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Eating Without Casein

Casein is a protein found in the milk of all mammals. Some people are allergic to it, and these people will never, ever enjoy another ice cream.

The dairy industry would have you believe that by eating such a snack you are ingesting "great protein." Let's investigate the most abundant milk protein, casein.

CASEIN is a tenacious glue. Eighty-seven percent of milk is water.  Four percent of the remaining thirteen percent is CASEIN.

What is Milk Allergy?

 A food allergy is defined as any adverse reaction to an otherwise harmless food or food component that involves the body's immune system. Therefore when talking about a food allergy it only involves the body's immune system.

A food intolerance is when you develop symptoms after eating a food product that your body can't deal with adequately.

Many people who have an adverse reaction to dairy products think they are allergic to milk this is not always the case. 

Casein should not be confused with lactose. Most people who have difficulty digesting milk are lactose intolerant, meaning that the digestive system does not produce enough of or any lactase (an enzyme found in the stomach), which breaks down lactose ( the sugar found in dairy products), to a simpler sugar which can be digested.

Lactose intolerance is no laughing matter but it is not life threatening. A casein allergy can be just that; an allergy. It may manifest as breathing difficulty, hives and rashes, or stomach cramps, bloating, serious pain in the gut etc leading to inability to get nourishment from food and dangerous weight loss. If you or a loved one suffers from a casein allergy, this page may be of help.  (see Symptoms and diagnosis).


How do you know if someone in your family is Lactose Intolerant or allergic to milk? The symptoms of a milk protein allergy (casein) fall into 3 types of reactions

Skin Reactions:

  • Itchy red rash

  • Hives

  • Eczema

  • Swelling of lips, mouth, tongue, face or throat

  • Allergic "Shiners" (black eyes)

Stomach and Intestinal Reactions:

  • Abdominal pain and bloating

  • Diarrhea (usually very runny)

  • Vomiting

  • Gas/wind

  • Cramps

Nose, Throat and Lung Reactions:

  • Runny Nose

  • Sneezing

  • Watery and/or Itchy eyes

  • Coughing

  • Wheezing

  • Shortness of Breath

As you can see most of these symptoms can be seen in people who have asthma or hay fever or a cold. They could have indigestion or a reaction to a chemical or plant they handled. Milk is not always the first choice for doctor to look at when you go to them with any or all of the above.

However, a milk allergy (rather than an intolerance) can be life threatening and an anaphylactic reaction can occur.

Anaphylaxis means "Without Protection". It is a severe reaction by the body to an offending Allergen (something causing the allergy), and it happens very fast, within minutes of exposure.

Foods that commonly cause this reaction are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish and fish.

Drugs also can cause a reaction these include penicillin, Sulphur and aspirin.

Bites and stings from insects such as bees, wasps and ants can cause an anaphylactic reaction.

An anaphylactic reaction involves more than one system of the body. It can begin with a tingling sensation in the lips, tongue or throat, this progresses to red raised itchy rash, feeling dizzy asthma symptoms, change in blood pressure and loss of consciousness and collapse.

Composition of Milk

Milk has a number of components. These include lactose (milk's sugar), up to four varieties of casein and other milk proteins, and fats.

The percentage of each of these contained in an ounce of milk varies according to the source of the milk (which animal), where in the milking cycle the milk comes from (lactose-rich foremilk comes out first, followed by fat-rich hind milk), and how long the individual animal has been lactating this time around. (The milk's composition is adjusted to the needs of the individual offspring.)

The contents are also affected by the lactating mother's (human or cow or whale) diet, since certain dietary components can make their way from the mother's digestive tract into the milk she produces.

Beware the Ingredients!

For someone with an allergy, 1/2 of 1% may still be higher than an individual's tolerance, depending upon how much of a product you eat and how severe your allergy is.

Food manufacturers have long understood that glue holds foods together giving them a firmer and more concrete appearance. It is no coincidence that each of the major tuna fish manufacturers have elected to put nature's perfect glue in their little cans.

Products to Seek Out

On the other hand, many items, including cakes and brownies and mixes to make them, are completely milk free. Generally speaking, the cheaper an item is, the more likely it is to be milk-free.

What About Calcium?

People who can eat absolutely no milk products should watch their calcium intake, especially if pregnant or nursing. Foods like broccoli, sardines and nuts contain significant quantities of calcium. Some calcium supplements have unacceptably high levels of lead.

Calcium needs to be taken the right way to be absorbed properly by the body.

What About Goat Milk? Or Breast Milk? Or ...?

Casein (in each of its variants) and lactose are found in the milk of every single mammal, although in varying ratios. Most people who have an actual allergy to any of these milk components will be unable to consume any animal's milk.

However, there is only an 85% overlap in milk protein makeup across different species, so people who have an unusual milk allergy, or who are merely lactose intolerant, may find that milk other than cow's milk is digestible.

Also, remember that since each mammal has protein and sugar variants in their milk, it's possible to be allergic to the milk of only one, or one set of, mammals.

The exception to the "all milk is dangerous milk" rule is infants. Children under the age of about five (the age at which children self-wean in non-industrialized countries) thrive on breast milk, even when they react badly to every other kind of milk.

Those who react to breast milk are usually reacting to cow's milk protein in their mother's diet, protein which migrates from the mother's gut to her breast milk.

Infant Colic and Milk

Some number of human infants get colic, which is basically an upset tummy that makes life difficult for the baby and for everyone within hearing distance. Colic may be caused by the fact that the baby's digestive tract is still immature and cannot handle certain dietary components.

Of these, the casein variant that is high in cow's milk but vanishingly low in human milk is the most common culprit. (Colic may have other causes, too. And some have nothing to do with the baby's diet.)

Do not, by the way, confuse loose stools with colic. Breastfed infants have very loose, runny stools, and this is perfectly normal.

Will My Children Get a Milk Allergy?

The single highest risk factor for developing an allergy or any allergy, is having an immediate family member (parent or sibling) with that allergy. The single best way to reduce the risk of developing allergies is to avoid exposure to allergens in the early months of life.

For milk allergy, this means that an at-risk baby should be exclusively breastfed and the lactating mother should maintain a strictly dairy-free diet until the baby is at least six months old.

And for a variety of healthy reasons, of which allergy is only one, you should aim to continue breastfeeding for 4-5 years.  Although solids will, of course, be the bulk of your child's diet by around 2 years of age.

Why is breast milk okay? It has to do with the relative ratios of lactose and the three casein variants in breast milk as compared to the milk of other mammals. Breast milk is high in lactose but low in the caseins.

Also, be aware that once a single allergy is triggered you're at greater risk of developing other allergies.

According to recent research, a factor that significantly reduces the risk of allergy and asthma is exposure to animal exotoxins in the first six months of life. In other words, if you live with a goat your child will have a significantly reduced risk of any allergies.

The theory is that the exotoxins, which are shed by the animals, sort of "teach" your baby's developing immune system to react appropriately to the various things it comes across.

In this case, too much cleanliness is NOT a good thing.

Your other challenge comes with the inevitable transition to solids. Children with a personal or family history of allergy or any allergy, including hay fever; are more likely than other children to develop allergies themselves.

Is There Milk in My Medicine?

Sometimes the medicine that is supposed to make you better can make you sicker, instead.

Many medicines and vitamins use lactose as a filler. Casein in medicines is not unknown, although it is relatively rare. Depending upon the severity of your allergy, either of these may cause you problems. So what can you do?

If you're looking into vitamins, assume that lactose is used as a filler unless the product specifically says "milk free" on the bottle.

Several store brands refrain from lactose use. So do most vitamins at GNC. Centrum, on the other hand, has lactose and has caused difficulty for people on the no-milk mailing list.

Non Food Uses of Casein

Casein is used in some adhesives, paints and beauty products.  The furniture in your home is held together by this powerful glue. So too is the label affixed to a bottle of beer.  If you are sensitive to casein when you touch or inhale it, you may wish to investigate further.

The above opinionated views and information serves to educated and informed consumer .  The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. .It should not replaced professional advise and consultation.  A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions 

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