Sudden-onset vs. Slow-onset Food allergiesMost people think food-related allergic reactions are sudden and fast acting – such as peanut or shellfish allergies which can cause immediate inflammation (an IgE immune response), resulting in swelling or difficulty breathing and can be life-threatening. On the other hand, dairy, which can be hidden in many everyday foods causes a far less acute allergic reaction, creating inflammation hours or even days later (an IgG immune response). Up to 60% of the population could be affected by hidden sensitivities to foods such as dairy.
Dairy Allergy and Weight GainFoods with dairy can cause unhealthy bacteria to overgrow and produce toxins that cause systemic inflammation that swells the intestines and prevents normal digestion, causing weight gain, among other conditions such as irritable bowel. In fact, you can gain up to 30 pounds a year due to a dairy allergy.
Lastly, a dairy allergy is tied to inflammation in the gut, as opposed to lactose intolerance, which is an inability to digest the milk sugar called lactose.
The first step to finding out if a dairy allergy is making you gain weight is to identify both the main and hidden sources of dairy in your diet.
Main Dairy Sources: Milk, butter, yogurt and cheese.
Hidden Dairy Sources:
Desserts: Cakes, muffins, cookies and chocolate may contain basic dairy ingredients along with “hidden” dairy derivatives such as casein or whey, both milk proteins. Be sure to look for these ingredients on labels and avoid them.
Deli Meats and Fish: Processed meats often contain dairy products such as lactose, casein and caseinates that act as emulsifiers or flavor enhancers. Meats labeled “kosher” will be dairy-free. Be aware that some brands of canned tuna contain casein.
Bread: Both white and wheat bread often contain casein, whey or milk powder. Freshly baked yeast breads are sometimes prepared in buttered pans or brushed with butter as they bake. Ask your baker if this is the case.
Energy Bars: Countless brands of protein and energy bars consist primarily of whey protein. As with all of the above, remember to read these food labels very carefully as well.
The 3-Week Anti-Allergy Plan
To find out if you could be allergic to dairy, follow this plan based on the 3 “Rs”: Remove all dairy, repair your digestive track, and reboot your body.
Week 1: Remove All DairyRemove all the dairy from your diet for an entire week, which is how long your system needs for internal inflammation to settle down. Replace dairy milk with almond milk, which tastes good and has high quality protein and fat in it. In addition, replace butter with olive oil, a great source of good fat that contains oleic acid and anti-inflammatory properties.
Week 2: Repair Your Digestive TrackIf your gut is damaged by dairy, repair it with healthy bacteria found in probiotics. Choose a probiotic supplement that contains both bifidobacterium and lactobacillus bacteria. Select a product in pill or powder form that has 10-50 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) and take that amount daily. Be wary of liquid-based products, which may not be as active, along with food products with added probiotics. Click here for a smart guide to purchasing probiotics.
Week 3: Reboot Your BodyNow that you have a clean digestive slate, it’s time to reboot and see if dairy was causing your weight gain. Start by adding one dairy food back at a time and keep a food log of your body’s reactions. Ask yourself: Am I more tired? Am I bloated? Do I have fluid retention? All of these potential factors could be clues that you have a hidden food sensitivity to dairy.
If you think you’re allergic to dairy at the end of three weeks, see your doctor for a blood test, which can help determine if you have elevated levels of a certain antibody that could be causing inflammation. If you are indeed allergic, you can use the above plan stay allergy- and inflammation-free.