Milk does my body bad
February 21, 2007 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Why does cows milk & ice cream make my eyes cross and make me sick?

I drank ridiculous amounts of milk as a child and teen. But no longer. I've since developed some kind of problem where I can't drink it. Not even a drop.

If I have it (or even soy milk or lactose-free milk), first my eyes cross. Then I get disoriented and dizzy, then I vomit and writhe on the floor with extreme stomach pain for a good 36 hours. Same thing with ice cream. I had an Aero bar in 2005 and had the same issues.

Yet, I can eat other dairy. I eat cheese daily and have all kinds of non-Aero chocolate. I am not allergic to milk though, apparently. I had a doctor give me the test in 2006 and it came back negative.

I've been to several doctors in different states, been hospitalized a couple of times, and nobody seems to know what this is.

I love the taste of milk and really miss eating ice cream. I hope this rings a bell for someone. For a brief period of time I thought it was Milk-Alkali Syndrome due to a previous habit of eating Tums like they were candy back when this first started years ago. But I am pretty sure that isn't it, because that is purported to be asymptomatic, and what is described doesn't match what I've just told you.

I'm hoping there's some explanation that is treatable.
posted by cashman to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
what kinds of cheese do you normally eat? stuff that's more aged/solid tends to have less lactose in it than things like Lactaid milk. (mushier cheeses tend to have more lactose in them than harder ones.) were you tested for a milk allergy or lactose intolerance? I might be barking up the wrong tree here, though.
posted by mrg at 11:32 AM on February 21, 2007

I can eat any kind of cheese with no problems. I was already tested for a milk allergy (negative) and it's not lactose intolerance because soy milk and lactose-free milk give me the same issues (all this is in the post, but thank you for responding at all).
posted by cashman at 11:46 AM on February 21, 2007

I would look at the ingredient list for soy milk and cow milk and see what they have in common. My initial guess would be nothing - but maybe there is a preservative or something in there causing the reaction.
posted by COD at 11:55 AM on February 21, 2007

Sounds like lactose intolerance. Adults generally cannot process milk - the lactase (?) enzyme that breaks down lactose disappears later in life for most adults ("most" here refers to about 50-60%, if I remember correctly). The reason you can eat cheese is because the lactose is already broken down in certain dairy products, cheese among them.

I think there's some sort of supplement you can take that will digest the lactose in your stomach.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:57 AM on February 21, 2007

...Except that I did not read the "including soy and lactose free" part. Ignore what I said, and carry on.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:58 AM on February 21, 2007

If you are getting the same symptoms from both cow milk and soy milk, you must be either allergic to water (the only common ingredient I can think of) or....well, let's just say maybe a psychiatrist may be of more help.
posted by DU at 11:58 AM on February 21, 2007

How long after ingesting milk or soy milk do your symptoms begin?
posted by dseaton at 12:01 PM on February 21, 2007

You know, if it wasn't for that Aero bar, I'd wonder if it was a cold thing - a funny version of brain-freeze from ice-cream or cold milk. Are other really cold things (slurpees etc.) okay?
posted by cobaltnine at 12:07 PM on February 21, 2007

It might not be worth the vomiting, but have you done any blind tests?

Each night (or however much time in between you would need to develop symptoms) over the course of a week, have a friend provide you with a glass of water. they should roll a die to choose a night at random to put in "a drop" of soy milk. You should numb your tongue with an ice cube before drinking, so you will not taste anything.

If you end up with symptoms as usual on the night the water was spiked, you haven't gained much. But if you get through the week and don't vomit, or if plain water makes you vomit, you can consider psychological factors.
posted by mikepop at 12:17 PM on February 21, 2007

How long after ingesting milk or soy milk do your symptoms begin?

Within 30 minutes.

Are other really cold things (slurpees etc.) okay?

Yep. Water, smoothies, punch, you name it. Well, as long as "it" != milk or ice cream.

mikepop, I've been wondering about doing the blind tests for a while now. I'd love for it to be some kind of psychological issue, because I have a bowl of Frankenberry cereal calling my name.

I guess I'm just going to try some this Friday and see what happens, and hope to fsm I make it through.
posted by cashman at 12:30 PM on February 21, 2007

As an aside, one thing milk and soy milk have in common is protein. And according to (that is, I have no idea of the veracity of this): It is important to note that some commercial products which contain soy milk or soy cheese also contain dairy proteins such as whey or casein (caseinates) that some people want to avoid due to allergies or diet preferences.

What about rice milk? Any reaction?

Compared with cow's milk, it contains more carbohydrates, but does not contain significant amounts of calcium or protein, and no cholesterol or lactose.


Commercial brands of rice milk, however, are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B3, and iron.

So look for unfortified rice milk if you want to give that a test.
posted by mikepop at 12:30 PM on February 21, 2007

Oh, and what about goat milk? Generally considered less allergenic than cow milk.
posted by mikepop at 12:33 PM on February 21, 2007

IANAD, but...

Your symptoms sound an awful lot like the symptoms of migraine or epilepsy, and milk is definitely a trigger food for both. (Even if you don't get a headache, it could still be migraine -- many people have headache-free migraine.) Since cheese is less acidic than milk -- and it could be the acidity, not the milk itself that triggers the problem -- it's entirely possible that cheese isn't a trigger while milk is.

If you haven't already, you might consider consulting a neurologist.
posted by dseaton at 12:42 PM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm going to look for low acid milk. I did indeed have my first migrane not too long ago. I will see a neurologist as well. Thank you so much for the answers. It had not even occured to me that the acidity of the milk might be an issue.
posted by cashman at 1:00 PM on February 21, 2007

I'll add for what it's worth that when my daughter developed a reaction to the milk in her formula - they told us to avoid soy milk as well and put her on this awful smelling stuff that has the offending proteins broken down already. Apperently many people allergic to milk (not the lactose - but the milk proteins) have a cross reaction to soy.

Do things like orange juice or lemonade have the same reaction? I have to think they are much more "acidic" than milk which if I recall has a fairly close to neutral pH (6.7).

Perhaps a different allergist who can do some additional tests?
posted by Wolfie at 1:36 PM on February 21, 2007

Out of interst, what about yogurt (and by implication, frozen yogurt)?
posted by twine42 at 2:49 PM on February 21, 2007

I agree with many of the above commentators... I have many definitively diagnosed food intolerances (which textbook-wise, while the symptoms may present in a similar way may not be "allergies", even if you feel pretty darn crappy as a result of consuming them).

Usually a true food allergy presents itself as hives or a nasty rash that breaks out damn quick as soon as you consume the thing, or at its worst, anaphylaxis - where you can't breathe, throat constricts, massive lip swelling etc. You usually hear about that with people that have true food allergy. Recently it seems we have been hearing mostly about this with kids that have peanut (or some kind of nut) allergy, although these kind of huge reactions are not limited strictly to nuts. That doesn't mean you can't have a horrible gut reaction the likes of which you are describing as a result of a true food "allergy", but it is less common.

1. I would be very surprised if milk 'acid' caused this reaction. Doesn't mean it couldn't happen, but I have never heard of it. Milk proteins, casein/dairy whey, yes DEFINITELY.

2. Many people have lactose intolerance, particularly as adults, and it is not uncommon. Lactose-digesting tablets often help with this, if you must have dairy products (and in fact the problem is lactose intolerance).

3. Maybe you are allergic to both soy and dairy products now, or are intolerant of them, even if you never were before. There's no reason you couldn't develop a reaction to them, for no reason other than - you have aged, our bodies are not true machines, and even if they break, or simply alter over time - at this point in history regardless of the fabulous scientific developments of our times, we cannot always make them what they used to be.

Does this mean you won't ever be able to safely eat those things again? Maybe. I say this EVEN if say, theoretically - you are a health fiend, exercise properly, sleep enough, generally eat right. Shit still happens, unfortunately.

4. There are often many secondary ingredients in things we consume that we never think to look for, but I cannot think of any common ingredient that you may not have caught on a label that would cause that problem, if you are testing yourself on strictly 'pure' soy milk (i.e. let's say, unsweetened soy milk with absolutely nothing added - yuk, but they do make it) and regular milk from your grocery that has nothing special in it except cow milk.

More on me and foods that make me ill: I am gluten and yeast intolerant, and while I am not allergic nor do I have a noticeable ailment from consuming dairy, I generally feel way better without eating any of it.

After visiting many many doctors over the years, I found some good, definitive proof of food things that make me feel awful via testing through Enterolab.

Nope, I don't get any kickbacks from this guy for mentioning it. They just really know what the heck they're doing.

Finally: I'm sure there are potential psychological factors that could be at work here, as well, like the other MeFites say. But before you accept the word of every guy who tells you "take this antidepressant" (which can be useful, I've taken some!), I would investigate all the possible channels you can that are physiologic first.
posted by bitterkitten at 5:25 PM on February 21, 2007

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