Casein Allergy Solutions?
July 13, 2008 8:01 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend has recently formed as casein allergy as a young adult. She is not "lactose intolerant". Are there any solutions to dealing with this outside of cutting dairy and other casein rich foods out of her diet? more inside...

While apparently common mostly in younger children, this allergy has afflicted her recently in her early twenties. Typically the common solution applies to the former demographic and involves removing casein from the diet, and gradually allowing your body to form a tolerance to it. However, because she's already been exposed to it for twenty+ years, doctors have simply recommended to just not consume casein. This is pretty tough, as it is extremely present in dairy foods. Red wine also gives the same allergenic reactions as well, and I recently read somewhere that casein is used as a binding agent in red wine.
Her reaction to casein manifests itself in her lungs and chest, causing wheezing and coughing not unlike the symptoms of asthma.
She typically tries to avoid taking antibiotics/medicine/etc... if there are other natural alternatives available. It would be nice if certain types of teas, herbs, spices, supplements or vitamins would help to address the problem.

So... are there any remedies for this allergy that anyone knows of that may help allow her to slowly leak more dairy, etc. into her diet?

Lactose intolerant folks have tablets they can take to allow them to eat dairy for a short window of time, or take other supplements....
is there anything similar for this case?
posted by Texasjake987 to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unfortunately, allergies aren't quantity-sensitive (i.e., in a true allergy, ANY exposure to the allergen provokes a response, not necessarily just drinking gallons of milk). This means that full-on prevention is usually the only cure. Yes, it sucks, but there is hope.

I too am allergic to casein and have cut it completely out of my diet. This means no milk products in any foods and is a huge pain in the ass. Yes, cutting dairy out of the diet SUCKS. But since I went dairy-free, my asthma has almost completely cleared, I get sick less often, and the brain fog that had descended on me with all that inflammation has lifted. To me, it's worth it.

My nutritionist did give me some enzymes that supposedly break down lactose and casein more expeditiously, but I didn't notice any help at all...still got that itchy, inflamed feeling after eating dairy. Remember, you're dealing with an allergy here, not an intolerance.

A few tips for your girlfriend:

~Go Dairy Free has been a godsend. Look for lists of other names for milk so you can decode'll be AMAZED at how many products have milk in them.
~Things like sourdough bread, tortillas, and pizza dough tend to be safe. Avoid soy cheese at any cost...most of it has casein in it anyway.
~WholeSoy yogurt makes life worth living!
~Find out where your local health food store is and make friends with it early on. This can avoid many tears in the future.
~Make friends with substitutes for favorite foods...dark chocolate instead of milk, sorbet instead of ice cream, Tings by the people who make Veggie Booty instead of Cheetos.
~Asian food and tons of Mexican food can be ordered at restaurants without dairy. Also try Ethiopian (ask on the meat dishes since some are prepared with butter) or pizza without's surprisingly delicious!
~Embrace the vegans! They've forged an awesome path of wonderful dairy-free food (I love Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Veganomicon cookbook and Post-Punk Kitchen). Try Esme's Sauce...every person I've ever fed it to can't believe it's not dairy.
~Consider embarking on a program of gut repair to mitigate some of the damage left over by dairy as it's getting out of the system. I take dairy-free probiotics and aloe religiously and my digestive tract is slowly but surely healing.
~Cravings are, unfortunately, par for the course. I deal by remembering that the cravings ALWAYS get worse after I indulge and think of dairy as a drug I've had to kick.
~Learn how to talk to restaurant staff and explain your needs. It takes some getting used to, but it is well worth the trouble.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:07 AM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mynameisluka has hit it on the head - accept that dairy is out and enjoy the vast amount of dairy free yummy food available.

The only thing I would add is - read up about non dairy food sources of calcium to make sure that your girlfriend gets adequate calcium. If she wants to take calcium supplements note that different forms of calcium have very different absorption rates and that calcium carbonate has the lowest.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:34 AM on July 13, 2008

I'm in the same boat. I can't breath through my nose and I get brain fog. Nthing everything above. Dead on.
posted by zeek321 at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2008

Unfortunately, allergies aren't quantity-sensitive (i.e., in a true allergy, ANY exposure to the allergen provokes a response, not necessarily just drinking gallons of milk)

This isn't true. For allergies, there is a threshhold amount before a reaction occurs. For her, the threshhold may be very low - especially if she's having reaction to the small amounts (I assume) in wine. You could try by starting very small - drinking a tablespoon from a drop of milk in a glass of water and working up from there if necessary. Of course, get doctor approval before you start messing around with that (I'm not a doctor, and not responsible if she goes into anaphylactic shock). See if you can find an allergiest that has experience with inducing tolerance for casein allergies.
posted by fermezporte at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2008

Sorry, should have qualified...I'm not a doctor, but mine have told me to completely avoid the allergen whenever possible, because while my allergy doesn't necessarily produce a detectable reaction, ingestion of the allergen could contribute to other things like inflammation, crappy immune system, increased sensitivity to other foods, etc. Allergies also can change over time. Consult your doctor to find out what's right for you.

Here's an article that deals with current controversies and what allergists know about food thresholds.

Also: do not fuck around with anaphylaxis. Make sure you know the symptoms and have a plan for if and when they do appear (and inform loved ones/associates accordingly). It can be really scary.
posted by mynameisluka at 12:12 PM on July 13, 2008

Also, be aware that many "fake" dairy products still contain casein, i.e. many fake cheeses.
posted by beerbajay at 1:11 PM on July 13, 2008

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