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Cows' Milk Makes Me Itchy - A Story From Thailand

October 22, 2017 2 Comments

Thailand street market

Love for Dairy

Being diagnosed with Coeliac at 18 months old I have never missed what I haven’t had.. a life without cakes or baguettes may seem like hell to some. There are a number of my friends who have openly said they would rather forever give up s*x than grains and sugars (or carbs)!

Cow's milk in glass jugBUT… I always thanked mother nature that I can eat cheese, milk and cream! Pre-low sugar days, ice cream was something I enjoyed as a regular treat, naughtily loaded with chocolate sauce and crunched up chocolate pieces (it’s where the sugar addiction started – I was far from perfect and still am!). Although I had a huge love for all things dairy (often downing a glass of milk in the evening or munching through a block of cheddar) I had been told previously that if you have gluten intolerance or Coeliac you are also more likely to have other allergies such as lactose too - so I always had this in the back of my mind.

A Very Wierd Rash - Lactose Intolerance?

When I hit my 20’s and the stresses of becoming an adult hit - so did a very weird rash on my arm. It was red and blotchy to start with, then pin prickly and finally, after a few months, it looked like a burn about the size of a jar lid. It was embarrassing and I was worried about covering it up with long tops and jumpers. Have you guys ever had an eczema type rash or have skin issues you are anxious about? Here's my story... I visited the doctors repeatedly who prescribed steroid creams to cover the rash, which would make it go temporarily only for it to return with a vengeance. I had a lactose test, which was clear (I was not lactose intolerant). So, what was this rash? Was it stress? Was it normal? Was it washing powder or a household product? Round and round I went until I took a trip to Thailand back in 2014...

A Trip to Thailand

pestle and mortar making real foodsNow, how has Thailand got anything to do with this story you may wonder? In Thailand, we were eating local cuisine and freshly cooked delights every day. I had very little dairy for 3 weeks as cheese is not as readily available and there was an abundance of had coconut alternatives to drink.   The rash had disappeared!   I linked the lack of dairy to the miraculous clear up even though the doctor had previously said I am not lactose intolerant. Well, it could have been the sun, relaxation and seawater I thought with some rationality... As I returned home, I went back to eating dairy daily and my rash returned not just on my arm but also developed on my eyelids - Weird right?! I decided to think again at what variables changed whilst I was in Thailand. I was not prepared to go on sunbeds with my moley Irish descent skin; the local sea is not very appetising and I live a pretty 'stress-free' life. So I decided to cut back on my dairy and try a whole host of different substitutes. Within days my rash again improved until it disappeared completely - no steroid creams required!

Dabbling with cheese and dairy over the last 2 years I have noticed I have the weirdest reactions, most predominantly when eating cheese made from cows milk:

  1. A very itchy nose - a bit like a bunny twitch?
  2. Agitation - short-tempered, especially with Jeff!
  3. Occasionally, I would get hives on the back of my knees or areas on my legs
  4. Dry eyelids, lips, backs of my knees and left shoulder (yep only the left – weird again)

Why all these weird reactions when I am not allergic to lactose?

It's Not the Lactose!?

The issue is I seem to have a histamine reaction to a protein which is in cows milk called Casein. It should also be noted that allergies to the Whey protein in milk can also occur and can have similar symptoms. Casein is found in the solid part of milk (the curd) when the milk curdles whereas whey is found in the liquid part once milk has curdled. Be aware that Whey is often found in protein powders too. Do you too have a rash and you would like to see if cows milk is the issue? What can you try as an alternative to cows milk? If you have a confirmed allergy to milk it is advisable to discuss alternatives with your doctor. For me, I seem to tolerate Goats milk and cheese without the same reactions that I get from the cows' milk versions - yippee. I was beginning to get down about missing cheese! Although Goats milk contains casein there is more of the beta-casein protein than cows' milk, whereas cows' milk contains more alpha caseins, particularly alpha-s1-casein which is understood to be one of the proteins responsible for cows' milk allergy.  

Experiment with Dairy Free

You could always try completely dairy free (as I did in Thailand) to kick-start a change and this is great if you are not sure whether you have a lactose or milk protein allergy – remember to seek the advice of a doctor. There are several alternatives and I would personally use coconut milk or cream rather than soya or rice milk. Coconut is full of healthy fats but be sure to check the ingredients list and stay away from coconut milk with added sugars, fillers or thickeners – it is just not needed. Coconut milk is great to add to tea and is especially good in coffee and for cooking with. Coconut cream makes a super dessert and ice cream substitute when frozen berries are stirred through, it’s lower in sugar too than ice cream so is a double win. We have recently come across Tiger Nut milk too which is absolutely delicious.

lactose free tigernut milk

The Tiger Nut Company have some fantastic recipes! For cooking, you could try Ghee or Kerrygold Butter. Although these are made from cows' milk, the Caesin and Lactose levels are very low. We love using Extra Virgin Avocado Oil too! Some other great news is that our 100% Avocado Oil Mayonnaise at Hunter & Gather is dairy free, so is perfect for those that require a lactose and casein free diet. Our mayonnaise is extra creamy so can be added as a replacement for cream in sauces or on top of chilli instead of sour cream.  

My gluten free life has evolved into a cows milk free life too! Thankfully we have many alternatives that are available these days (not like when I was first diagnosed Ceoliac) and it has lead me on a journey of discovery and understanding. I know what affects my body and that rashes are not something to cover up with a steroid cream. I just want you to leave this blog thinking that you can take control of your health and you can make changes that will benefit you in the long run.

Be the best version of you.


Thanks for reading :)



"All information provided in our blog posts and on our website is just that - information, opinion and anecdotal thoughts and experiences. It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your dietary and lifestyle habits. We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself."

2 Responses

Jeffrey Fogerty
Jeffrey Fogerty

September 22, 2020

I hope I can tolerate goats milk my nose swells up goes red is itchy it’s so frustrating I’m 99.9999 per cent sure it’s gluten & milk I’m gluten free & does help a bit not to go so red & itchy & calms the left side stomach pain a bit but skin is dry a lot & nose still swells up , I’m gonna try goats milk I really hope this works , 3 years off google doctors every test possible colonoscopy endoscopy kidneys checked small bow eel study blood stool check etc etc wish me luck , I will let you know how it goes , health problems are a very very lonely difficult place but I will not give in . :)


September 05, 2019

Thanks for sharing your experience! I get a rash just like you described on the back of my left hand when I have cow’s milk. I appreciate the detail you included about the different proteins (I can also tolerate goat’s milk ok) and will have a look at your links. Thank you!

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