We've Gotta Have it
4 Unexpected Signs You May Be Allergic to Dairy
If you have any of these, talk to your doctor about an elimination diet.
Many people think they don’t have a dairy allergy because they don’t have typical symptoms like lip swelling, a rash, or wheezing. But there is a type of delayed allergy (called non-IgE mediated) where it can take up to three days for symptoms to manifest, and sometimes so mildly that you don’t notice until five to seven days after eating something with dairy in it.
Food sensitivities are a great disease mimicker, and they can underlie many ‘thick note syndromes’ (patients with long medical history files that no doctors have been able to help). Once the immune system is triggered by an offending food, antibodies can circulate everywhere, and cause havoc anywhere there is a weakness in the body.
Here are some of the most common manifestations of a dairy sensitivity:
1. Eczema, acne and other skin complaints
There are now multiple studies supporting a link between acne and dairy consumption. Since food sensitivity can cause a delayed reaction manifesting as eczema, a lot of my patients reported their skin issues improved once they eliminated dairy from their diet.
2. Joint pains
Studies as far back as 1986 have illustrated improvements in joint symptoms (and even rheumatoid arthritis) with an elimination diet.
3. Asthma, sinus issues, or other respiratory problems
The casein in dairy can cause increased mucus production in the airways and lungs; this can cause asthma symptoms, and recurrent sinus problems like chronic sinusitis.
4. Fatigue and weight loss resistance
This is such a common symptom, and while there are many other causes like issues with your thyroid or hormonal imbalance, if a full medical workup has been conducted and no cause for fatigue can be identified, discuss the possibility of a food sensitivity with your medical provider.
The unifying mechanism underlying all these symptoms is inflammation. A dairy (or other food) sensitivity can lead to a chronically activated immune system with inflammation in the body.
So, what can you do if you have these symptoms and want to know if dairy sensitivity could be a culprit? Eliminate dairy from your diet for three weeks. It’s important that vital nutrients are replaced with non-dairy foods, so work with a dietician or a practitioner. Monitor your symptoms and keep a diary. Then at the end of the three weeks, reintroduce dairy and take note of what symptoms start to reappear, such as anxiety, fatigue, joint aches or skin issues. Continue eating dairy every day for the next three to five days, and see if symptoms reappear.
This content is for informational or educational purposes only. Please consult your healthcare provider in regards to recommendations and treatments as this material cannot be used as medical advice.
Dr. Vivian Chen is a double board-certified (UK) physician in internal and family practice and a health advisor to Switch4Good, a non-profit group advocating for the benefits of a dairy-free lifestyle. Her own daughter had a life-threatening dairy allergy which no doctor, including herself, was able to diagnose. In order to save her daughter’s life, Dr. Chen undertook more learning and research into food allergies.