Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Whey to go!

After several years of tenuous experimentation and elimination, we have finally figured out that Timothy is allergic to whey (the waste product produced in manufacturing dairy products).  In 2007 we narrowed the field to dairy… with a lot of exceptions.  After a lengthy detox adventure, we started reintroducing dairy products.  Over time I figured out that Timothy can have certain  dairy foods, but I couldn’t figure out the pattern.  For example, he can eat cheese, thus casein wasn’t an issue.  However, he has a problem with rind cheese (brie, camembert) and most soft cheeses (cream cheese, cottage cheese)… but not all (Boursin and chevre go down just fine).  Where is the pattern there, I wondered?!  He can eat good heavy whipping cream, but not milk, ruling out lactose (additionally, Lactaid never helped him).  Milk, ice cream, and cheap pizza are all sure fire reaction nightmares. 


Eventually, I had to accept that I had to carry a long, detailed list in my head of “can have” and “can’t have”.  It seemed very arbitrary, and it was frustrating to communicate to friends & family members (many of whom thought I was nuts and over protective, I’m sure!)


Then I had my epiphany.  The other day I made homemade cream cheese from raw milk (priceless treasure that it is).  I used the simple, old fashioned fermentation method.  After leaving the milk lightly covered on the counter for four days, I drained it in cheese cloth for 5 hours.  Both the four days and five hours were the outside recommendations I found on most recipes, one of which specifically recommended the long drain time for people with whey intolerance.  I thought, “Whey intolerance… how intriguing.”  Well, the cheese being successfully concocted (with help from my mother as pregnant ladies do NOT interact well with stinky cheese!), we cautiously watched Tim eat a few mouthfuls on crackers.  He loved the taste (kind of sour cream meets cream cheese), and time would tell the rest. 


The next day- no reaction!!!  No headache.  No lethargy.  No problems!!!


This successful reinvention of a product which had always been on the “can’t have” list sent me back to the article on cheesemaking.  I found myself Googling “whey allergy” and the rest is history.  Timothy has ALL the symptoms.  You see, a whey allergy is vastly different than most common allergies, especially other dairy allergies (lactose & casein).  Instead of your digestive systems saying, “Erm, ick, ouch, get it out,” producing bloat, cramps, etc, whey proteins are [improperly] digested, then absorbed as nutrients into the blood stream.  The body’s immune system sees the poorly digested whey proteins as invaders and attacks.  The more the allergy suffering body interacts with the whey protein, the more practiced it becomes and recognizing and attacking.  Thus, the reactions become WORSE instead of better, as your body wants to “nuke” the whey out as quickly as possible.  Side effects of this warfare include headaches (whey proteins and their attackers in the blood stream reaching the brain/neck), nausea (reaction to “invader”), gastro cramps (acid secreted as body is at war), blood shot eyes (warfare in head), lethargy, etc, etc.


“No whey!” has become the cry of our household (and the pun of many as we gleefully inform them that we have finally figured out the root problem of Timothy’s allergies).  Shopping is a bit of a hassle now as EVERY ingredient list must be CAREFULLY considered.  It is amazing where whey lurks.  However, good home cooking from all fresh ingredients (with the exclusion of milk) produces tasty, nutritious, and (most importantly for us) whey free meals.


So a”whey” with our problems.  Here’s to healthy happiness!


For more information about whey allergies:

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a wife, a mommy, a missionary, a teacher, a writer. I'm living a colorful life in Africa.

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  1. The enzymes in aged cheese break down the casein, that is why some people who can’t eat dairy can still eat cheese. Our Eben has that problem.

  2. Thanks for the info….my dog is allergic to whey…..and it is not easy… is in dog food as a by product.

  3. Thank you for this well written article. Very helpful as my daughter has Crohns and is allergic to whey. Praying for your Timothy. God knows his name and delights in him. “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all our sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles. Psalm 103:1-5

  4. Oh, sorry, Dawn! That is such a hard one to avoid! My husband is no longer allergic to whey! He was treated for a blood fungus by a naturopath which helped a little (not quite as violent of a reaction) and then by an alternative doctor/homeopath in 2011 and he can eat all the whey he likes. If he gets sick he gives it a skip though. Have you looked into other free glutamates? When we discovered whey as an allergy it lead us quickly to free glutamic acid. This is a great resource:

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