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Signs and Symptoms of Allergic Reactions to Whey Protein Powder

by
author image Melodie Anne
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.
Signs and Symptoms of Allergic Reactions to Whey Protein Powder
Nausea could set in if you're allergic to whey. Photo Credit AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

Whey protein is a derivative of milk, so you could experience symptoms associated with a dairy allergy. Not all side effects from whey protein are related to allergies, however; some side effects stem from an intolerance. Sometimes whey is blended with other protein powders or is hidden in high-protein bars or drinks. So if you know that whey causes you problems, read through the ingredient list on the nutrition facts label carefully and avoid products with whey.

Whey Allergy Details

Signs and Symptoms of Allergic Reactions to Whey Protein Powder
Being allergic to whey means your immune system thinks it is a harmful invader. Photo Credit marekuliasz/iStock/Getty Images

Being allergic to whey means that your body doesn't recognize the protein and your immune system thinks it is a harmful invader. Your immune system goes into attack mode, fighting off what it thinks could be harmful. While uncommon, it is possible to be allergic to milk and foods made with milk. Because whey is a byproduct of milk, it can come into contact with some of those proteins that set off your immune system.

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External Signs

Signs and Symptoms of Allergic Reactions to Whey Protein Powder
If you're highly sensitive to whey, you may develop signs and symptoms as soon as you come into contact with it. Photo Credit deymos/iStock/Getty Images

Signs and symptoms of a whey protein allergy can start immediately when you come into contact with it, if you’re highly sensitive. As soon as you open up the container of whey protein powder, you could get a rash or develop hives. Your skin may get red and irritated, making you want to scratch at it. You might not experience sensitivity on your hands and arms, however. If you ingest the whey, the skin around your mouth could become irritated, and your lips and tongue may swell up.

Internal Issues

Signs and Symptoms of Allergic Reactions to Whey Protein Powder
You may sneeze, cough or develop runny eyes. Photo Credit AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images

After ingesting or inhaling whey protein powder, if you’re allergic, your eyes will probably start watering or even turn red. Sneezing and coughing may soon follow. As the protein makes its way through your gut, you might have abdominal pains, leaving you nauseated. In some cases, you could also throw up or develop diarrhea. If you start wheezing and are short of breath, that means that you’re most likely going into anaphylaxis shock, a life-threatening condition in some cases. You'll need an epinephrine injection and emergency medical treatment if breathing becomes difficult.

Lactose Intolerance Consideration

Signs and Symptoms of Allergic Reactions to Whey Protein Powder
You may also show symptoms if you are lactose intolerant. Photo Credit Ana Blazic/iStock/Getty Images

Just because you experience intestinal distress or other mild problems after consuming whey protein powder doesn’t necessarily mean you are allergic to it. You could be lactose intolerant. Some types of whey products have lactose in them, which is a natural milk sugar that is difficult for some people to digest. If milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheese send you running for the bathroom, whey protein powder could have the same effect. Until you get a clear diagnosis as to whether you have an allergy or intolerance, though, stay away from whey protein to avoid serious complications.

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