What Is Casein?
Casein is a common type of dietary protein that is often found in milk and dairy products. It is primarily characterized by its slow release of amino acids which help with boosting recovery and muscle repair. There are two primary types of casein available in the market, which are micellar casein and hydrolysate. While casein hydrolysate is rapidly absorbed by the body, micellar casein is digested slowly and releases its nutrients over time, potentially causing casein intolerance in some cases.
The slow-release action of casein is also helpful for promoting the synthesis of amino acids within the body which prevent our muscles from being consumed by our body due to catabolism, earning casein the name ‘anticatabolic’
Benefits Of Casein
Consumption of casein protein can be beneficial for boosting the growth of muscles and bones in the body, especially for those who take part in a lot of physical activity. It also helps with lowering the body’s triglyceride count, which is beneficial for reducing cholesterol, reducing oxidative stress exerted on the body, and preventing the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration or complications like cardiovascular disease.
While casein does have a lot of benefits that we can put it to use for, there can be instances wherein people may experience adverse effects after being exposed to it. Particular subtypes of beta-casein protein such as A1 and A2 have been observed to cause certain symptoms and reactions of casein intolerance among patients that show similarities to that of dairy intolerance.
Understanding Casein Allergy
Primarily, people experience casein allergy symptoms when their body misidentifies the protein as a potentially harmful substance or pathogen. This instantly triggers the release of white blood cells and other antibodies which work towards eliminating it from our system. It is commonly confused with lactose intolerance, which commonly occurs due to the lack of enzyme lactase in our body, due to its similarities in symptoms.
The similarities in symptoms commonly occur due to the presence of like compounds in both casein and dairy-based products. Both supplements are made out of ingredients like fats, milk proteins, lactose, and milk sugars.
In cases of casein allergy, it is best to avoid all forms of milk and dairy products since the body can experience severe reactions to the introduction of those substances. This could potentially trigger major health complications such as anaphylaxis which can trick the immune system into releasing a lot of harmful chemicals in the body.
Casein intolerance symptoms are a common case among infants and toddlers since their immune systems are still developing and the sudden introduction of casein-based substances can potentially trigger allergic reactions. This commonly occurs among those who are bottle-fed instead of breastfeeding, since manufactured products are mostly incorporated with chemicals laced with casein. This effect can be further amplified due to the role of preexisting genetic markers that have a negative reaction to lactose products.
In most cases, this casein allergy goes away by itself until the child reaches the age of 6-7 years. However, some children never do get rid of the allergy and carry it all the way into adulthood. Alternatively, a gene carrying a sensitivity to protein or lactose-based products might activate itself due to exposure to a certain trigger or a type of environment, which can lead to a serious and activated casein allergy.
Tests For Casein Intolerance
While there are no specific casein intolerance tests to be done to determine the presence of a casein allergy, there are always checks for certain telltale signs and symptoms of the disease which you can get tested for, apart from being checked for your family history and a medical examination.
Here are a few tests that you can get conducted by your local medical health practitioner to determine the casein allergy information:
- A standard stool test to find out any abnormalities such as discoloration, consistency, presence of blood, etc that could be a sign of casein intolerance
- A blood test to check for sudden drops or spikes in insulin hormones, blood sugar fasting levels, etc.
- One of the more common tests for casein sensitivity include a skin test wherein a small amount of casein protein is introduced to the body. The doctor then observes if there are any classic signs such as redness, bumps, blisters, or any other indicators of inflammation in response to casein protein.
- Additionally, a suspected mild case of casein sensitivity can be simply tested by introducing some milk into the body and looking out for any allergic reaction such as closing off of the throat, blocked sinuses, headaches, vomiting, etc.
There are also certain medications that could alter the outcome of these tests. If you are doubtful of being allergic to casein, avoid consuming tablets such as antihistamines which may tamper with your allergy tests and bring back a false positive or false negative.
Preventative Measures For Casein Intolerance
If you are someone who may be suffering from casein intolerance, it is recommended that you monitor your food intake with the utmost care and responsibility. Not only do you have to completely stay off of foods that have milk in them, but you must also make sure that the food that you do consume has not been processed using the same equipment.
This happens because usually kitchen equipment has a tendency to pick up trace amounts of whatever food they are processing and pass it on the next month. This is why you must make certain changes to your lifestyle. Stop ordering food for a while and focus on planning your own meals to involve dairy-free foods that you enjoy.
Here are a few other tips that you can use to help deal with casein intolerance:
- If you are someone who is allergic to casein but still enjoys eating ice cream, try going for rice or soy-based desserts. They are made from alternative forms of dairy such as nut butter, almond milk, etc which are virtually free from lactose.
- You can swap fried junk foods for comparatively healthier foods such as roll-ups which are completely free of milk and are rich in nutrition.
- Make it a habit to cook your own food instead of ordering in. Doing this will give you a better idea of what you are putting into your body. Learning how to cook can also be an essential life skill.
Treatment For Casein Intolerance
Since the casein intolerance is more or less embedded inside your genes, there are not many options to carry out the treatment for it. You can, however, take the necessary steps to ensure that you do not experience a severe allergy episode.
Once you have been properly diagnosed by your doctor about the allergy, you can start keeping a shot of epinephrine handy as a casein allergy treatment in case you accidentally consume something that has milk in it. It is also a good idea to invest in some over-the-counter antihistamine tablets. These tablets counter the secretion of histamine, a hormone that sets off inflammation in the body. You can use this tablet whenever you experience mild irritation or discomfort from the food that you have consumed.
In case you are feeling allergic to casein because of something that you may have been exposed to, it is vital that you immediately dose yourself with epinephrine. Do not wait to consult a doctor as the inflammation may become worse by the second in such cases. Epinephrine on the other hand will not even harm you since all it is doing is providing you with an adrenaline rush for a few minutes. Once you have injected yourself, go to your nearest medical health practitioner and get yourself checked in for observation as the casein can cause several other symptoms for up to a period of 5 hours after the initial attack.