Even if you love cheese, there’s a chance they won’t love your love back. Did you know that around 65% of the population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after childhood? And even if you’re not lactose intolerant or sensitive, your body may still not digest cheese well for a variety of reasons. For instance, Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, note that you may have an intolerance or allergy to casein or whey protein in cheese.
“The body may also be deficient in specific enzymes or may have activated immune mechanisms caused by diseases or disorders in the gastrointestinal tract,” he explains. Edibel QuinteroRDdietician and author of medical content registered with Health Reporter.
Whatever the reason, if you notice that eating cheese causes you unpleasant side effects, it might be time to take a break. (We know, this might be a little easier said than done.) The good news? Nowadays, there are many non-dairy alternatives, from cashew brie to tofu gouda.
“You could also try natural cheeses like Cheddar, Colby, Mozzarella, and Monterey Jack, which are nearly lactose-free thanks to the way they’re made,” says Sauceda. “Everyone has a different tolerance level for lactose, so try adjusting your portion sizes and see how it feels to you.”
Here are some of the main signs you should stop eating cheese, according to dieticians. And since you still deserve some sticky goodness in your life, be sure to check out these 13 so yummy vegan cheese products, you won’t know the difference.
Although cow’s milk allergy is much more prevalent in young children, it is still one of the most common food allergies in adults as well.
If you experience itching, tingling, or swelling around your tongue, throat, or lips after eating cheese, you may have this allergy. This means that the cheese proteins bind to specific antibodies and activate the immune defenses. Other potentially more serious signs of a milk allergy include:
- Respiratory problem
These symptoms can be life-threatening and may require immediate medical attention, Quintero says. According to Blanca Garcia, RDNregistered dietitian and nutrition specialist for Healthcanal, a doctor usually prescribes an antihistamine to relieve the symptoms of the allergic reaction.
If you experience digestive upsets such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea after a cheese-rich meal, that could indicate a lactose intolerance or sensitivity, says Sauceda.
These symptoms typically show up in about 30 minutes to two hours after eating cheese.
Abdominal cramps and diarrhea are other warning signs to watch out for. According to Garcia, these symptoms result from a lack of the lactase enzyme that breaks down the lactose sugar in dairy products.
Apparently, eating pizza, mac and cheese, or a cheese platter can trigger breakouts in some people. According to Nataly Komova, RDregistered dietitian and fitness expert for JustCBD, the hormones in milk can stimulate sebum production, leading to oily skin, clogged pores and acne.
So, if your skin has been in pain lately and you suspect it may have to do with your diet, try cutting out cheese (and other dairy products) to see if your complexion clears up.
Speaking of skin problems, it is worth mentioning that a 2015 review in Postgraduate medical journal found that some lactose intolerant patients reported having rashes and eczema flare-ups after eating dairy products.
According to Garcia, dairy products can be a common cause of constipation. In fact, a 2013 study in Nutrients found that children with chronic constipation felt relief when they replaced cow’s milk with soy milk.
Cheese is known to be “binder” and part of the reason it can keep you from having normal bowel movements is that it’s super high in fat and super low in fiber.
A small 2012 study in The Journal of Pediatrics found that parents who eliminated cow’s milk from their baby’s diet noticed a decrease in acid reflux episodes.
If you suffer from acid reflux or lactose intolerance, it’s not uncommon to have a little indigestion after eating cheese, especially in large quantities, says Komova. This is not only because dairy is high in fat, but also because it is known to relax the sphincter muscle of the esophagus, thus allowing more acid from the stomach to travel upward.
Rebecca Strong is a freelance health / wellness, lifestyle and travel writer based in Boston. Read more