Its dense, heavy texture isn't the only thing distinguishing Greek from American-style yogurt. A straining process that removes liquid increases Greek yogurt's protein content between 40 and 80 percent, notes Ohio State University's editor Martha Filipic. This rich, nutritious and filling food, however, contains two, or possibly three, ingredients capable of causing outbreaks of red spots in some people. If you develop these spots after eating Greek yogurt, you may be sensitive to at least one of them.
Milk allergy numbers among the eight foods responsible for 90 percent of food allergies, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network website. Milk allergies affect as many as 2.5 percent of American children younger than 3, notes the FAAN. A small fraction of those children never outgrows the allergy. For them, eating Greek yogurt can mean irritating skin bumps, or hives, and other unpleasant symptoms.
Milk Protein Sensitivity
If you suffer from a milk allergy, your body's immune system mistakenly attacks Greek yogurt's proteins as dangerous invaders. Your immune system cells secrete protein-destroying antibodies called histamines. These antibodies produce allergic reactions, including skin rashes or hives, digestive distress or respiratory difficulty. The symptoms surface within minutes to a few hours after eating Greek yogurt. Anaphylaxis, the most severe reaction, causes airway shutdown shortly after yogurt consumption. This potentially fatal condition requires immediate medical attention.
Histamines in Greek Yogurt
All milk protein contains the amino acid histidine. A reaction between the cultures in Greek yogurt and the histidine in its milk proteins creates histamines. Histamine-rich foods can produce the same symptoms, including rashes and hives, as an allergy. Eating them, however, won’t trigger an immune system response. Only a doctor can determine whether your symptoms result form an allergy or from histamine intolerance.
Some Greek yogurt varieties contain fruit in addition to their milk proteins and histamines. Fruit causes allergic reactions in sensitive people. Strawberries, pineapples and tropical fruits like mangoes often create problems. Peaches, cherries and apricots are other candidates. An existing allergy to pollen and latex may increased the likelihood of fruit allergies. Swelling and itching of the mouth and throat shortly after eating the yogurt indicates a fruit-related reaction. Skin symptoms include rashes, hives and eczema.
An allergist’s diagnosis is the best way to determine why eating Greek yogurt causes your skin to develop red bumps. A skin test in which the allergist exposes your skin to different ingredients in the yogurt amounts can quickly determine if you have a milk or fruit allergy. If hives appear shortly after exposure to an ingredient, that ingredient is an allergen. You may also need a blood test or be asked to eat the yogurt in a medically-supervised environment.
Avoiding your diagnosed allergens is the only effective treatment. Even if your only reaction has been a few skin bumps, continuing consumption of the allergens could trigger a severe, to life-threatening condition. Keeping injectable epinephrine -- available by prescription -- with you at all times can be a life-saver following accidental allergen exposure.
- Ohio State University Extension Chowline; More Say: "Yogurt, It's Greek to Me"; Martha Filipic; November 2010
- Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network; Common Food Allergens
- Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network; Milk Allergy
- Michigan Allergy, Sinus and Allergy Specialists; Food Allergy Clinic Diagnosis and Treatment
- AI Notes; Histamine-Free Diets; Foods thet Contain Histamine or Cause the Body to Release Histamine, Including Fermented Foods
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Food Allergy; March 2010
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Allergy and Resource Program; Fruits
- American Academy of Asthma and Immunology; Food Allergy: Tips to Remember