Cheese please...please?

Submitted by Miss Danielle on Sun, 07/06/2008 - 1:41pm.

Ah cheese. I love cheese. Almost as much as bread. Mmmm, bread and cheese. See? It's so deliciously bad it's distracting me. Why is a woman with many intolerances talking about cheese? Mainly because I know for some people there may be exceptions to the can't-eat-it rule and I want to make sure people know about them. But don't send me angry emails for giving false hope if you are not the exception.

First, let's clarify: people with dairy allergies should leave now. This post is not for you.

Second: people who have not done any type of elimination diet and who aren't familiar with the proper methods of reintroducing foods/investigating for intolerances, come back after you've gone through the process.

The rest of you, let's have a chat about dairy.

The most commonly known ailment is Lactose Intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. It is caused by not having enough of the enzyme lactase, which can result in abdominal bloating, excessive intestinal gas, nausea, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramping.

People with a simple Lactose intolerance can sometimes find dairy products they can still eat, whether it be lactose-free products or cheeses that have low levels of lactose (e.g. sharp cheddars, soft cheeses, Goat milk products). They can also experiment with taking lactase enzymes.

When it comes to candidiasis and dairy, we have other things to consider. If you are particularly sensitive to moulds, it's pretty much out of the question. Meanwhile, lower-level lactose products might be alright in tiny doses for some people who are prone to candida-flare ups (not currently suffering a full out bout) since there is less sugar to feed the yeasties, but that's assuming you're eating it at a time where you've been doing well on the diet and have reduced inflammation in the gut.

And according to most specialists, the main problem is that the candidiasis has reduced your ability to breakdown fats. If that's the case, you could also experiment with a lipase enzyme after you've gone through an elimination diet. Not saying it will work, but I always encourage safe, responsible experimentation (with food, ha ha).

Here's where it gets interesting.

Let's say you find that you can eat cheese sometimes, but then you eat the same type of cheese again (not the same brand, but type), and it makes you sick. What could it be?

If it's not a certified organic product with clear statements about how they define the word 'organic', it might be a sensitivity to the hormones/antibiotics given to the animals who produce the milk (remember, in some places something can be labelled hormone-free if they stopped giving it to the animal in the last 2 weeks before the product was made).

Always check the list of ingredients for the product. All cheeses are not created equal.

And here's the one I find hardly anyone knows about: rennet. There has always been murmurings of reactions to rennet in inflammation social circles, but very little (if any) in the mainstream world.

So what is it? Here is a very clumsy and vague explanation. 'Rennet' is often used as a generic term to describe an animal-derived coagulant that includes the enzyme rennin or chymosin (and the closely related pepsin enzyme). A 'coagulant' is something that curdles milk - it helps make it solid. And to make it more complicated, there are different types of rennet.

1) Animal Derived - the traditional way was to take rennet from the intestinal wall of a calf/lamb/kid (think goat, not child).

2) Microbial - produced by a specific type of mould, fungus or yeast organism grown and fermented in a lab setting.

3) FPC (Fermentation Produced Chymosin) - made by taking the rennin producing gene out of the animal cell’s DNA string and then inserting into the bacteria, yeast or mold host cell’s DNA string. Many European countries have banned its use.

4) Vegetable - from plants which produce certain enzymes that have coagulating properties. Some examples include cardoon thistle, fig tree bark or nettles. This is apparently hard to find in North America, but according to some sources on the net, cheese makers in Alberta and Maine are currently trying to perfect its use.

5) Citric Acid or Vinegar - used in cheeses like Ricotta.

So, perhaps it isn't the cheese that's the problem, but the rennet used to make the cheese. Perhaps it isn't ALL types of rennet, but specific types of rennet.

Complicated, isn't it?

My advice is to get to know the person behind the counter at a cheese store - preferably the owner. Ask loads of questions about the animals who produce the milk for the cheese, as well as the type of rennet.

You can also do some experimenting with goat's cheese before trying cheese made from cow's milk (many people find goat's cheese much easier to digest). The taste is very different, granted, but a well-made goat's cheese can be tasty especially in salads with berries and spinach. I've had luck with Woolwich Dairy, a Canadian company in Orangeville.

I've also played around with traditionally made Italian Romano from sheep's milk (Pecorino Romano) or goat's milk (Caprino Romano). In North America, Vacchino Romano is more widely available, and that's made with cow's milk.

I hope I've provided some food for thought.


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