Casein protein is the primary protein that is found in dairy products such as milk, cheese and butter, although it is also added to nondairy creamer, soy cheeses, protein drinks, energy bars, drinks and other processed foods. The consumption of this protein can cause a variety of reactions, most stemming from allergies. But regardless of allergies, the protein reacts with human brain chemistry.
If you are allergic to casein, you will want to avoid all dairy products. You also will want to scan the ingredients on any edible product because it is often added to unlikely foods. For example, products labeled “non-dairy” may still contain casein protein. Food manufacturers regularly add casein to these products because of its cohesive quality. Casein protein does a remarkable job of binding ingredients together and holding the products’ intended shape, much like edible glue. It is also included in some non-edible products, such as nail polish. If you are sensitive to this protein, you will want to scan ingredient labels for any type of product that you put in or on your body to make sure it does not contain casein.
Consumption of casein can cause several reactions in allergic individuals ranging from mild to severe. An individual can have either an immediate reaction to the casein, symptoms manifesting within minutes of ingesting it or delayed reactions with symptoms not appearing for up to a week after the casein has been consumed. These side effects include rashes, hives, bloating, gastro-intestinal discomfort (stomach aches and cramps), and anaphylactic reactions.
While the majority of these symptoms are not life threatening, anaphylactic reactions have the potential to be fatal. During such a reaction, an allergic individual may experience difficulty breathing, a spike in both blood pressure and heart rate and loss of consciousness. If you are allergic to casein, it is recommended that you remain vigilant about the food that you ingest and other products that you consume. It is also recommended that you speak with a medical professional about any further action that you may be able to take to safeguard your health against the negative effects that casein may pose.
Casein also causes an interesting effect when ingested by people not allergic to the protein. According to Meisel H. FitzGerald and R.J. Bundesanstalt in a 2000 clinical study, a naturally occurring opiate is embedded in casein protein. When the protein is digested, it is broken down in the intestinal tract, releasing the opiate, which at its strongest has the potency of one-tenth that of morphine. It is a subtle effect that they believe contributes to food cravings unrelated to hunger. If you find yourself craving cheese, it may be due to the opiate release that the cheese triggers, rather than hunger itself or a natural inclination toward the taste of the food.
Casein protein is found in dairy and many other processed foods, as well as some non-edible products, such as paint. If you are allergic, it is important to carefully read the ingredients on food purchases. Allergic reactions range from mild to life-threatening and can happen immediately upon consumption or take up to a week to appear. Non-allergic reactions include heightened food cravings for those foods that contain casein, regardless of actual hunger. When ingested in small amounts, it presents minimal danger to your health, but when mass quantities are consumed, it is linked to obesity and, subsequently, diabetes.