Casein is a protein found in milk and milk products. While this is well tolerated by most individuals, some people may show abnormal reactions when this protein is taken by consuming milk and milk products. In such circumstances, a diet which excludes this protein (casein) is advisable, which is also known as a casein-free diet.
When Is Casein-Free Diet Advised?
Certain conditions may cause a person's body to react to casein in the body, which may lead to undesirable symptoms. This could happen in people who have casein allergies, intolerances or gastrointestinal disturbances due to casein. A casein-free diet can be helpful in these cases.
Based on the patient's complaints and history, your physician may order investigations to detect food allergies, sensitivities or other disturbances and detect the condition that may require a special diet.
In persons experiencing casein allergy, the fighter cells of the body consider the protein (casein) as a foreign body and launch an attack. This initiates an allergic reaction and may result in symptoms of food allergies like swollen lips and mouth, hives, rash, itching, sneezing, coughing and sometimes can be even more serious.
Autism and other related conditions are thought to be linked with consumption of dietary proteins in casein. Some theories propose that children having autism spectrum disorders may be unable to break down these dietary proteins. These proteins may lead to formation of opioid like substances or may leak from the gut into the blood stream and evoke an abnormal response. This could be a trigger for some neurobehavioral symptoms generally seen in persons with autism. It is believed that eliminating foods containing casein can be beneficial and a casein-free diet is recommended.
What Is A Casein-Free Diet?
The main principle of casein-free diet is to eliminate foods containing casein and consume foods that do not contain casein. It means all milk and milk products should be avoided and be replaced with casein-free alternatives. When consuming packaged food and drinks, it should be ensured that they are labeled as casein-free and are free from any traces of these proteins.
Foods To Be Avoided In Casein-Free Diet
Some Foods That Contain Casein:
- Milk and all types of milk including acidophilus milk, buttermilk, condensed milk, dry milk, goat milk, whole milk, skim milk, low fat milk, malted milk, milk chocolate, milk powder or solids.
- Milk products like butter, butter flavoring or artificial butter flavor, butter oil, ghee, caseinate, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, sour cream or cream solids, yogurt, lactose or rennet casein.
- Preparations like custard, ice cream, pudding, milkshakes or smoothies with milk, sherbet, sweets or desserts that use milk or milk solids, milk chocolates.
Some Foods That May Contain Casein:
For certain foods, it is necessary to check labels for being casein-free (CF) before buying or consuming them. If the specifications are not clearly mentioned, it is advisable to check with the product company for detailed nutritional information.
- Flavoring agents like brown sugar flavoring, cream flavoring, caramel coloring, coconut flavoring, natural chocolate flavoring.
- Ready to eat foods like hot dogs, luncheon meats, sausages and similar products.
Foods That Are Allowed In Casein-Free Diet
All foods that do not contain casein can be a part of this diet. Care should be taken about any other dietary restrictions, like in case of gluten-free/casein-free (GF/CF) diet. In such cases, the specific diet groups may also have to be eliminated in addition to casein containing foods.
A casein-free diet can comfortably include
- All fruits and vegetables, cooked without using milk and milk products.
- Fish, eggs, chicken and meat.
- Substitutes of milk like almond milk, rice milk, soy milk and potato milk.
- Substitutes of butter like non-dairy margarine, vegetable oil, olive oil, canola oil, safflower or sunflower oil.
- Grains like rice, quinoa, amaranth, potato starch, millet, bean, nut and seed flours and sorghum flour. Infants can be given rice cereals.
Grains like wheat, rye, barley and some form of oats can be included only if they are not restricted as a part of another special diet called gluten-free diet. For other cereals and pastas, labels should be checked for information.
Other preparations like creams, sorbet, soy ice-creams, casein-free ghee, coconut milk, coconut butter, may be taken after confirming their labels and nutritional information for being casein-free.
How To Follow A Casein-Free Diet?
Any other dietary restriction should be meticulously incorporated while choosing foods depending on the physician's advice. Before making any dietary changes, it is important to follow medical advice and seek help from a nutritional expert.
As milk and its products are considered essential for growth and development, their elimination, should be managed with appropriate nutritional compensation. You can consider seeking medical opinion on nutritional supplements like multivitamins, calcium, vitamin D, etc. Additionally, calcium fortified drinks like orange juice, potato milk, rice or soy milk may be considered.
Some Handy Tips For You
- It may be wise to begin eliminating one food item at a time and continuing to observe for any change in your symptoms. It helps to know which food is particularly causing problem and also help to check for improvement over a period of time.
- While introducing new casein-free alternatives or food items, try out small amounts to begin with. Once you feel comfortable you can buy in bulk and make it a regular part of your diet.
- Maintain a food diary and list down about your food inclusions and exclusions along with your symptoms and note any changes in them.
- Ensure reading labels as many processed and packaged foods may contain traces of casein.
- Cook casein-free foods separately and store in separate containers.
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