Some cheeses are naturally lactose-free or are treated during manufacturing to create lactose-free cheese. There aren’t any cheeses that don’t contain casein. Casein is the main protein in milk that is used to make cheese. If you’re allergic to casein proteins, you should not eat cheese because it can trigger an allergic reaction. If you have a medical condition related to dairy products, you need to talk with your doctor before eating cheese.
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Milk contains two proteins: casein and whey. Casein proteins are primarily in the curd of the milk, which is the hard portion of milk that forms when it curdles. Curd is the portion of milk that is used to make cheese. Whey is the portion of the milk that remains liquid after it curdles. Casein proteins don’t cause adverse reactions in most people, unless they’re allergic to the protein.
If you’re allergic to casein proteins, your immune system reacts to them as if they would cause harm to the body. Because of this confusion in the immune system, the body creates antibodies, histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation. The allergic reaction can cause skin rashes, eczema, hives, shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, diarrhea, cramping, bloating and gas. In some cases, eating casein proteins in cheese could cause a severe allergic reaction with life-threatening symptoms. There is no way to make cheese free of casein proteins. Do not eat cheese if you’ve been diagnosed with a milk allergy.
Lactose and Cheese
Lactose is a sugar found in milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, your body cannot digest the sugar because of an enzyme deficiency. Some aged cheeses that contain cultures do not contain lactose because the live cultures digest the lactose in the dairy. According to the University of Georgia, American cheese, Swiss cheese and blue cheese are low in lactose. Certain manufacturers add the lactase enzyme during production of the cheese, removing all the lactose. Cheese that doesn’t contain lactose will be labeled “lactose-free.” Otherwise the cheese may contain some lactose.
If you cannot eat dairy-based cheese because of a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, you can purchase soy-based cheese substitutes that are free of milk and lactose. These cheese substitutes commonly come fortified with calcium and vitamin D to replace any lost nutrition from avoiding dairy.