Dairy Intolerance (Lactose, Casein, and Whey)
Some level of dairy intolerance exists in up to 75% of the world’s population, but dairy is fine for a lot of people. However, if you’re one of the people that have issues with dairy, it could be affecting any attempts you make to lose weight or body fat.
Having a food intolerance is not fun. It can cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhea. Other symptoms linked to food intolerances include muscle or joint pain, headaches, exhaustion, and even skin symptoms like rashes and eczema.
Dairy is just one of those foods that many people seem to be intolerant of. Let’s talk about the main components of milk that people react to, which include lactose, casein, and whey.
If you suspect you may have dairy issues, you can try an elimination diet to test your theory. If you would like some help doing this, click here to find a time on my calendar for a complimentary session so we can talk.
Milk sugar (lactose) intolerance
Lactose is the carbohydrate “milk sugar” naturally found in most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is so common you can buy lactose-free milk in your regular grocery store. Lactose-free products are treated with the enzyme “lactase” that breaks the lactose down before you ingest it. It’s this lactase enzyme that is lacking in most people who are lactose intolerant.
The lactase enzyme is naturally released from your intestine as one of your digestive enzymes. This enzyme breaks down the lactose sugar in the gut. When someone doesn’t have enough lactase, the lactose doesn’t get broken down the way it should. Undigested lactose ends up being food for the resident gut microbes. As the microbes ferment the lactose, gases are created that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhea. Your upset gut is going to affect every aspect of your digestion and also influence your weight loss or gain.
Lactose is in dairy but the amounts of lactose are lower in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn’t that easy since it is added to other foods like baked goods, soups, and sauces. And if you’re taking any medications or supplements, check to see if it’s in there too, as lactose is a common ingredient in them.
If you have symptoms of lactose intolerance, keep an eye on food, medication, and supplement labels.
Milk protein (casein & whey) allergy
Milk is a known, and common, food allergen.
So, what are the allergens in milk? You’ve heard of “curds and whey?” Well, these are the two main proteins in milk. The solid bits are the curds (made of casein), and the liquid is the dissolved whey.
Unlike lactose intolerance, casein and whey can cause an actual immune response. The allergy is what causes an immune response, and this immune response can cause inflammation. In fact, we don’t know how many people have these milk allergies, but most estimates put it far below that of lactose intolerance.
Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They’re not just in dairy but are often in protein powders as well (Have you heard of “whey” protein powders?).
Some of the symptoms of milk protein allergy differ from that of lactose intolerance; things like nasal congestion and mucus (phlegm) are more common here. And casein seems to be linked with belly fat.
Interestingly, people who have gluten intolerance are often allergic to milk proteins like whey and casein as well. These can go hand-in-hand.
Like lactose intolerance, if you’re allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these.
If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have some lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose, mucus, hives, or swollen lips after eating dairy then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.
You may also just be one of the many people that only have issues when dairy is consumed in higher quantities. Play around with the quantity to find what your tolerance level is for dairy. Maybe you just need to limit the amount of dairy in your diet or steer clear of the items with higher lactose content.
While dairy may be an entire food group, it is not an essential nutrient. All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. If you experience any symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet to see if that helps alleviate your issues. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues, or less nasal congestion, or even less belly fat.
But one thing is for sure, if you have any level of dairy issues, this will mess with your gut, and that is going to affect any of your attempts at weight or fat loss. Part of any weight or fat loss journey is providing the proper nutrition for your body so you can reach your goals.