Dairy is found in a lot of food today, mostly in the form of milk, cheese, and butter. But many people experience digestive discomfort when they consume dairy products. Today we will discuss some of the reasons why dairy products can cause these issues in people.
Lactose is the type of sugar found in milk. In order for our bodies to properly digest lactose, we need an enzyme called lactase. For many people, their lactase activity decreases with age. The inability to properly digest lactose, due to low production of lactase, is known as lactose intolerance. Approximately 65% of adults in the world have some degree of lactose intolerance. It’s very common for lactose intolerance to develop later in life.
The symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- Belly cramps and pain
Casein sensitivity is an issue that is not as widely known as lactose intolerance. Milk has two types of protein: whey and casein. Casein accounts for 80% of the total protein in cow’s milk and whey accounts for 20%. Some people are born with an allergy to milk, but it is possible for people to develop a casein sensitivity later in life.
If you already struggle with digestive issues, this can predispose you to developing an intolerance or sensitivity to casein. This is because when the gut lining is already degraded, large protein particles can slip through the walls of the gut into the bloodstream. This can then cause your body to mount an immune reaction to the protein. When a reaction from food is triggered primarily by the digestive system, this isn’t as severe as a food allergy that someone is born with, which is an immediate IgE reaction and can oftentimes cause a person to go into anaphylaxis shock. However, even sensitivities rooted from the digestive system can cause a reaction within the immune system, and are associated with IgG or IgA immune reactions, which are delayed response reactions.
Oftentimes symptoms of a casein sensitivity are histamine-type reactions, such as a runny nose and itchy skin. But a casein sensitivity can also cause digestive issues that are similar to lactose intolerance, such as gas, bloating, abdominal cramps and pain, and stool abnormalities such as diarrhea or constipation. If someone has a casein sensitivity and they are still consuming the protein, this increases the inflammation in the gut which further exacerbates any digestive issues that may already be going on.