Milk protein intolerance symptoms

Updated April 17, 2017

Milk protein intolerance (MPI) is a person's sensitivity to certain proteins in cow's milk. These intolerances can cause a number of adverse symptoms--some more serious than others. Babies and young children are especially prone to these symptoms as they are often unable to verbalise their problems. Milk protein intolerance can be annoying and inconvenient, but there are substitutes for cow's milk.


People sometimes confuse lactose (a sugar) intolerance with milk protein intolerance. People with milk protein intolerance develop adverse symptoms from whey or casein protein. Symptoms in children are almost always related to a milk protein intolerance. A doctor can usually diagnose a milk protein intolerance through testing and diagnosing certain symptoms.


Milk protein intolerance can be particularly troublesome for young mothers with infants. Babies can often have diarrhoea, bloody stools or colic because of their intolerance to cow's milk. There are hypoallergenic substitutes available. Breast feeding is another option but the baby can still have adverse symptoms if the mother consumes whey or casein protein.

Types of Symptoms

Besides diarrhoea and colic, infants with milk protein intolerance can have numerous symptoms, including irritability, weight loss, chronic congestion, asthma, vomiting and hives. They can sometimes outgrow their MPI by age one.

Older children can have similar reactions. They often get runny noses, watery eyes, hives, skin rashes, flatulence, ear infections and even anaemia. Symptoms in adults can include headaches, gastritis, lightheadedness, vertigo, skin rashes, jock itch, nasal and sinus congestion, depression and anxiety, nausea, asthma and bronchitis.

Some adults can develop severe intestinal symptoms from their milk protein intolerance. These symptoms can include irritable bowel syndrome and GERD (gastro-oseophageal reflux disease), where food or liquid travels backwards from the stomach into the oesophagus. Some symptoms can appear hours after the consumption of milk while others take several days.


About 10 per cent of children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some people believe this condition can be caused by a milk protein intolerance. An intolerance for milk protein can make kids more aggressive and temperamental, which is a sign of ADHD. However, kids can also respond by being more withdrawn as if in a world by themselves (an ADD symptom).


People with milk protein intolerances should avoid dairy products, salad dressings and other products that contain whey or casein. Some people believe milk protein intolerance or other food allergies can cause candidiasis, a overproduction of fungus in the colon and digestive tract. This condition can cause migraines, chronic joint and muscle pain and even certain autoimmune diseases (e.g., fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivities).

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