We are discussing today intolerance, not allergy, and in particular casein dairy intolerance. We are going to take a look at how a casein intolerance is different from a lactose sensitivity, as many people confuse the two and may think they are the same. They are in actuality very different, and we take you on a journey to discover how. We will be looking at what casein is, what it does in the body, what the symptoms of a casein sensitivity are, how diagnosis works and once diagnosed, what you can do about it.
Let’s get started!
Casein is the major protein found in dairy, and it can cause inflammation and immune reactions in people. Whey is the other protein found in dairy, but it doesn’t appear to cause as much immune or intolerance symptoms as it’s relative Casein.
There are different subtypes of casein, and beta-casein is the one that we know the most about through scientific studies. There are 2 specific types of beta-casein, A1 and A2. A1 is the one that has been shown to cause many of the intolerance reactions and symptoms that are associated with a dairy intolerance. In contrast to this, A2 appears to be well tolerated.
It’s important that you understand a bit about casein for two reasons:
A) It is the most prevalent protein in cow’s milk. It equates for 80% of all protein found in cow’s milk, with whey making up the other 20 %. In human milk, there is only 40% casein protein, and this tells us that our digestive system isn’t supposed to handle quite so much of it.
B) It has the ability to cause a lot of issues and symptoms. If you are having reactions to it, it’s important to understand why this could be.
When casein enters the gut, it is digested in a way that causes an opiate-like substance to be released. This can cause some people to be addicted to dairy products. The substance released is called beta-casomorphin-7, and it activates different receptors within the digestive system. Studies have shown that this has released histamine and caused loose stools and stomach pains in the study participants. The same effects were not observed with the consumption of A2 milk proteins. More evidence is still needed in this area for any conclusive answers, but this is a good start in understanding the issues A1 may cause.
IgG and IgA antibodies may also be produced when A1 casein is consumed, which causes inflammation and the different symptoms associated with this. These can range from joint pain to runny nose.
The symptoms of casein intolerance can be hard to pinpoint on the consumption of dairy, primarily because casein itself is very slow to digest. This means that symptoms may not arise for several days after eating dairy products. The main symptoms that are seen include:
These two conditions often get confused as being the same thing, yet in reality, they are very different.
Lactose intolerance occurs when someone doesn’t have enough of the lactase enzyme in their digestive system, and therefore cannot digest the milk sugar lactose. When lactase isn’t present in enough quantity, people can get lots of bloating, loose stools, gas and nausea due to a build-up of lactose in the large intestine.
In contrast to this, a casein intolerance is a reaction to the protein component of dairy. The immune system has an inflammatory response and causes the symptoms mentioned above; joint pains, brain fog, behavioural changes, fatigue etc.
To diagnose a casein intolerance there are several test options.
One of the main risk factors for developing a dairy intolerance is having poor digestive health and function. In particular, existing conditions such as leaky gut, SIBO, IBS, gastritis etc pre.dispose you to developing intolerances. This happens because the gut lining is degraded, and proteins from the foods you eat can escape through and cause inflammatory reactions in your body.
Having an intolerance to gluten may also be a risk factor. The percentage of people with gluten and dairy intolerance is higher than in the general population.
Infantile atopic eczema and being bottle-fed early onare risk factors for developing dairy/casein intolerance in babies. This also appears to be more common in those with relatives who also experience dairy intolerance.
Casein is found in high protein dairy foods, and so these are the specific foods you need to avoid. They include:
Diary milks – full fat, low fat, etc
Diary yogurts – all
Deserts such as custards made from dairy
Whey and casein rich protein powders
The lesser protein dairy foods include butter and cream, and they have only small trace amounts of casein. However, if you are highly casein sensitive it is still best to avoid these as well. If your intolerance is mild, you may be able to tolerate a small amount of butter or cream.
As far as a casein intolerance goes, most, if not all cow’s milk dairy needs to be removed from your diet. However if your intolerance is only mild, and if it is specific to the A1 casein, then you may be able to enjoy some A2 milk products. The best thing to do is to try them for yourself, and see how you react.
Ghee may be another option for you, as it has zero casein in it. Again, try some and assess how your body reacts.
The best thing you can doto manage a casein intolerance well is to remove all dairy from your diet, specifically the high protein dairy sources listed above, and any products made from dairy such as ice cream etc.
If your intolerance is caused by poor digestive health or an existing digestive condition such as IBS or leaky gut, seeking help to remedy your condition may also help to heal your intolerance. A Naturopath or holist Nutritionist are well-positioned to help you with this.
It can seem like this happens, however, it is a long term process that occurs in your body. Over time your gut gets degraded by things like foods, medications, tap water and also stress. You can develop conditions such as leaky gut or IBS, which then degrades your gut lining and paves the way for food intolerances to show up. Although it seems like you just woke up with it one day, it’s a long term scenario. Working with a holistic healthcare provider will allow you to heal your digestive tract and potentially eat dairy without issues again.
This question depends on the health of your gut. If it is in bad shape as discussed above, then dairy can certainly cause issues.
However, dairy food is a highly nutrient-rich food source and isn’t bad for you if your digestive tract is healthy and you don’t have intolerances or allergies to it.