Cheese is a favorite food in many households. From appetizer trays to salads – people of all ages enjoy cheese.
But is cheese gluten free? This article will take a look at whether any cheese is safe for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, and what to look for when evaluating whether or not a cheese is gluten free. We’ll also discuss how some people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance may not tolerate the dairy in cheese.
What is Gluten?
- Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye.
- It can cause severe health problems for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, including bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
- Individuals with these conditions must avoid foods containing gluten, making it crucial to know the gluten content of the food they consume.
Is Cheese Gluten Free?
Cheese, in its natural form, is made by fermenting milk and adding bacteria to curdle the milk. This process does not require the use of gluten-containing ingredients, making cheese naturally gluten-free. Therefore, cheese in its natural, unadulterated form, is gluten free.
However, there are so many different cheeses and cheese products on the market, and many of them have been further processed with other ingredients or additives that may contain gluten. Therefore, it is important to carefully read the labels of and/or ask questions about any cheese you purchase or are served.
Why Some Cheeses May Contain Gluten
When purchasing cheese, it’s essential to read the label and verify the ingredients since gluten is sometimes added during the manufacturing of some cheeses and cheese products.
Processed cheese can have ingredients like wheat starch, modified food starch, maltodextrin, or vinegar added that can cause it to contain gluten. In addition, some cheeses are modified to remove fat or salt and then add in gluten-based ingredients to improve their texture or taste.
In addition, cross-contamination of cheese can occur during production and packaging. Cross contamination may occur if the same equipment is used to produce or package your cheese and other gluten-containing products. Cross contamination may also occur in a restaurant setting. For example, a cook might use the same hand or scoop to put cheese on your salad as they use to put croutons on another salad.
What Cheese Has Gluten In It?
It is important to read the labels of all cheese you purchase, but the following are some types of cheese that are more susceptible to containing gluten:
- Blue cheese: some types of blue cheese contain gluten since blue cheese is traditionally a mold grown on gluten-containing bread
- Cottage Cheese: some types of cottage cheese have wheat starch or modified food starch made from wheat) included to improve the texture
- Processed Cheese: some processed cheese, particularly types that are intended to be lower fat or lower sodium have gluten added to improve texture or flavor that is lacking from reduced fat or sodium
What Should You Consider When Buying Cheese?
Ideally your cheese will be made with milk from organic, pasture raised cows. Research shows that pasture feeding cows has a positive impact on the nutrient profile of milk. Milk from pasture-raised cows has a higher content of beneficial nutrients including Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vaccenic acid, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). It also has lower levels of inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids.
Some good brands of pasture raised cheese include Rumiano, Truly Grass Fed, and Organic Valley.
Many With Gluten Issues Also React to Dairy
As we cover in detail in this article and this article, those with celiac disease may react to dairy for several reasons:
- Lactose intolerance
- Dairy allergy
- Casein protein reaction (casein mimics gluten)
- Leaky gut
- Digestive enzyme insufficiency (Many with gluten induced intestinal damage do not produce the enzyme lactase in high enough quantities to digest dairy effectively)
- Reaction to the beta casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) protein which has been linked to a number of digestive disturbances
- Reaction to the microbial transglutaminase (also known as meat glue) being used to treat the dairy (mimics gluten)
It is important to note that when we refer to dairy, we are referring to A1 dairy. The vast majority of dairy products on the market are made with milk from cows that produce A1 dairy. However, there is another type of dairy that may be a better option. It is called A2 dairy. The terms A1 and A2 refer to different forms of beta-casein, a part of the curds (i.e., milk solids) that make up about 30% of the protein content in milk.
While it may seem like A2 is a newer type of milk, the reality is that when we look back many years ago, all cow’s milk contained A2 beta-casein protein. This is the same primary protein as is in human milk, so we know that our bodies were designed to digest it. So what changed? Over time, there was a genetic mutation in cows in European dairy herds and an A1 beta-casein variation resulted in cows with two types of proteins – A1 and A2. Eventually, A1 beta-casein became the dominant form of dairy in the United States, but unfortunately, A1 dairy can be difficult for humans to digest.
Cheese is naturally gluten-free, but some cheeses may contain gluten due to the addition of gluten-containing ingredients or cross-contamination during production and packaging.
It is crucial for individuals with gluten intolerance or celiac disease to be aware of the gluten content in the food they consume and take the necessary precautions. Reading labels and verifying ingredients can help ensure that the cheese you consume is gluten-free.
Think you might be Gluten sensitive? Take our sensitivity test!