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Casein Allergy Overview

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Milk or Casein Allergy Prevention

The best treatment for milk/casein allergy is prevention or avoidance. To prevent an allergic reaction to casein, you must follow a casein-free diet, avoiding all foods that contain milk or milk products.

Avoiding milk products involves more than just leaving the cheese off your sandwich. It may also mean leaving off the deli meat if it was cut with the same equipment used to slice the cheese. Even miniscule amounts of casein may be enough to trigger a reaction. In people who are allergic, the level of sensitivity varies from person to person. Some individuals might be able to tolerate small amounts of milk, especially if the milk is baked or cooked in items. However, for most individuals, strict avoidance is best since the amount of milk many not be consistent between products from different manufacturers or even between batches from the same manufacturer.

Giving up milk doesn't have to mean giving up calcium. Because even people who drink milk often don't get enough calcium in their diets, many other foods -- including juices, cereals, and rice and soy drinks -- are now enriched with calcium. Vegetables including kale, spinach, and broccoli are good sources of calcium as well.

Whenever you're selecting packaged foods, always check the label for milk ingredients -- even with foods like luncheon meats and candy.

In addition to casein, ingredients and foods to watch for and avoid include:

  • Calcium casein, casein hydrolysate, magnesium casein, potassium casein, rennet casein, sodium casein
  • Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, milk, pudding
  • Butter, butter flavoring, butter fat
  • Lactalbumin, lactoalbumin phosphate, lactaglobulin, lactose
  • Margarine
  • Nondairy creamers
  • Whey, whey hydrolysate

For food products sold in the U.S., manufacturers now must list on the label whether a food contains any of the most common allergens. If a food contains casein, you should find words somewhere on the label such as: "contains milk ingredients," "made with milk ingredients," or "processed in a facility that also processes milk products."

Here are some more tips for casein-free eating:

  • Instead of ice cream, try fruit-flavored soy or rice-based frozen desserts, sorbets, and puddings.
  • Use vegetable margarine for cooking and to spread on toast.
  • Avoid foods fried in batter, which may contain milk. In some cases, foods fried in oil that has been used to fry something containing milk might be contaminated with small amounts of milk and can cause a reaction.
  • When eating out, ask the wait staff detailed questions about menu items.
  • Explore new foods like vanilla-flavored soy milk, which some people prefer to cow's milk.

It may be a challenge to eliminate all milk from your diet, but with a little effort you can still have proper nutrition with foods you enjoy.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on August 05, 2012
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