How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intolerance

Dairy Intolerance: Is it Lactose? Casein? or Whey?

Posted by Andrea Rossi, RHN, R.BIE in Allergies

How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intolerance

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: lactose, casein, and whey.

Milk Sugar (Lactose) Intolerance

It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. 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. It 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 they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhea.

Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn’t that easy as 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. In Canada, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.

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 and be considered a true allergy by promoting an IgE response from the immune system. 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.

However, even if an IgE immediate immune response is not observed, a lot of people still get reactions from the casein and whey and therefore find themselves intolerance to these proteins.

Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They’re not just in dairy but are often the base of many protein powders as well (ie. “whey” protein powder).

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 for their protein molecular structure is very similar.

Like lactose intolerance, if you’re allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these.

Worried about your Calcium Intake? How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intolerance

While dairy may be often considered an entire food group, it is not an essential nutrient. Calcium is by far the one mineral that most people worry about consuming enough when they decide to remove dairy from their diets. And there is definitely a big misconception that dairy is the only good source of calcium.

Good news! All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. ? I put together this quick summary organized by amount of calcium available by serving size. I focused on the foods over 50mg per serving, although my no means is this an exhaustive list. I just wanted to give you a good idea on where you can get non-dairy sources of calcium.

You’ll see I kept yogurt and milk on the list. I wanted you to compare their calcium values to others to give you a good comparison.

Note that the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for calcium is as follows:

Birth to 6 months: 200mg
7 – 12 months: 260mg
1 – 3 years: 700mg
4 – 8 years: 1000mg
9 – 18 years: 1300mg
19 – 50 years: 1000mg
During pregnancy: 1200mg
Women over 50 yrs: 1200mg
Men over 70 yrs: 1200mg

Conclusion

If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.

If you experience these symptoms, I would suggest you try removing dairy from your diet for at least 2 weeks to see if your symptoms improve. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat.

After the 2 weeks, start by re-introducing a higher fat dairy source like cheese to see how you feel. If you have no issues, wait 3 days and then reintroduce yogurt and see how you feel. And then lastly dairy milk should you choose.

Because milk has less fat content that the other sources of dairy like cheese and yogurt, it’s often harder to digest since it’s farther from being “whole”. Sticking with dairy full in fat is easiest to digest.

*Interesting fact, parents who struggle with their children and bedwetting find that by removing dairy or other food sensitivities notice an immediate improvement!

If you’re not sure if you’re reacting to the lactose, whey, or casein and you want some help you identify how your body is reacting, I can help you identify how your body is reacting to each of these components.

Sign up for my free 30 min consultation and get your Whole Body Health Profile to see what underlying problem could be affecting you.

Do the words whey, lactose, isolate, milk protein, casein, protein concentrate and vegan protein all have clear definitions for you? Do you know what each one does in your body? If you are lactose intolerant, can you have whey? Is there lactose-free, whey protein?

How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intolerance

When it comes to food allergies and protein shakes or supplements

it’s important to ask the right questions for your health and sustainability. Do the words whey, lactose, isolate, milk protein, casein, protein concentrate and vegan protein all have clear definitions for you? Do you know what each one does in your body? If you are lactose intolerant, can you have whey? Is there lactose-free, whey protein?

When the body is sensitive or has a low-grade allergy to certain foods, there are some common symptoms to be aware of, which typically present themselves within a couple of hours. Your stomach may feel distended and you might become physically swollen or bloated. The body may also become gassy causing excessive flatulence. It may present itself through a stuffy nose or a thick throat because of increased mucous production. If you have one or more of these symptoms on a daily basis, then start paying attention to what you regularly eat. For many, that is their smoothie or workout shake.

When looking at your food consumption, particularly protein shakes, it’s important to understand the terminology, so you can make the right decisions for your health. It is common to read whey on labels and ingredient lists, but what exactly is whey?

Whey is one of two proteins found in milk. The other is casein. The two are separated by adding specific enzymes which split the milk into liquid and solid particles. The solids are the curds or casein, and the liquid is the whey. Hence, curds and whey. The liquid whey is then sent on for more processing to remove the fats, carbohydrates and water content.

This is when concentrates, isolates and hydrolysates come into play. A concentrate is the first round of processing and will contain low levels of fat, carbs and lactose. Isolates are more highly processed and contain little to no lactose or fat. Hydrolysate is more often found in protein supplements used by physicians for infant formulas and patients, as it has gone through partial hydrolysis making it extremely easy to digest. If you know you are lactose intolerant, a whey concentrate would not be a good choice, and even an isolate can cause discomfort.

Lactose is the sugar in milk, and it irritates people whose bodies do not produce enough of the enzyme – lactase – to fully digest it. The tricky part is most people are not born with this. It takes time for our bodies to develop the intolerance and can therefore show up at any point in our lives or not at all. It does tend to be genetic and worsen with time, so ask your parents or grandparents, if you are unsure. Also take a look at your medical history. If you’ve ever had an infection in your small intestines, this can leave damage that leads to a lactase deficiency.

If you’re not lactose intolerant, but you still have symptoms of milk sensitivity, then you may have a milk allergy. This has nothing to do with lactose. Instead, it means your body cannot break down one or both of milk’s natural proteins, casein and whey. This will often be present in children and is often outgrown, but not always. It can also create more severe symptoms such as a skin rash, facial swelling and even trouble breathing. It is best to avoid both forms of the protein if you are unsure.

If you’ve kept a food journal and been diligent with determining what foods are creating these issues in your body, you may feel a bit distressed. This does not mean the end of smoothies or pre and post workout protein shakes. If your body had any of the above symptoms in connection with dairy, it is best to find a dairy free substitute, meaning no lactose, casein or whey. This is where a plant-based protein becomes the better choice.

Some people have an immediate reaction to this idea and only think soy, but even soy can be the cause of dietary intolerance, including nuts and gluten. So, for the sensitive system or simply for the person who wants the cleanest option available, it is best to avoid all the top allergens. This strictly limits the supplement world, and that is why OWYN set out be a protein source that eliminated the top eight allergens in the food industry.

We have created an alternative that is gentle on the body and gives you the protein you need through a carefully sourced combination of pea protein, pumpkin protein, chia, flaxseed, zucchini, spinach, broccoli and kale. We have thoroughly tested final production lots to ensure it is dairy free, gluten free, contains no soy, egg, peanuts and tree nuts and is also free of GMOs.

Now there is a creamy, flavorful, fully vegan ready to drink shake or protein powder available with 20 grams of complete protein in every serving. Avoid all the trial and error and choose OWYN.

So for the sensitive system or simply for the person who wants the cleanest option available, it’s best to avoid all the top allergens.

OWYN Chocolate Chip Protein Waffles

The PERFECT mouth-watering breakfast created with a kick of protein.

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on March 4, 2021.

  • Overview

What is it? A lactose free diet means eating foods that have no lactose. Lactose is a sugar that is a normal part of milk products. Some people do not break down lactose well. They may not have enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks lactose down in the body. Or, their body may make lactase that does not work properly. This may cause gas, bloating, cramping, or diarrhea when they eat or drink milk products. Following a lactose free diet may prevent these problems. Your caregiver or dietitian can help you decide if you need to be on a lactose free or low lactose diet instead.

Care: The lists below show you what foods are good choices because they contain no lactose.

  • Avoid all foods on the lactose containing food lists. The only time to try these foods is if you take lactase enzyme medicine with them. Ask your doctor or care giver about lactase pills or liquids. This medicine may break down enough of the lactose for you to digest some foods with small amounts of lactose. If you decide to take lactase medicine, start with only small servings of dairy foods. Increase your servings only if you digest them well.
  • Read labels on foods to see if they have milk products in them. Even foods like margarines, shortenings, non-dairy creamers, baked goods, and salad dressings can contain lactose. Food ingredients that may contain lactose are listed at the very end.
  • DAIRY
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free dairy foods any time.
      • Canned nutrition drinks made with soy instead of milk, such as Ensure™
      • Lactose free milk
      • Non-dairy creamers (read labels to be sure)
      • Rice milk drinks
      • Soymilks
    • Do not eat or drink the following dairy foods because they contain lactose.
      • Some cheeses – generally aged cheese contains less lactose, soft and processed cheeses contain higher levels of lactose
      • Buttermilk
      • Cheese spreads and cheese foods
      • Cottage and ricotta cheese
      • Cream
      • Evaporated & condensed milk
      • Hot chocolate mixes
      • Ice cream
      • Kefir cultured milk drink
      • Malted milk
      • Milk (Skim, 1%, 2%, whole)
      • Processed and natural cheeses
      • Reduced lactose milk
      • Sherbet
      • Sour cream
      • Sweet acidophilus or lactobacillus milk
      • Whey
      • Yogurt with or without live cultures
  • BREADS & STARCHES
    • No Lactose: You may eat or these lactose free breads and starches any time.
      • Breads made without milk, such as Italian & French breads
      • Cereals made without milk
      • Pasta, noodles, macaroni
      • Potatoes, rice, barley, other cooked grains
      • Rice cakes without cheese topping
      • Saltines and whole grain crackers
    • Do not eat the following bread and starch foods because they contain lactose.
      • Dry cereal with milk
      • Frozen potato foods with milk or lactose
      • Instant mashed potato mixes
      • Prepared breads, muffins, biscuits, or rolls made with milk
      • Pancakes or waffles made with milk products
  • FATS
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free fats any time.
      • Margarine without butter or milk (check labels)
      • Non-dairy creamers (check labels)
      • Oils
      • Shortenings
      • Some salad dressings (check labels)
    • Do not eat or drink the following fats because they contain lactose.
      • Butter
      • Cream cheese
      • Margarines with butter or milk
      • Party dips
  • FRUITS & VEGETABLES
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free fruits and vegetables any time.
      • All fresh fruits & vegetables
      • Cooked or baked fruits & vegetables made without milk products
      • Fruit & vegetable juices
    • Do not eat or drink the following fruit and vegetable foods because they contain lactose.
      • Creamed vegetables
      • Fruit smoothies made with yogurt
      • Fruits or vegetables processed with lactose
      • Vegetables coated in batter
  • MEATS & MEAT SUBSTITUTES
    • No Lactose: You may eat these lactose free meats and meat substitutes any time.
      • All fresh cooked, plain meats, fish, & poultry
      • Cooked dried peas & beans
      • Eggs cooked without milk
      • Peanut butter, nuts, & seeds
      • Soy cheeses
      • Soybean & tofu products
    • Do not eat the following meats and meat substitutes because they contain lactose.
      • Breaded or batter-dipped meat, fish, or poultry
      • Main dishes with cheese such as pizza, burritos, tacos, or casseroles
      • Meats in cream sauces
      • Omelets or souffles with milk
      • Processed meats with milk or lactose (hot dogs, cold cuts, deli meats)
  • SOUPS, SAUCES, & SEASONINGS
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free soups, sauces, and seasonings any time.
      • Broth, bouillon, consommé
      • Gravies made with water
      • Plain herbs & spices
      • Vegetable or meat soups without milk
    • Do not eat the following soups, sauces, and seasonings because they contain lactose.
      • Chowders
      • Cream soups
      • Soup mixes with milk products
      • Whipped cream
      • White sauces & gravies
  • SWEETS & DESSERTS:
    • No Lactose: You may eat or drink these lactose free sweets and desserts any time.
      • Angel food cake
      • Dairy-free frozen desserts made with rice or soy
      • Frozen pureed fruit bars
      • Fruit ices & sorbets
      • Gelatin desserts without milk or whipped cream
      • Honey, sugar, syrups, molasses, & powdered sweeteners
      • Jellies, jams, preserves
      • Pies, cakes, other baked foods without milk
    • Do not eat or drink the following sweets & desserts because they contain lactose.
      • Cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, desserts with milk
      • Cream or cheese filled pastries
      • Fudge, coated candies, & chocolates
      • Pudding & custard
      • Sherbet, ice milk, ice cream
      • Toffee, butterscotch, or caramels
      • Whipped cream

FOOD INGREDIENTS THAT OFTEN CONTAIN LACTOSE

  • Milk powder
  • Milk protein
  • Milk solids
  • Nonfat dry milk
  • Whey
  • Whey solids or protein

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your dietary problems and how they can be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Dairy Intolerance: Is it Lactose? Casein? or Whey?

Posted by Andrea Rossi, RHN, R.BIE in Allergies

How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intolerance

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: lactose, casein, and whey.

Milk Sugar (Lactose) Intolerance

It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. 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. It 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 they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhea.

Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn’t that easy as 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. In Canada, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.

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 and be considered a true allergy by promoting an IgE response from the immune system. 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.

However, even if an IgE immediate immune response is not observed, a lot of people still get reactions from the casein and whey and therefore find themselves intolerance to these proteins.

Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They’re not just in dairy but are often the base of many protein powders as well (ie. “whey” protein powder).

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 for their protein molecular structure is very similar.

Like lactose intolerance, if you’re allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these.

Worried about your Calcium Intake? How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intolerance

While dairy may be often considered an entire food group, it is not an essential nutrient. Calcium is by far the one mineral that most people worry about consuming enough when they decide to remove dairy from their diets. And there is definitely a big misconception that dairy is the only good source of calcium.

Good news! All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. ? I put together this quick summary organized by amount of calcium available by serving size. I focused on the foods over 50mg per serving, although my no means is this an exhaustive list. I just wanted to give you a good idea on where you can get non-dairy sources of calcium.

You’ll see I kept yogurt and milk on the list. I wanted you to compare their calcium values to others to give you a good comparison.

Note that the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for calcium is as follows:

Birth to 6 months: 200mg
7 – 12 months: 260mg
1 – 3 years: 700mg
4 – 8 years: 1000mg
9 – 18 years: 1300mg
19 – 50 years: 1000mg
During pregnancy: 1200mg
Women over 50 yrs: 1200mg
Men over 70 yrs: 1200mg

Conclusion

If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.

If you experience these symptoms, I would suggest you try removing dairy from your diet for at least 2 weeks to see if your symptoms improve. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat.

After the 2 weeks, start by re-introducing a higher fat dairy source like cheese to see how you feel. If you have no issues, wait 3 days and then reintroduce yogurt and see how you feel. And then lastly dairy milk should you choose.

Because milk has less fat content that the other sources of dairy like cheese and yogurt, it’s often harder to digest since it’s farther from being “whole”. Sticking with dairy full in fat is easiest to digest.

*Interesting fact, parents who struggle with their children and bedwetting find that by removing dairy or other food sensitivities notice an immediate improvement!

If you’re not sure if you’re reacting to the lactose, whey, or casein and you want some help you identify how your body is reacting, I can help you identify how your body is reacting to each of these components.

Sign up for my free 30 min consultation and get your Whole Body Health Profile to see what underlying problem could be affecting you.

How should I change my diet if I have lactose intolerance?

Talk with your doctor or a dietitian about changing your diet to manage lactose intolerance symptoms while making sure you get enough nutrients. If your child has lactose intolerance, help your child follow the dietary plan recommended by a doctor or dietitian.

To manage your symptoms, you may need to reduce the amount of lactose you eat or drink. Most people with lactose intolerance can have some lactose without getting symptoms.

Foods that contain lactose

You may not need to completely avoid foods and beverages that contain lactose—such as milk or milk products. If you avoid all milk and milk products, you may get less calcium and vitamin D than you need.

People with lactose intolerance can handle different amounts of lactose. Research suggests that many people could have 12 grams of lactose—the amount in about 1 cup of milk—without symptoms or with only mild symptoms. 5,6

You may be able to tolerate milk and milk products if you

  • drink small amounts of milk at a time and have it with meals
  • add milk and milk products to your diet a little at a time and see how you feel
  • try eating yogurt and hard cheeses, like cheddar or Swiss, which are lower in lactose than other milk products
  • use lactase products to help digest the lactose in milk and milk products

How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intoleranceTry eating yogurt and hard cheeses, which some people find easier to tolerate than other milk products.

Lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products

Using lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products may help you lower the amount of lactose in your diet. These products are available in many grocery stores and are just as healthy for you as regular milk and milk products.

Calcium and Vitamin D

If you are lactose intolerant, make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D each day. Milk and milk products are the most common sources of calcium.

Many foods that do not contain lactose are also sources of calcium. Examples include:

  • fish with soft bones, such as canned salmon or sardines
  • broccoli and leafy green vegetables
  • oranges
  • almonds, Brazil nuts, and dried beans
  • tofu
  • products with labels that show they have added calcium, such as some cereals, fruit juices, and soy milk

How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intoleranceIf you are lactose intolerant, make sure you get enough calcium each day.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium. Be sure to eat foods that contain vitamin D, such as eggs and certain kinds of fish, such as salmon. Some ready-to-eat cereals and orange juice have added vitamin D. Some milk and milk products also have added vitamin D. If you can drink small amounts of milk or milk products without symptoms, choose products that have added vitamin D. Also, being outside in the sunlight helps your body make vitamin D.

Talk with your doctor or dietitian about whether you are getting the nutrients you need. For safety reasons, also talk with your doctor before using dietary supplements or any other complementary or alternative medicines or practices. Also talk with your doctor about sun exposure and sun safety.

What foods and drinks contain lactose?

Lactose is in all milk and milk products and may be found in other foods and drinks.

Milk and milk products may be added to boxed, canned, frozen, packaged, and prepared foods. If you have symptoms after consuming a small amount of lactose, you should be aware of the many products that may contain lactose, such as

  • bread and other baked goods, such as pancakes, biscuits, cookies, and cakes
  • processed foods, including breakfast cereals, instant potatoes, soups, margarine, salad dressings, and flavored chips and other snack foods
  • processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and lunch meats
  • milk-based meal replacement liquids and powders, smoothies, and protein powders and bars
  • nondairy liquid and powdered coffee creamers, and nondairy whipped toppings

You can check the ingredient list on packaged foods to see if the product contains lactose. The following words mean that the product contains lactose:

  • milk
  • lactose
  • whey
  • curds
  • milk by-products
  • dry milk solids
  • nonfat dry milk powder

A small amount of lactose may be found in some prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Talk with your doctor about the amount of lactose in medicines you take, especially if you typically cannot tolerate even small amounts of lactose.

References

[5] Dalal SR, Chang EB. Chapter 65: Disorders of epithelial transport, metabolism, and digestion in the small intestine. In: Podolsky DK, Camilleri M, Fitz JG, Kalloo AN, Shanahan F, Wang TC, eds. Yamada’s Textbook of Gastroenterology. 6th ed. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons; 2016;1276–1293.

[6] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. USDA national nutrient database for standard reference, release 28. Released September 2015, slightly revised May 2016. USDA Food Composition Databases website. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/. Accessed November 16, 2017.

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intoleranceDairy Intolerance (Lactose, Casein, and Whey)

Having a food intolerance is not fun. It can cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhoea. 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: lactose, casein, and whey.

Milk sugar (lactose) intolerance

It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. 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. It 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 they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhoea.

Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yoghurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn’t that easy as 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. In some country, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.

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. It’s an allergy. 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.

Conclusion

If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhoea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.

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 these symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet for a few weeks and re-introduce it back again to see if causes any symptoms. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat.

If you decide to (or have already) removed dairy from your diet, let me know your experience in the comments below.

Recipe (Dairy-free): Chocolate Ice “Cream”

Serves 2

3 bananas, sliced and frozen
2 tsp cacao powder, unsweetened
1 tbsp almond butter

Place frozen bananas in food processor and blend until smooth (a few minutes). You may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides.

Add cacao powder and almond butter and blend until mixed well.

Tip: You can make this in advance and freeze in an airtight container.

How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intoleranceDairy Intolerance (Lactose, Casein, and Whey)

Having a food intolerance is not fun. It can cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhoea. 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: lactose, casein, and whey.

Milk sugar (lactose) intolerance

It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. 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. It 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 they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhoea.

Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yoghurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn’t that easy as 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. In some country, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.

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. It’s an allergy. 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.

Conclusion

If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhoea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.

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 these symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet for a few weeks and re-introduce it back again to see if causes any symptoms. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat.

If you decide to (or have already) removed dairy from your diet, let me know your experience in the comments below.

Recipe (Dairy-free): Chocolate Ice “Cream”

Serves 2

3 bananas, sliced and frozen
2 tsp cacao powder, unsweetened
1 tbsp almond butter

Place frozen bananas in food processor and blend until smooth (a few minutes). You may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides.

Add cacao powder and almond butter and blend until mixed well.

Tip: You can make this in advance and freeze in an airtight container.

How to avoid whey to alleviate lactose intolerance

Before discussing whether or not people who are lactose-intolerant still enjoy cheese, it is important to differentiate between being lactose intolerant and having dairy allergies. Lactose intolerance is characterized by the inability to digest lactose sugar, one of the major components in milk. On the other hand, if you have dairy allergies it is more likely you have a reaction to either the casein protein or whey protein in milk.

Symptoms of Lactose-Intolerance

The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance usually begin 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when your small intestine doesn’t produce enough of an enzyme (lactase) to digest milk sugar (lactose). Normally, lactase turns milk sugar into two simple sugars — glucose and galactose — which are absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining.

If you’re lactase deficient, lactose in your food moves into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed. In the colon, normal bacteria interact with undigested lactose, causing the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance.

There are three types of lactose intolerance—primary, secondary, and congenital or developmental. Different factors cause the lactase deficiency underlying each type.

When to See a Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you frequently have symptoms of lactose intolerance after eating dairy foods, particularly if you’re worried about getting enough calcium.

Cheese Is Still OK for Some Lactose-Intolerant

For some people who have determined they are only lactose intolerant, cheese can be eaten. This is because lactose is primarily in the whey, not the curds. When cheese is being made (with the exception of some soft cheeses that contain whey, like ricotta) the whey (liquid) is discarded and the lactose goes with it.

Eating Aged Cheeses

Curds still have a little bit of lactose, but not much. As cheese ages and loses moisture and becomes hard, there is even less lactose left in the curds. The longer a cheese is aged and the harder texture it has, the less lactose remains. Some people who have trouble digesting lactose can eat cheese that has been aged until it has a hard texture. Another option for people who want to avoid lactose is to eat lactose-free cheese substitutes.

Does Goat Cheese Have Lactose?

Some believe that cheese made from goat milk is the easiest type of cheese for lactose-intolerant people to digest. Goats’ milk basically has the same amount of lactose in it. However, it is naturally homogenized, which can make it easier to digest.

“Naturally homogenized” means the fat globules in the milk are small and remain suspended in the milk rather than separating out. This makes the milk easier to digest. In cows’ milk, the fat globules are large enough that they will separate from the liquid and become hard to digest. A way to visualize this is to think about the thick layer of fat that rises to the top of cream made from cow’s milk.