This week on the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast, I had a chance to do an expert interview with the fabulous Kathlena from @TheAllergyChef.
The episode is about all allergies, specifically food allergies, and even more specifically, milk allergies!
I know this is a somewhat common issue that breastfeeding moms face with their babies. Basically, baby starts to show signs of a dairy allergy, and they have to start cutting out dairy. So, I wanted to do a whole episode focusing on that!
Interestingly, as we were having this discussion about dairy allergies, the conversation naturally kind of flowed into talking about all sorts of things regarding allergies – because there is a ton of overlapping information and nuances to discuss!
Here’s a peek into what we talk about:
My baby has been diagnosed with a milk protein intolerance, and I’m breastfeeding. Where do I even begin cutting out dairy from my diet? (9:18)
Right from the start, you’ll get so much information from Kathlena about eliminating dairy (milk), dairy/milk intolerances, and allergies in general.
In this part of the episode she does a great job of explaining some of the terminology and definitions, and why they matter! She talks about the differences between saying dairy and milk, and what exactly lactose is, too.
Then she discusses how to eliminate milk from your diet specifically (12:50).
Label reading for top eight allergens (20:28)
Dairy is one of the top eight allergens here in the US. The top eight are: milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and wheat.
Here’s a direct quote from the episode regarding labeling and the top eight allergens,
“So, by it [milk] being one of the US top eight, legally, a company must disclose if it’s in the product. Now, the label does not have to tell you if it was used as a processing aid, if it was transported next to the item, or if it was made on shared equipment.
But at least if it’s in the product, which if we go back to our bell curve, covers most people, if you don’t see [the words] “contains milk”, or you don’t see the word “milk” bolded, or you don’t see the word “lactose” or “whey” bolded. If you don’t see those items there, then most likely, you’re fine. The milk is not in the final product”
Tune in to hear her talk about some of the caveats and problems with these labeling guidelines. Especially for those with more extreme allergies and intolerances.
She also gets a bit into the difference between wording with: contains milk vs. may contain milk on a product label. (24:34)
How long does dairy take to leave breast milk? (30:50)
“So it can take for some people a day, for some people a week. And this is where people aren’t the same. Unfortunately, the reaction of your child will be the indicator of how long it’s taking to leave your supply specifically.”
“They say that allergens being eliminated from the system is similar to like narcotics and things like that. So it’s just if you kind of think of it in that similar way, it’s not like alcohol, where it burns off necessarily, and then it’s just kind of gone. It just takes a while to actually leave your system.”
Do you have any meal prep/planning tips for dairy free moms? (33:00)
Here, Kathlena gives a ton of actionable and detailed advice to help you if you’re suddenly in this boat! Her tips apply to food allergies broadly, but then she also gives some info specific to dairy-free folks.
These are some of the tips she mentions:
- Try to go shopping without your child so that you can put your full attention on label reading
- Really understand how to read labels, especially when it comes to finding “hidden” sources of milk
- Check out her Raise Membership website’s safe products and other guides where they adhere to the strictest regulations
- Instead of replacing every item in your diet with a dairy-free alternative, rethink and brainstorm other options. For example, a bagel with cream cheese can be replaced with a bagel and jam instead of looking for a dairy-free cream cheese
- Check labels three times: at the store, when you unload the groceries, and right before you use the item! She calls this the three-step process, and recommends it for all mamas, especially if you’re new to this!
She highlights the main things you want to look for as a dairy free mama when you’re label reading at the grocery store.
The three big ones are the terms whey, lactose, and milk.
Additionally, you should check for phrasing such as “may contain milk, contains milk, made on shared equipment with milk, or processed in a shared facility with milk.”
Basically, when you’re shopping she advises, “Make sure that you have everything written down. Have a list of every word that can mean the allergen as well as everything derived from the allergen.”
A few dairy-free cooking and baking tips (40:46)
In this part of the episode, Kathlena explains that if you are cooking for a milk allergy/intolerance only, you can often do a one-to-one exchange for a dairy-free alternative.
For example, if a recipe calls for two tablespoons of butter, you can substitute two tablespoons of dairy free butter. Tune in to hear her talk a bit about subbing for buttermilk, full fat cream, cream, whole milk, etc.
Let’s talk about non-dairy milk options (43:00)
When I ask Kathlena this, we joke a little bit about just how many non-dairy milks there are out there!
She explains that the major “categories” of non-dairy milks are oat, soy, rice, and tree nut-based milks. But from there it breaks down even more! Within nut milks you’ve got pecan, walnut, macadamia, etc.
You’ll hear Kathlena explain some of the key differences, which are mainly taste, fat, and protein content. She explains that for people with very severe dairy allergies, it’s necessary to contact companies. Because shockingly, some dairy-free milks are made on the same equipment as regular milk!
To be absolutely sure, she says you can make your own milk at home using an appliance called the NutraMilk or Almond Cow.
Tune in to hear her talk more about making your own dairy-free milks and different things to consider if you decide to give it a try!
Oral challenges and monitoring reactions in young children with allergies (47:00)
For mamas that are dealing with milk protein allergies or intolerances in their littles (or any food allergies for that matter!) this part of the episode is a must-listen!
Kathlena clearly articulates just how challenging it can be to monitor reactions, ESPECIALLY delayed reactions in non-verbal people (our little ones!), and why we can’t make blanket assumptions about reactions vs. non-reactions.
Her educated perspective and point of view will help bring some clarity to you mamas that aren’t getting answers regarding food challenges, what’s a reaction and what’s not, or generally just feel in your gut that something with your little one is still not right.
What about eating out? Do you have tips on eating out? (50:30)
Kathlena explains just how hard it can be for a restaurant to keep you safe if you have allergies,
“If you’re at the extreme end of the bell curve, do not do it at all, period. No ifs, ands, or buts, if your child has a contact or airborne allergy, do not do it. Period. There’s so much you cannot control.
If you want to understand why I made these statements. Watch a cooking show where they’re inside of a kitchen. And you can see how fast-paced a kitchen moves.
Because I have different certifications I understand this and we own a food company. I know what goes on behind the scenes, which is why I can confidently tell you, it’s really hard for them to keep you safe.”
I love the analogy she made about allergens being like glitter (52:30)
“I love to tell people to think of allergens as glitter. Glitter is everywhere. Think about how glitter is everywhere, right? And that’s what an allergen is like.”
For people that are only dairy-free, she does recommend checking out Vegan or Paleo restaurants as options that may be safe. Of course, you should still do your due diligence, especially if you or your little one falls on the extreme end of the spectrum.
Wrapping up the episode
I can truly say that this episode taught me so much! I say it during the show, but I’ll say it again: this episode blew my mind – and that doesn’t happen very often!
Kathlena is so incredibly knowledgeable, and it was a real treat to have her come on to the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast to chat!
If this episode brought value or joy to your life, we’d LOVE for you to let us know by leaving a review.
About Kathlena, The Allergy Chef
Kathlena, The Allergy Chef, has over 200 food allergies and intolerances. Several of her allergies are life threatening, and she can’t drink most water. She has a handful of safe foods to eat, and one source of safe water.
Additionally, most of the members of her household also have food allergies and special diets, none of them the same. After being given 30 days to live, she made it her mission to help the food allergy and special diet communities thrive. Although she can’t eat the food, she helps people find safe & delicious options.
Three years from her lowest point, she and her team have published several cookbooks, started a bakery, done local and nationwide outreach, developed hundreds of free recipes & resources, and much more.
Here are some additional resources Kathlena shared!
- The Dairy Free Diet: Things to Know When You’re Going Dairy Free
- Dairy Free Swaps! (Vegan, Allergy Friendly)
- Hidden Sources of Dairy
- Seven Super Easy Meal Ideas for Right Now (Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly)
- Gluten Free, Top 8 Allergy, and Sesame Free Toddler Guide
- Know Your Butters! Allergy Friendly Options for Everyone