2005_05_askcheese.jpgWhy did I eat so much cheese last night? And I why do I feel so awful today?

You ate so much cheese because it's addictive. You feel terrible because of lactose. Allow us to elaborate.

Cheese contains compounds called casomorphins, which are casein(milk protein)-derived substances that are actually morphine-like. According to Dr. Neal Barnard, quoted in an article from the National Health Assocation,“Casein, the fundamental protein in cow’s milk, breaks apart in the digestive process to release chemicals called casomorphins, and the casomorphins are casein-derived, morphine-like substances." And cheese contains loads of casomorphins. Dr. Barnard says, "It is the process of cheese making, when all the liquid is pressed together, which leaves just pure casein and fat. And it’s the purest form of the casein — and once in your digestive track it breaks down into casomorphins." So the reason you ate so much cheese is that you couldn't help it - it's addictive!

Now, why do you feel so bad? Probably because you're having difficulty digesting the lactose (milk sugar) in the cheese you ate. A lot of adults (including about 30 - 50 million Americans!) have problems digesting lactose, which can cause bloating, cramps, gas, diarrhea, and even nausea and vomiting. How can you avoid a lactose overdose in the future? Take some over-the-counter lactaid with your cheese, which will give you some of the lactose-digesting enzyme lactase in your system, or eat cheeses that are known to be lower in lactose, like hard, aged cheeses.

Related: Gothamist on where to get your cheese fix, aka Murray's Cheese.

Got a question? Need advice? E-mail ask(at)gothamist(dot)com.