A whey allergy can provoke severe symptoms, ranging from hives and eczema to diarrhea, vomiting and anaphylactic shock. Whey is a natural part of milk, so you have to avoid all milk products. Unfortunately, whey is also an extremely popular food additive. Avoiding whey means understanding food-labeling terms, carefully reading labels and asking a lot of questions.
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Whey is the liquid part of milk, and it contains about 20 percent of milk's protein. Food-processing companies use dried whey because it is inexpensive filler. Whey protein concentrate is good for making gels and adding a sour flavor to food. Manufacturers use it in cake mixes, breads and as a fat replacer in spreads, fillings and sauces.
Because whey is a natural component of milk, avoid yogurt, ice cream, sour cream and other dairy products. Avoid protein powders unless you are absolutely certain they are whey-free. Since whey is such a common and inexpensive food additive, you should also avoid cheese-flavored crackers and snacks, margarine, hot dogs and sausages. Whey-containing milk is frequently used for waffles, pancakes, muffins, chocolate and pudding. Chocolate candies, nougat and caramel contain whey. Since cheese has whey, beware of dishes drenched in cheese and cheese sauce, such as pasta Alfredo, pizza and enchiladas.
Whey protein goes by many names. In addition to several ingredients that include the word "whey," look out for lactoglobulin, glycomacropeptide or GMP, lactoferrin, immunoglobulin, lactoperoxidase, bovine serum albumin or BSA, transferrin, lipases and lysozyme. Avoid any products with ingredients that start off with the prefix "lact-." These all come from milk products, and most are whey derivatives. Cheese, milk and buttermilk flavoring is also likely to come from whey.
Always read food labels, and be aware of the synonyms for whey. When you eat in restaurants, ask how the food is prepared. Do not order foods that are served in a cheese sauce or that have been dipped in milk before cooking. Let your server know you have a whey allergy and that you can't have any cheese on your salad or even in your salad dressing.
Prepare more of your food at home and avoid using packaged mixes and processed foods. Starting with whole foods and preparing your entire meal is the only way to be entirely certain you are whey-free.