5 Reasons Allergic To Feta Cheese


So, you are allergic to cheese in general or just feta? or maybe it’s because you haven’t found the real reason why your body reacting weirdly to the cheese. Feta, for example, is very much like any other types of cheese out there, except that it’s being made of 100% sheep milk or mixed with not more than 30% of goat milk.

Is there any different? let’s dive in.

1. Sheep/Goat Milk in Feta

Unlike cows, sheep eat a huge variety of greens. Also, sheep milk has more solid content and is richer than cow or goat milk. Particularly, it has higher fat, protein, calcium and some minerals than in the cow or goat milk (1). That’s also why 1 gallon of cow milk or goat milk can only produce ~1 pound of cheese, but a gallon of sheep milk can make 2-3 pound of cheese.

Yet, it doesn’t come with a strong taste like goat milk. Moreover, agglutinin is absent in sheep and goat milk, making it easier for us to absorb.

Reason why allergic to sheep/goat milk

Since feta is made of sheep/goat milk, it happens in some people that their immune system reacting to the milk protein (casein) of sheep or goat, but not to the cow’s milk. To be exact, the antibody IgE recognized the sheep casein as the foreign object and kicking-off the body immune response (2), meanwhile, it does not react to cow milk — and thus tolerated.

That’s why some people/children/even dogs will get some ill effects after having feta, such as the lung, throat, nose, or even skin become inflamed, rash or itch.

You might want to go for dairy-free feta cheese as explained here.

However, if you’re fine with sheep/goat milk, the allergy reaction could be blamed to one of the reasons below:

2. Perhaps, Gluten?

Gluten is a group of protein that can normally be found in grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Any related food made of these grains may also have gluten with them as well, including bread. Although gluten doesn’t naturally come with milk, some processed cheese products such as mozzarella sticks, or cheese additive and added ingredients (such as vinegar or cellulose) will have a certain amount of gluten. Read more.

Your feta cheese is not just feta cheese, especially the flavoured feta.

This example is obtained from the USDA food database. Look at the ingredients used. Some of them are containing a small amount of hidden gluten.

If you know gluten is the one to blame, make sure you check the label before you buy. The idea feta cheese should only contain milk, starter cultures, enzyme, and salt. That’s it.

The symptoms for gluten allergy including:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache and feeling tired
  • Weight loss
  • More

3. Or the Dairy Product in general?

The reason for allergic to dairy product is similar to the one I explained above for sheep/goat milk. Except for this time your IgE antibodies are sensitive to more kind of casein (milk protein), including the cow milk. This can happen to 2-3% of children younger than 3 years old.

The symptoms include:

Better yet, you can learn how to make your own delicious dairy-free feta here.
  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Blood stools
  • Shortness of breath
  • More

If this is the case, you maybe want to consider stop eating cheese for good. Some are suggesting to do a skin test to determine whether you should eat dairy-free cheese. Alternatively, use soy’s milk or nuts to replace the milk, and make your own cheese instead, watch how.

4. Could it be the Lactose in feta?

Feta, like other cheese, containing only a small amount of lactose. Thanks to the presence of lactic acid bacteria in the starter culture which converts lactose into the lactic acid. In the case of people with lactose intolerance, their body does not produce enough enzyme to digest lactose. In severe cases, even with a little amount of lactose, the sufferers might show the symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and gurgling sound in the stomach.

The good news is that the feta, camembert, and brie were all containing less than 0.0024 g of lactose in per 100g of respective cheese (3). According to the recommendation, most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 1-2 cups of milk which is equivalent to 24 grams of lactose daily.

To clear things up, some believed that the “sugar” under the Nutrition Facts on the packaging label is the lactose, which is not right. Lactose is one of the disaccharide sugar, but not all. It could be inclusive of other sugars, such as galactose and mono-saccharides (4, 5).

So, if the label says the sugar is 6 gram, it doesn’t necessarily mean the lactose is 6 gram.

See how much lactose in Mozzarella vs Gouda.

5. Or, Histamine?

If none of the above is the cause for allergy after eating feta cheese, it could also be histamine intolerance. As we discussed earlier, It is a rare disorder that occurs in 1% of the population where a lack of enzymes produced in the body to digest excess histamine. And unfortunately, fermentation of milk product such as cheese or yogurt containing a good amount of histamine, which will cause a surge in the histamine level.

In feta, there is a considerable 49.9 mg per kg of histamine. So, it’s not really recommended for people with histamine intolerance. You can go to our previous article this one to learn more.

The signs and symptoms include:

  • Migraines
  • Nasal congestion
  • Hives
  • Digestive issues
  • Vomiting
  • More

AaronMH

I have a background in biotechnology, and I love cats.

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