Dairy intolerance in adults
Do you get bloating, stomach cramps and wind that seem to occur after eating cheese or drinking milk? If so you are likely to have an intolerance to casein (a protein) or lactose (a sugar) in milk. A casein allergy is much less common and is a severe immune response that can include itching or wheezing.
Some 5% of adults are intolerant to lactose which means they don’t have enough of the enzyme lactase that digests this sugar. Lactase can decrease over time after illness, surgery, medication stress or poor diet. If you are lactose intolerant milk, cream and yoghurt are most likely to cause symptoms.
A casein intolerance is less common and also causes gastrointestinal symptoms. It can also manifest with more systemic symptoms like fatigue, headache and joint pain. If you have a casein intolerance you are most likely to have symptoms after eating hard cheese, cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt.
How to deal with a dairy intolerance
Remove all dairy products for one month. Look out for hidden dairy in processed and ready prepared food. A nutritional therapist can help you through this phase as you are likely to need some gut healing nutrients and lifestyle advice - you should notice a big difference in how you feel.
If it's unclear whether you have a casein or lactose intolerance, you can re-introduce dairy products after one month one at a time, slowly, to see how your body reacts and whether you can tolerate any dairy products or need to avoid them all. If you have an obvious casein intolerance then you will need to continue to avoid all dairy indefinitely.
Don't worry about not getting enough calcium, there are lots of ways to get enough without dairy. Watercress, parsley, nuts, beans, kale, sardines, sesame seeds calcium enriched nut milks... there are lots of good alternative sources. You can also get lactose free dairy products - milk and cheese, and some people can tolerate goat's or sheep's milk products but not cows.
If you have a lactose intolerance it's possible to supplement the missing enzyme for those occasions (weddings, holidays) when it might be impossible to avoid all dairy.
Get some professional advice to ensure that you are maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet. Bloating, stomach cramps and wind - be gone...