Protein Powder allergies

What is an allergy?

The immune system of our body is a remarkable defence mechanism against foreign invaders. In most of the people, it plays its part by fighting off bacteria, viruses, protozoans or fungi that find their way into our bodies. In some unfortunate people, their immune system overreacts to something that’s usually harmless and this phenomenon is known as allergy or hypersensitivity reaction. Those triggers, called as allergens, can include pollen, mold, animal dander or certain foods.

Protein Powder Allergies

There are many folks who suffer allergies or intolerance to traditional protein supplements. You might be one of them and not even know it!

If a glass of milk or a slice of pizza causes swollen lips, hives, or other significant symptoms, you may have an allergy to casein, a protein in milk. Another milk protein associated with food allergies is whey. Some people are allergic to both casein and whey. It is an unusual occurrence and may develop during childhood but goes away as the person ages.

In the athletic and performance world, most athletes will use some type of protein supplement to help meet their high protein needs. But a small percentage of people can become hypersensitive to particular protein powders, especially whey. Even the ‘high quality’ whey isolates can produce these hypersensitivity reactions. As whey protein is extracted from milk, it is generally a good estimated that if milk doesn’t sit well with you, then the odds are that whey won’t as well. Fortunately there are plenty of other protein supplements you can consume instead, including soy and egg based protein powders.

Signs and symptoms of whey protein allergy

You can develop skin reactions on contact with whey protein if you are highly sensitive to it. They can range from intense irritation, itching to rashes and hives on your skin.

Once you ingest whey protein, generalised reactions start occurring in your body. Your eye will start watering and even turn red. Sneezing and coughing can occur due to the involvement of upper respiratory tract. If you start wheezing and are short of breath, that means that you’re most likely going into anaphylaxis shock, a life-threatening condition in some cases.

But a person developing these reactions doesn’t necessarily mean he is allergic to protein. High doses can sometimes cause side effects such as increased bowel movements, nausea, thirst, bloating, cramps, reduced appetite, tiredness (fatigue), and headaches. Some people have lactose intolerance and can’t digest lactose in milk; which can cause diarrhoea and bloating. So it’s important to consult a health care professional to make a definitive diagnosis.

Casein Allergy

Another milk protein associated with food allergies is casein. A casein allergy occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly thinks the protein is harmful and inappropriately produces allergic (IgE) antibodies for protection. The interaction between these antibodies and the specific protein, triggers the release of body chemicals such as histamine that cause symptoms which may include:

1) Swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, face, or throat

2) Skin reactions such as hives, a rash, or red, itchy skin

3) Nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, or wheezing

>Egg protein allergy

Egg protein allergy is relatively rare as compared to whey or casein allergy. Most people with egg allergy are allergic to egg whites, which is used in making egg protein powder.

Some people can develop an allergy to other types of proteins as well such as soy protein and pea protein but they are not so common.

Prevention of Protein Powder Allergies

1) You must keep an eye on list of ingredients in your protein powder. Sometimes an allergy is not actually due to the protein in powder but due to additives.

2) Switch protein brands and that might help. This is because some protein powders have too much lactose or too much protein that can cause side effects. For example, Whey Protein Isolate is known to have little to no lactose, whereas Whey Protein Concentrate does contain lactose.

3) If changing the brand doesn’t work for you, it’s highly likely that you have a protein allergy. Then it is the time to switch the type of protein in your supplements, avoiding the ingredient causing your allergic reaction.