Does gluten transfer to breastmilk?

1
Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN

Q: My friend’s child, now over 2 and breastfeeding was just diagnosed with celiac disease. My friend would like to continue breastfeeding 2-3 times per day. Does she need to go gluten-free herself, does gluten transfer to breastmilk?

Answer


Although gliadin has been shown to transfer to breast milk (gliadin is the part of gluten that is harmful for people with celiac disease), it is likely in very small amounts. Unfortunately, there is very limited research available on this, but one study found that the amounts that transferred to breast milk varied widely among women. Of the 49 samples tested, all contained detected gliadin and varied in concentrations between 5 and 1200 ng/ml (1). That is equal to 0.005 mg - 1.2 mg per/liter. This means 1 liter or 33.8 fluid ounces of breast milk would contain between 0.005 mg and 1.2 mg gliadin, so the concentration of gliadin in breast milk would be 0.005-1.2 parts per million.


Foods are considered gluten-free when they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Based on this study, breast milk would test well below the threshold to meet the requirement of a gluten-free food and would be unlikely to cause an issue. That being said, I would recommend she check with her doctor/celiac specialist about what they recommend in her specific case.


Reference:

  1. Chirdo FG, Rumbo M, Añón MC, Fossati CA. Presence of high levels of non-degraded gliadin in breast milk from healthy mothers. Scand J Gastroenterol. 1998;33(11):1186‐1192. doi:10.1080/00365529850172557 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9867098/

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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