Gluten Proteins Pass into Mother's Milk | Gluten-Free Society

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Poison Breast Milk!?

The following study demonstrates that the gluten protein, gliadin, passes into the breast milk of lactating mothers.  Breast feeding mothers were given 20 grams of gluten.  Their samples were then analysed for the presence of gluten.  Peak levels of gliadin were identified 2-4 hours after ingestion of gluten.


Acta Paediatr Scand. 1987 May;76(3):453-6.

Gluten Free Society’s Stance:

This is yet another study that shows gluten passes into the milk of breast feeding moms.  Once again, this brings up major concerns for those following a gluten free diet.

Statistically speaking, 1% of the US population is thought to have celiac disease.  More than 90% of them are undiagnosed.  Unpublished data estimates that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be as common as 40% of the US population.  Taking these statistics into account, what are the implications of breast feeding now?  Are mothers unknowingly damaging their babies?  Consider the growing trend of  asthma, allergies, colic, autism, ADD, and other gluten related disorders of childhood.

Because of its insidious behavior, many patients with gluten sensitivity don’t develop symptoms until their mid thirties.  By that time they have developed severe autoimmune disease or other inflammatory conditions.   Is all of this preventable?  If so, how?

The answer lies in prevention.  HLA-DQ genetic screening for gluten intolerance/sensitivity should be performed at birth.  It is non-invasive and the kits are inexpensive.  You cannot change your genes, but you can alter your environment to accommodate them.

Related Articles:

Gluten Found in Breast Milk

Gluten Free Warrior Commentary


11 responses on “Gluten Proteins Pass into Mother’s Milk

  1. Ursula says:

    Words cannot express my frustration after reading this information so many years later …


  2. Caryn says:

    I wonder whether the mother’s gliadin antibody levels at time of pregnancy and lactation makes a difference too. If she is undiagnosed active celiac, does she pose a greater risk for her child with the celiac gene(s) than a mother who does not have celiac or gluten intolerance?

  3. Tina says:

    I have been on the traditional GF for almost two years and had a baby 6 months ago. He lost a lot of weight after birth, threw up all the time and took 6 weeks to gain back his birth weight. I was told to top him up with formula and I was supposed to take domperidone to increase my milk supply. I just recently found this website and have gone grain-free. The baby hardly ever spits up now. He is gaining and is doing really well. Yesterday, I looked up the ingredients in the formula and the domperidone and found derivatives of corn in both. I really wish babies were tested at birth. I am going to the doctor with the whole family and hoping to convince him to get us genetically tested because I don’t want my kids to go through what I have gone through and to know exactly what they can and can’t have. I don’t want to have sick kids.

    • Tina,
      Glad to hear that your child is doing better without grain. If your doctor runs a genetic test make sure a full gene analysis is performed. Most doctors only look for DQ2 and DQ8 (celiac genes). Dq1 and DQ3 are non celiac gluten sensitive genes. They are very commonly missed with routine testing.

  4. helen says:

    This article is terrible! ONE study shows that gluten “may” pass into breastmilk and you describe breastmilk as poison??? The risks of feeding babies with artificial milk substitutes(formula) are well documented, for example, increased risk of obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, allergies. How is it responsible to call breastmilk poison one the basis of one study??

    I have celiac myself and breastfed both my children when I was still undiagnosed. Did I possibly pass on gluten in my breastmilk? Yes, but would I rather they had an increased risk of many many other diseases from formula???

  5. Jack Newman says:

    The fact that gluten (gliadin) enters the milk is not a bad thing. In the vast majority of cases it’s a good thing. It is outrageous that you would title this article “poison breastmilk”. The small amounts of gliadin that get into the milk, along with the immune factors in breastmilk actually decreases the baby’s risk of developing gluten enteropathy. Studies also show that if gluten is introduced into the baby’s diet while the baby is still breastfeeding that that decreases the risk of the baby’s getting gluten enteropathy.

    Whoever wrote the title should have thought a little more carefully before using such an absurd word as “poison”.

  6. Ashley says:

    I understand how important this information could be to those with sensitivities, however, the way that this article has been written is incredibly misleading and misguided. “Poison Breastmilk”? When we know that breastfeeding helps infants seal their gut, prevents and protects against many of the conditions mentioned above including celiac and colitis, and improves their health dramatically it is really shocking that this would be written in the tone that it is.

    If prevention is a concern, rather than implying that breastfeeding is not the best choice maybe the author should have pushed that idea of mothers not eating the gluten in the first place, until babies are tested. Even that may be absurd, however, as gluten attacks an open gut but breastfeeding is responsible for closing the gut. I would put more effort into gluten-free formulas, if anything, since those babies will not have protected mucosa linings like their breastfed friends will AND may see gluten in their food or when partially breastfeeding. I have to believe that there is a correlation between the rise in this disease, and the past two generations lack of breastfeeding. Formula fed babies seem to be more at risk, when you know the science behind breastmilk, breastfeeding, gut closure and the immune-system function breastfeeding supplements enhances.

    To mothers who read this article for what it is, and who have little other knowledge of breastfeeding and infant gut system, they will likely make a very bad decision which puts their child at a much higher risk of illness than the risk of gluten-sensitivities. This article has the potential to take the overall health of infants back many steps by suggesting that they do not receive breastmilk due to the possibility of gluten-transfer.

    Here are those risks:

    Be well, and always search for truth :)

  7. Helen, Jack, and Ashley,
    Thanks for your comments. The point is not to deter women from breast feeding. It is to make them aware of potentially damaging a child who is gluten intolerant. Many times doctors tell women that their babies are allergic to breast milk and put the children on formula without appropriate investigation.
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  8. helen says:

    Then if that is the case, maybe you should re-title this article and state that breastfeeding is still the normal and safest way to feed a baby!

  9. Tina says:

    Well, it’s not surprising that my doctor has no clue about genetic testing or does and is reluctant to have us tested. He referred the baby to a pediatrician who did the typical celiac screening, which came back negative (go figure). My doctor referred the rest of us to get allergy tested?!?! We can’t really afford to have everyone genetically tested out of our own pocket, but we are pretty sure that most if not all of us are sensitive to grains. With respects to breastfeeding, my first was bottle-fed, and the next three breastfed. The first has a number of issues with food and is the reason that we changed our diet in the first place. The middle two who were breastfed have no symptoms of gluten sensitivity, but my baby (as written earlier) is very gluten sensitive in my opinion, even though he was breastfed from day one. Breastfeeding is best in my opinion and is in no way poison. Read a label on formula if you can, the list of strange ingredients that I can’t pronounce is enormous.

    My baby is really thriving and the pediatrician told me that I must be doing something right for following my gut instincts because the baby is quite chubby and thriving. What I don’t get is why the doctors aren’t being informed about gluten sensitivity and genetic testing. I am having to explain myself over and over again to no avail. I often find myself second guessing the symptoms of my baby, my oldest and myself because no one has ever heard of gluten sensitivity. For now we are living grain free and loving feeling great again.

  10. Jane says:

    I wish I had this info.30 years ago. I had a son in 1986 & a daughter in 1990. I breastfeed both of them: the son for 3 1/2 years the daughter for 2 1/2 years. Everyone told me that breast is best so I never considered formula (especially considering the horrible list of ingredients!) Both children were born healthy, but suffered numerous colds that always led to ear infections. My son was sick starting with a double ear infection at 6 weeks old. My daughter had 25 colds followed by 25 ear infections before the age of 3 years (and she was the healthier of the 2).
    I made many many appts. with our pediatricians who just put them on various antibiotics. That destroyed their gut flora so it was stomachaches, diarrhea, nausea & vomiting that followed. Both children were pale, underweight and sickly: their weight wasn’t even on the charts! Doctors told me it was normal for children to have up to 10-12 colds per year. I told them it wasn’t normal to have a cold that lasted 6 weeks. So I would find another doctor. But, they all said the same thing!
    Doctors suggested tubes for both children- I refused. He also wanted then to be on antibiotics for all of winter months- again I refused- that was not the answer! The doctors referred me to allergists who did the allergy prick tests which showed nothing! They recommended decongestants & antihistamines- I refused! I didn’t know what to do so I went off cow’s milk for a time which didn’t make any difference.
    So my children stayed sick all the time: whiny all day & up most nights. Doctors encouraged me to get their adenoids out which I consented to when each was 4 years old. My son was able to sleep through the night then. My daughter did not and continued wetting the bed until age 14.
    So 25 years later I got the DNA test for gluten sensitivity done for myself- I was positive in all 4 alleles. My son was positive in 4 alleles, my daughter in 2.
    I could have avoided a ton of sleepless nights and anguish if this technology was available 30 years ago. But I am grateful we know about the dangers of gluten in all our grains. I have been grain free for almost 2 years now & my health is steadily improving.

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