermilk, goats milk, sheeps milk
  • Casein and caseinates
  • Milk solids (curds)
  • Milk protein
  • Whey, whey protein
  • Lactose and any other ingredient that begins with "lact" (sodium lactylate, lactalbumin etc)
  • Some margarines
  • Some "natural ingredients" - check with the manufacturer
  • Some medicines and vitamins - lactose is commonly used in coatings and bindings. Check the labels and check with your pharmacist
  • Many products labeled "Nondairy" - these can still contain casein and/or lactose.

Ghee (clarified butter) is casein and lactose free and can be used as an alternative to butter.

Gluten intolerance can take much longer to recover from than other food intolerances, as the gluten causes damage to the intestinal tract and this can take several months to heal. It is often recommended to trial a gluten free diet for at least 30 days.


If you find that you have a problem with dairy but not with gluten, there are several different options for managing the problem. You can try using lactose free milk and see if your symptoms come back. Remember that it may take a few days for symptoms to re-appear. If you are OK with lactose free milk then you have lactose intolerance and should be able to tolerate any of lactose free dairy products. Some cheeses are also very low in lactose. You can also take Lacteeze, which contains lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. Take this before you consume dairy products that contain lactose.

If lactose free milk causes symptoms, you are probably intolerant to casein.

Enzymes that contain high levels of protease, such as Enzymedica's GlutenEase, can help digest both casein and gluten. People with leaky gut, intestinal cell damage and other similar digestive problems are unable to produce the enzymes they need to break down casein and gluten. Products like GlutenEase supply the missing enzymes and allow some people to add gluten and casein back into their diets. However it is important to note that these products are NOT suitable for people with coeliac disease.

While enzymes and lactose free products are very helpful in many cases, some people need to stay on a gluten-free casein-free diet for life. is a good source of information, and you can find plenty of gluten-free casein-free recipes online.

Other Causes of Depression

Take our 13 depression tests to find out if you could have any of the other common causes of depression.

Where to Find More Information

Gluten Free Casein Free Diet BookThe Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook, Updated and Revised: The Ultimate Guide to the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet
This was written for parents of kids with ADHD and autism but has a very good description of the gluten-free casein-free diet which is relevant to anyone considering the diet. 

Eat, Drink, Be HealthyEnzymes: Go With Your Gut: More Practical Guidelines For Digestive Enzymes
The best book we've found on using enzymes to treat gut problems.

Depression Free NaturallyThe Diet Cure
includes a brief but good description of the gluten free diet and dairy intolerance.