Feel ill after eating feta, but not 100% sure?
Yes, feta cheese or Greek feta can cause allergy. Feta is commonly made from sheep or goat milk, where some may also mix with cow milk. For those of you who’s already showing allergy symptoms after drinking a glass of cow milk, you are very likely reacting to goat/sheep milk according to the study. Thus, your body immunity may react to feta cheese.
Below i’ll cover 5 reasons why you could be allergy to feta.
Feta is not quite similar to other cheeses like parmesan or provolone. it’s tangy, wet, and consider lighter (low fat) and healthier.
Feta is usually made from 100% sheep milk, or mixed with less than 30% goat milk, depending the brands. The milk composition can play a role in it, other factors such as the production environment, aging, and method further diversified the ‘funky’ taste of feta — aka the bacteria composition — in different brands.
You may allergic to one brand but not the other.
The ultimate answer could just simply be ‘It’s not clean’ or ‘the cheese is spoiled’, you can learn more about how to know if feta is spoiled.
If none of those matters and you still feel ill almost every time after eating feta cheese.
let’s dive in for the answers.
1. Sheep/Goat Milk in Feta
You could be just allergic to one particular type of milk. Unlike cows, sheep spent their day eating a huge variety of greens. For that reason, sheep milk naturally has more solid content and is richer than both cow and goat milk.
In fact, sheep milk has a higher level of fat, protein, calcium and minerals than the cow or goat milk (1). That’s also why a gallon of cow milk or goat milk can only produce ~1 pound of cheese, but the same volume of sheep milk can make 2-3 pounds of cheese.
Also, both goat milk and sheep milk lacking a substance called agglutinin (or present at extremely low levels), thus easier for our body to absorb and digest.
Reason why allergic to sheep/goat milk
Some people, in a small percentage, may have immune system allergy to sheep or goat milk protein casein, but not to cow’s milk casein. To be exact, the antibody IgE recognizes the sheep casein as the foreign invasive object which then initiating the body autoimmune response (2).
That’s why some people, especially children, or even dogs can get ill with fever-like reaction and digestive problems after eating feta cheese. It also includes skin inflammatory reactions in the lung, throat or face, where the area became swollen, rash or itch.
If you are having the similar problem, learn more about the dairy-free alternative to feta cheese.
2. Perhaps, Gluten?
Gluten is a group of protein that can normally be found in grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, and oats.
Feta is naturally gluten-free. Although gluten do not naturally present in the milk, some processed cheese products such as mozzarella sticks, or cheese additives with added ingredients which may have a certain amount of gluten. People have different sensitivity to gluten.
Your feta cheese might not be just feta in it, especially the flavoured feta.
If you allergic to gluten, make sure to check the label before you buy. Choose the feta cheese that only contain milk, starter cultures, enzyme, and salt. That’s it.
The symptoms for gluten allergy including:
- Abdominal pain
- Headache and feeling tired
- Weight loss
Learn more about gluten intolerance here.
3. Or the Dairy Product in general?
Are you simply allergic to all* dairy product? Such as the butter, ice cream, milk, and other dairy-made products.
The reason is similar to what I explained above for sheep/goat milk. Except for this time, your IgE antibodies are sensitive to more kind of caseins (milk protein), including the cow’s. This happens to 2-3% of children in the US younger than 3 years old.
The symptoms include:
- Blood stools
- Shortness of breath
If this is the case, you may want to consider stop eating dairy cheese.
Some people suggesting do a simple skin test before eating. Consider switching to
4. Could it be the Lactose in feta?
Feta containing only a little amount of lactose – less than 1g in 125g of serving size (3).
It is because of the presence of lactic acid bacteria in the feta cheese, where it break down the lactose into lactic acid. Lactic acid helps to improve gut health and nutrients absorption.
For people with lactose intolerance, their body does not produce enough enzyme to digest lactose. From mild to severe, they might show the symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and gurgling sound in the stomach.
However, here is a good news for you all cheese lovers. The feta, camembert, and brie were all containing less than 1 gram of lactose in per 100 grams for each cheeses (4). Of course, some sources will have their number slightly different to each other due to many factors, but overall is quite relatable.
According to the source, most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 1-2 cups of milk which is equivalent to 24 grams of lactose daily. So, you are likely to be okay.
A little side note, if the nutrition label says the sugar or carbohydrate is 6 grams, it doesn’t necessarily mean the lactose is 6 grams. It’s usually lesser than 6 grams.
5. Or, Histamine?
If none of it above is the cause for your feta allergy, it could be due to histamine intolerance.
As we discussed in Is Feta High in Histamine, histamine intolerance is a rare disorder that occurs in about 1% of the population where our body lacks or insufficiently produced of certain enzymes to digest excessive histamine.
And unfortunately, fermentation of milk product such as cheese or yogurt will accumulate a good amount of histamine in them, which will cause a surge in the histamine level after eating.
For feta, there is a high level of 4.99 mg of histamine in per 100g of feta. So, it’s best to avoid for people with histamine problem.
The signs and symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Digestive issues
Learn more about histamine intolerance.