The most prominent milk protein is casein (80%). It is a protein that provides the essential amino acids for building and recovering muscle. But it is slow to be absorbed and the excessive consumption of this substance can lead to weight gain and can cause reactions such as bloating, indisposition, headaches, discomfort, concentration and memory alteration.
Lactose is the sugar present in milk. We need the enzyme lactase to break down this sugar.
Mostly as we get older, this enzyme stops being produced, and consequently lactose can no longer be broken down.
When this happens, bacteria ferment this unabsorbed lactose, causing gastric discomfort and producing substances that are toxic to our body.
These symptoms vary from person to person, being milder or more intense depending on the degree of intolerance. Some people have had them for years and find the discomfort “normal”.
The moment they go about 3 days without consuming lactose they will realize the difference and understand that the symptoms of flatulence and/or diarrhea are not normal.
There are already several studies showing the relationship of dairy and lactose with hyperinsulinism – which is the excessive increase of insulin in the blood – and also with immunological reactions, since the immune system acts against casein, generating an allergy.
Am I intolerant or allergic?
- Casein allergy is difficult to diagnose, since the symptoms may appear only after 3 days of its consumption, which leads to a difficulty in associating it with the food.
- Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is easier to identify.
Both casein and lactose generate inflammation, which is linked to obesity and can even lead to dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the intestinal bacterial flora, reducing the capacity to absorb nutrients and vitamins.
So will I have to go dairy-free for the rest of my life?
This will vary from person to person, but usually the problem lies in the excess. A balanced diet avoids a lot of health problems, as well as having to sacrifice going without some products for a while or even for the rest of your life.
You may need to go without lactose for a while to be able to regulate your body. But swapping dairy products for others (vegetable or nut based products) is definitely a great option.
In fact, even in lactose-free products casein does not cease to exist. Therefore, some people who switch from traditional products to lactose-free foods may still suffer from some of those allergy symptoms.
Furthermore the lactose in lactose-free products is not removed, but rather converted into smaller sugars, with the addition of lactase – the enzyme that breaks down lactose.
Conclusion: switching from cow milk to vegetable or nut milk is for sure a healthy and easy option.