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What is casein protein?

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Casein is an ingredient in mammalian milk that constitutes 80 percent of the protein in cow's milk and is a major component in cheese. It is a source of amino acids, carbohydrates, calcium and phosphorus. Casein can cause an allergic reaction whereby the body mistakes the casein for a toxin and produces antibodies. The antibodies provoke the release of histamine, which can cause swelling, hives and congestion, notes WebMD.

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Casein is used in many products, including paint, glue and rudimentary plastics. It is favored as a protein supplement due to its ability to form a clot in the stomach, thus providing sustained, slow release of amino acids into the bloodstream. Casein is also used in dentistry to rebuild tooth enamel. A gluten-free, casein-free diet is a popular alternative therapy for children with autism, but there is no scientific evidence to support the theory, according to WebMD.

Casein allergies are different from lactose intolerance, which is caused by lack of an enzyme required to digest the sugar lactose in milk. Many people have casein allergies early in life but outgrow them as they get older. Lactose intolerance can develop later in life and cause bloating, gas, diarrhea or gastroesophageal reflux, but it is not life-threatening, explains WebMD.

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