Cheese, please?
October 21, 2010 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Is there any other explanation besides lactose intolerance? 27 year old man, can eat cream cheese, steamed milk in coffee, pizza with cheese, and cheesy pasta. But as little as 3 slices of aged cheddar, any amount of goat cheese, basically any "fancy" cheese causes intense stomach upset. Is there any way he can go back to enjoying a cheese plate at a nice restaurant again? Anybody had a similar experience and found a way to deal with it?
posted by twiggy32 to Food & Drink (19 answers total)
I should add that this came out of the blue about 6 months ago, with no prior problems eating all manner of cheeses.
posted by twiggy32 at 8:52 PM on October 21, 2010

Is he taking any medications that interact with tyramine? It is present in aged cheeses and some other foods.
posted by vincele at 8:58 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

"fancy" cheeses are often aged - how is he with other fermented or aged food such as red wine? There are people who are allergic to aged foods in general - f I recall this can happen as a result of an allergy to yeasts/molds in the food. I don't know anything about onset, but it might be something to look into.
posted by heyforfour at 9:04 PM on October 21, 2010

Cheese over 2 years of age contains little to no lactose. So lactose intolerance is not likely the problem. As mentioned above it might be the aging process giving you trouble.
posted by saradarlin at 9:07 PM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

I agree with saradarlin, I wouldn't consider lactose intolerance as an explanation. Hard cheese like cheddar has almost zero lactose, and cream cheese, mozzarella, and regular milk do.
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:09 PM on October 21, 2010

Yeah, are you taking any new medications?
posted by killdevil at 9:11 PM on October 21, 2010

Really good or Sheffield stuff including Parma ham and goats cheese make my face numb, ranging from à slightly timgley feeling to one whole side of my face sagging. I would votering for something similar rather than lactose.
posted by Iteki at 9:24 PM on October 21, 2010

Sheffield = aged. Like how autocorrect is aging me.
posted by Iteki at 9:26 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know about aged cheeses and lactose, but being able to tolerate steamed milk, cheesy pasta, cheese on pizza, etc doesn't automatically rule out lactose-intolerance. My parents-in-law are lactose-intolerant, but can eat dairy that has been cooked or otherwise heavily processed. Steaming of the milk might have the same effect as cooking.
posted by lollusc at 9:57 PM on October 21, 2010

MAOIs are the primary drug that causes this sort of thing. See here. MAOIs aren't prescribed much anymore due to that exact side effect. You might want to check with a doctor if you aren't on any new meds.
posted by chairface at 9:59 PM on October 21, 2010

Update: no problems with red wine, no medications at all. Thanks for the comments so far!
posted by twiggy32 at 10:08 PM on October 21, 2010

I am not lactose-intolerant, but get the runs (sorry, graphic) if I drink anything other than 1% milk. Recently, an aged Gouda gave me horrible cramps. I couldn't figure out what it was, but eating more of the cheese made it apparent that that's what it was.

No idea why this happened. I thought maybe it was the composition of the cultures or a by-product of aging that disagreed with me.
posted by Everydayville at 10:11 PM on October 21, 2010

Lactose intolerant my whole life, as are most of my relatives. This really does not sound like LI at all - generally aged/hard cheeses are well-tolerated, but cream cheese or steamed milk in coffee most definitely is not.

I'm wondering if there's another food that is being eaten at the same time as the aged/fancy cheeses that might be the culprit - for instance, fruit? Apples or grapes maybe? Bread made from a flour other than wheat? (Assuming no wheat/gluten intolerance here because of the pizza and pasta being ok.) Even though lactose intolerance is the one we hear about the most, there can be other food intolerances that have similar symptoms.

My story, the short version: I have a condition called fructose intolerance that went undiagnosed for years because the symptoms mimicked lactose intolerance (which I had been diagnosed with in childhood). I would eat things such as fruit pie - which doesn't generally contain lactose - and become sick several hours later, and it had everybody baffled until by chance I was seen by a doctor familiar with the condition.
posted by chez shoes at 10:53 PM on October 21, 2010

Here's a shot in the dark - Eosinophilic Esophagitis.

Hopefully a short story can also help:
About a year ago, I slowly started having problems with cow's milk. Each week, drinking cow's milk with my cereal is becoming more and more painful until I realized that something is wrong.

I found out that some lactose foods gave me stomach aches, but others don't. This continued until a couple of months ago, where I take in zero lactose because I can't handle anything with it.

When I do eat something that causes a stomach-ache, I feel strong non-stop pain for around 4-6 hours which I try to sleep through to not feel the pain. If I do feel pain, the best thing I found that works is to get one of those rubber bags made to be filled with hot water and put it against my belly. If I don't have one at the moment, I find that sleeping on your belly or squatting down to place your belly against your thighs also works (but not as good as a rubber bag). If I have too much lactose, I puke in an hour, which makes the pain dissipate quite fast.

These days, syrups like maple syrup and honey seem to cause weak stomach-aches which I can handle.

Before it got too bad (I could eat some lactose-containing food), a doctor (who didn't seem too great of a doctor had me go through an endoscopy, then said I have Eosinophilic Esophagitis somewhere in either my throat, stomach or intestine (I forgot, probably intestine though). He gave me some pills, but my mother (an ex-nurse) advised me not to take them since as that doctor said, they only take care of the symptoms and don't cure the disease.

When I went to a different doctor a few months later, he also carried out an endoscopy. This time, I was told that I'm lactose intolerant since he found out that I have no lactase (he took biopsies from my intestines and a blood test). He tells us that the first doctor's diagnosis was completely wrong, and so far, it seems he was right.

Since then, I've tried avoiding eating anything potentially hazardous, so I've been fine since then eating food I like that I found cause no problems.

I sincerely hope this helps out, because it was quite horrible for me.
posted by Ragingmelon at 11:26 PM on October 21, 2010

One of my friends is allergic to molds. So she can eat processed cheese, and hard cheeses where mold isn't part of the ripening process. She can't eat Roquefort, blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Brie, Camembert, or other mold-ripened cheeses.

Maybe that's it?
posted by magstheaxe at 4:31 AM on October 22, 2010

My partner is allergic to casein, the protein, not the sugar in milk. She had to go off dairy except for some very few and far between exceptions of taking a bit here and there. For a casein allergy, there is no magic pill.

She is less sensitive but still sensitive to milks from other (non-cow) beasties like sheep and goats.

She uses soy and nut milks for most milk-involved recipes. Occasionally also coconut milk if higher fat content is required.

Good luck.
posted by kalessin at 4:57 AM on October 22, 2010

None of these explanations fit the goat cheese though.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:43 AM on October 22, 2010

Yeah, I though the symptoms of lactose intolerance were cramps, diarheea, vomiting, etc. Pain, not so much.

But tyramine doesn't explain it either, since that just causes headaches (or serotonin syndrome).

Perhaps you have an ulcer that something in the aged cheese happens to irritate greatly?
posted by gjc at 7:08 AM on October 22, 2010

None of these explanations fit the goat cheese though.

Could be cross-contamination with an aged cheese? And although gjc's point that tyramine reactions are generally limited to headache is accurate, I am someone who tends to have vomiting and abdominal pain as sequelae to headache, so the OP may be in a similar position.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:02 AM on October 22, 2010

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