Gluten in cow’s milk?

Dr-Rodney Ford Wheat field

Wheat field

Heidi asks this worrying question: “If gluten passes through into human breast milk (, couldn’t it also pass into cow’s milk? Any thoughts?”

Yes, I have been asking this question for a decade – but too scared to get the research done! Yes, gluten does get through breast milk. As do cow’s milk protein and all other food proteins.

Gluten in cow’s milk?

First answer. When first posted in 2011, I said “Yes! Almost certainly the same goes for cow’s milk. With the focus on high production, in NZ, cows are now routinely fed barley and wheat grain. There is gluten in their feed, and so, yes, some gluten proteins will get through into the milk/dairy food chain. So, yes, that will make gluten sensitive/ celiac people sick. Yes, we need to think about it. Yes, research is needed. Then there will be a big market for not-fed-gluten-grain-dairy-cows. This is another reason why gluten sensitive people should avoid cow’s milk if they are still getting symptoms and/or their blood tests remain abnormal. This is a subtle cross-contamination of the food chain with gluten.”

Second more accurate answer is: “No!” having read this article below.

Nutrition. 2009 Jun;25(6):715-6. Epub 2009 Mar 5.

Bovine milk intolerance in celiac disease is related to IgA reactivity to alpha- and beta-caseins.


Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease triggered mainly by ingestion of wheat gluten proteins. However, some other dietary proteins, such as those of cow’s milk, induce celiac disease-like symptoms in some patients with celiac disease. Different approaches have been done to detect the component responsible for this problem, including the possibility of gluten peptides present in cow’s milk.


This study tested for gluten fragments in cow’s milk and could not detect any. This is reassuring. The cow digestion system is very different to humans. Basically, the gluten peptides do not survive their passage through a cow gut. CO’w milk is safe to consume from the gluten perspective.  But cow milk protein causes problems of its own.

Cheers, Dr Rodney Ford