Little Miss Muffet, Dairy and Allergens
“Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey.”
Mother Goose Rhyme
Do you remember this children’s nursery rhyme? I do and taught it to my children when they were little. But I did not know that curds and whey were dairy components until I began discovering my food allergy and sensitivity problems about eleven years ago.
Curds and whey are the two main proteins in milk. Protein accounts for about 3.3% of the total volume of milk. Curds is another name for the milk protein casein which is 82% of the protein in milk. Whey is the remaining 18% of protein in milk. Another 4.9% of milk is made up of the carbohydrate lactose.
Many adults have difficulty digesting milk due to intolerances, allergies or sensitivities to lactose, casein or whey. So what is the difference between these? Lactose intolerance is very common, affecting about 8% of caucasian adults, 20% of African Americans and as many as 90% of Asian adults. Lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea, gas and bloating but it does not affect the immune system. If you enjoy milk and other dairy products you can take supplemental enzymes to help digest lactose when you drink milk or eat ice cream.
Dairy allergies or sensitivities involve a smaller amount of people, but are more serious. About 2% of people have an immune IgE allergy to milk. This allergy may cause diarrhea, nausea, cramps, bloating or gas as with lactose intolerance, but also can cause reactions in other parts of the body such as rashes, hives, swelling, wheezing or anaphylaxis. Other people have an IgG immune reaction to dairy, which is usually called a dairy sensitivity. These sensitivities may cause the intestinal problems but also sometimes causes problems in the brain.
A sensitivity to the milk protein casein can cause foggy thinking or inattentiveness, headaches or mood problems. Both casein and gluten sensitivity have been a factor in depression, anxiety, ADHD, schizophrenia, and autism.
Whey protein can cause similar digestive symptoms, but normally not the brain issues. Whey is greatly reduced in cheese. Someone who is sensitive to whey protein, but not casein may be able to eat cheese but not milk, yoghurt or ice cream.
How to Discover Your Sensitivities
There are laboratory tests that can be ordered to test for IgE and IgG foods as well as lactose intolerance . These tests are useful, but there can be both false positive and negative results. They also can be expensive and often are not covered by insurance. I have had both IgE and IgG tests for dairy and found that I was not IgE allergic, but did have IgG sensitivities. I confirmed this result with an elimination diet.
An elimination diet is the ideal way to discover if you have allergies or sensitivities to dairy. In an elimination diet you remove the suspected food (dairy) from your diet for three or four weeks, then add it back to see if you notice any symptoms recurring. If you do have symptoms, then keep the food out of your diet for six months and test again. If symptoms continue then it is most likely a permanent allergy. You can get my detailed guide to elimination diets by clicking here.
There are many healthy dairy and milk substitutes available. Common substitutes are made with either soy, coconut or nuts. I am also sensitive to soy so I do not use those. Conventional soy is also a GMO crop, so only use organic soy products if you choose to consume them. For milk, yoghurt and ice cream replacements I often use the So Delicious brand which uses coconut milk. Dayia makes a good mozzarella cheese substitute and Kite Hill makes a good cream cheese substitute.
This article from Medical News Today gives a good overview of dairy substitutes. What are some of your favorite dairy substitutes? Comment below to share those.