Whether indulging in a cheese-filled burger, mingling at a social gathering, or simply seeking a satisfying snack, the irresistible allure of cheese is hard to resist.
With an array of delightful cheese varieties, this versatile and flavorful food can enhance and elevate any culinary creation, be it a classic pizza, tantalizing tacos, or an elegant charcuterie spread.
However, it’s important to be mindful of the potential side effects of excessive cheese consumption, as it can impact your body and overall well-being.
So, what exactly occurs within your body when you indulge in an abundance of cheese, and why does this happen?
You could become constipated.
Sabat explains that consuming an excessive quantity of cheese can potentially contribute to the development of constipation.
Due to its high-fat content and low fiber content, cheese can impede the digestive process, making it more challenging for stool to pass through the intestines. As a result, bowel movements may become infrequent, and eliminating waste can become difficult.
In the short term, consuming large amounts of cheese can cause discomfort and bloating. However, the long-term consequences of overindulging in cheese can lead to chronic constipation, which can have ongoing effects on digestive health, warns Sabat.
You could experience inflammation.
Sabat highlights that the consumption of casein, a protein in milk and a key cheese component, can potentially result in various side effects and health concerns. One prominent side effect associated with casein intake is inflammation.
In certain individuals, casein has the potential to trigger an immune response and contribute to inflammation within the body. This inflammatory reaction can give rise to various symptoms, including digestive issues, skin problems, respiratory discomfort, and even joint pain.
For individuals with a genuine allergy or sensitivity to casein, the immune system identifies casein as a threat, prompting the release of inflammatory mediators and causing adverse reactions, she explains.
You could get heartburn.
Sabat explains that cheese, being a dense source of fat, can potentially induce heartburn in individuals who are susceptible to it.
Excessive consumption of cheese with its high-fat content can cause relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle responsible for preventing the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus.
This relaxation can give rise to a burning sensation in the chest and throat. Furthermore, if left untreated, chronic heartburn can damage the esophageal lining and give rise to more severe conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Your skin may experience breakouts.
“Diet plays a multifaceted role in the development of acne, influenced by various factors such as hormones, genetics, hygiene practices, and environmental factors,” explains Toby Amidor, an accomplished nutrition expert and bestselling author.
According to the clinical guidelines published by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), emerging evidence suggests a potential link between high glycemic index foods and dietary patterns with acne.
While not everyone may be affected, excessive cheese consumption can contribute to skin breakouts or worsened acne in certain individuals,” adds Sabat. She points out that hormones present in milk, including insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), can stimulate sebum production and clog pores.
Additionally, the high saturated fat content in cheese may promote inflammation in the body, potentially aggravating existing skin conditions.
Amidor notes that the evidence regarding dairy foods and acne is limited and inconsistent. The AAD guidelines state that no specific dietary changes are recommended for managing acne due to the limited and inconsistent quality of evidence available.
Your risk of contracting Listeria could increase.
“Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium known for causing foodborne illnesses in individuals with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and older adults,” according to Sabat.
Soft cheeses like brie, camembert and blue cheese pose a higher risk for listeria contamination when consumed excessively or stored improperly; when exposed for long enough, exposure increases further.
Listeriosis, also known as listeria infection, can cause flu-like symptoms that could potentially worsen over time and could even result in more serious consequences, particularly among vulnerable populations.
Pregnant women are particularly at risk, as listeriosis can increase the chances of miscarriage or stillbirth,” she further explains.
Your cancer risk could increase.
According to Sabat, consuming excessive amounts of cheese, especially high-fat varieties, can raise the risk of specific cancers. The saturated fats found in cheese have been linked to an increased likelihood of colorectal cancer.
Furthermore, certain studies indicate a potential association between consuming dairy products, including cheese, and a higher susceptibility to prostate and breast cancers.
However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the connection between cheese consumption and cancer is still undergoing research, and other factors related to one’s diet and lifestyle also contribute significantly to developing these diseases.
You end up bloated.
Indulging in a hearty serving of mac and cheese may leave you feeling regretful and uncomfortably bloated, and the culprits are likely the cheddar, swiss, and gouda cheeses that make up the delicious pasta bake.
According to Amy Gorin, a plant-based registered dietitian, those who struggle to digest dairy or consume it in large quantities often experience bloating within 30 minutes to two hours after eating.
To alleviate this, reducing overall cheese intake can be helpful. However, if even small amounts of cheese cause significant bloating, Gorin suggests trying different varieties.
Cheeses like muenster, brie, and camembert have lower lactose content than other types, making them easier to digest and causing fewer side effects.
Gorin further explains that individuals with severe lactose intolerance who consume excessive cheese will have undigested lactose move into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed by the body. This undigested lactose then combines with normal bacteria in the colon, resulting in the production of gas.
The FDA recognizes the occurrence of gas shortly after consuming dairy products, including cheese, as one of the common signs of inadequate lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose in dairy products.
You get diarrhea.
If you find yourself among the large percentage of adults with lactose intolerance, consuming excessive amounts of dairy products can lead to significant discomfort and digestive issues.
Sarah Rueven, a registered dietitian and founder of Rooted Wellness, explains that when individuals with lactose intolerance consume cheese, the lactase present in the cheese remains undigested and undergoes fermentation in the gut due to bacterial activity.
This fermentation process can result in unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea.
You could become dehydrated.
Insufficient water intake isn’t the only cause of dehydration; consuming foods with high sodium, such as creamy casseroles and double-decker cheeseburgers, can also contribute to dehydration.
According to Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian, cheese is a particularly sodium-rich food, and its consumption in large quantities can lead to rapid sodium accumulation in the body. It can have a dehydrating effect, especially if multiple slices of cheese are consumed at once.
If your eating habits are causing dehydration, you may experience symptoms such as headaches and decreased urination. It is important to be mindful of your hydration levels before and after consuming meals high in sodium, ensuring you consciously hydrate to avoid dehydration.
Your water weight may increase.
Conversely, due to its high sodium content, cheese has the potential to cause water retention in individuals who are sensitive to salt, as pointed out by Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition.
It is particularly relevant for individuals following low-sodium diets, such as those with heart disease or high cholesterol, who are often advised to restrict or eliminate cheese. By doing so, they can better manage their sodium intake and mitigate the risk of water retention.
Your heart health suffers.
Consuming excessive amounts of cheese can heighten the risk of heart disease, warns Sarah Rueven. Elevated sodium levels in cheese can increase blood pressure, increasing the stroke risk.
Additionally, the saturated fat content in cheese can raise bad cholesterol levels, contributing to artery blockages.
Saturated fat is a type of fat that remains solid at room temperature and has the potential to clog arteries, according to Amy Shapiro.
However, the good news is that you don’t have to eliminate cheese from your diet to mitigate these side effects, as emphasized by Rueven. Enjoying cheese in moderation will not significantly elevate cholesterol and blood pressure.
Consider incorporating small amounts of cheese as a garnish for salads or soups, or enjoy it occasionally to savor its flavor without overindulging.
You might gain weight.
Let’s debunk some common misconceptions about cheese that can work against us.
“People often consider cheese a ‘low-carb’ or high-protein food, leading them to add it to salads, sandwiches, omelets, and snacks,” explains Amy Shapiro.
However, according to Shapiro, the issue lies in that one ounce of cheese contains approximately 100 calories and eight grams of fat. It may not be as “healthy” as many perceive it to be, as it can quickly contribute to your overall fat and calorie intake.
Consistently consuming cheese in this manner can potentially result in weight gain.
Cheese is high in fat, which is an energy-dense macronutrient with more calories per gram, according to Sarah Rueven.
Consuming too much cheese – or any high-calorie food such as it – may lead to weight gain if consumed beyond daily requirements.