Milk Allergy Vs Lactose Intolerance
Learn about the differences between milk allergy and lactose intolerance.
Milk allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance.
A food allergy happens when your immune system overreacts to a specific food protein. When you eat or drink the food protein, it can trigger an allergic reaction. Symptoms can range from mild to severe . A food allergy can be potentially life-threatening.
Unlike food allergies, food intolerances do not involve the immune system. People who are lactose intolerant are missing the enzyme lactase. Lactase breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. As a result, people with lactose intolerance are unable to digest these foods. They may experience symptoms such as nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. While lactose intolerance can cause great discomfort, it is not life-threatening.
How Is Cows Milk Allergy Diagnosed
The diagnosis of cow’s milk allergy is often obvious when symptoms occur within minutes of exposure. Skin prick allergen tests from your doctor can confirm the diagnosis. When symptoms are delayed, cow’s milk allergy can be harder to diagnose. Not every child who has a positive allergy test will develop symptoms when exposed to milk.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommends you should speak to your doctor or specialist about the benefits and safety of allergen immunotherapy or before attempting any allergy testing or treatment.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of A Milk Allergy
In children who show symptoms shortly after they have milk, an allergic reaction can cause:
- a drop in blood pressure causing lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
The severity of allergic reactions to milk can vary. The same child can react differently with each exposure. This means that even though one reaction was mild, the next could be more severe and even life-threatening.
Children also can have:
- an intolerance to milk in which symptoms such as loose stools, blood in the stool, refusal to eat, or irritability or colic appear hours to days later
- lactose intolerance, which is when the body has trouble digesting milk
If you’re not sure if your child has an intolerance versus an allergy, talk to your doctor.
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Complications Of Lactose Intolerance
Milk and other dairy products contain calcium, protein and vitamins, such as A, B12 and D.
Lactose also helps your body absorb a number of other minerals, such as magnesium and zinc.
These vitamins and minerals are important for the development of strong, healthy bones.
If you’re lactose intolerant, getting the right amount of important vitamins and minerals can prove difficult.
This may lead to unhealthy weight loss and put you at increased risk of developing the following conditions:
- osteopenia where you have a very low bone-mineral density left untreated, it can develop into osteoporosis
- osteoporosis where your bones become thin and weak, and your risk of breaking a bone is increased
- malnutrition when the food you eat does not give you the nutrients essential for a healthy functioning body this means wounds can take longer to heal and you may start to feel tired or depressed
If you’re concerned that dietary restrictions are putting you at risk of complications, you may find it helpful to consult a dietitian.
They can advise you on your diet and whether you require food supplements.
Your GP should be able to refer you to an NHS dietitian free of charge. Or you can contact a private dietitian.
The British Dietetic Association has information on how to find a private dietitian.
Page last reviewed: 25 February 2019 Next review due: 25 February 2022
Signs You Might Have A Dairy Sensitivity Or Allergy
Ahh dairy we love to love you but you just dont seem to love us back. Whats the deal?
If you look at the big eight list of food allergens, dairy tops the charts, meaning it falls in the category of foods that cause 90% of all allergic responses.
If youre someone who has a full-blown allergy to dairy, you likely already know it because your response to eating this food is very obvious. A standard allergy test will confirm your immune reaction things like hives, swelling of your lips or face, nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea or more dangerous respiratory issues which could lead to anaphylactic shock.
Fun stuff, huh? The upside to having a true allergic response is that you know you have an allergy. Its very clear. You dont eat dairy or else. Case closed.
Most reactions to food arent these obvious allergic responses, they are food sensitivities.
Unlike allergies, food sensitivities dont have a full on immune reaction blowout, so you may be able to eat these foods in small amounts without noticing it. Also, the standard allergy tests wont pick up your food sensitivity. Food sensitivities are allergies to foods weve consumed on a regular basis to which the body has become intolerant. Sensitivities can be especially difficult to discover because the reactions are often subtle or indirect enough that the effect is rarely, and sometimes never, linked to the cause.
You end up sabotaging your health without knowing it!
Eye opening, right?!?
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Dairy Intolerance: What It Is And How To Determine If You Have It
I often say that dairy is fine and even healthy if you tolerate it. But what exactly does that mean? How do you know if its not okay? You could be reacting poorly to the lactose, the casein, the whey, or all of it. You could just ditch all dairy forever more and be perfectly fine but you shouldnt eliminate a food group, especially one as delicious, nutrient-dense, and potentially rewarding as dairy, unless you absolutely must. Plus, its just good to know what you can and cannot tolerate. You dont want to tiptoe through life, scared of food because youve never taken the time to determine your ability to tolerate it. You want to be empowered with knowledge and venture forth boldly or carefully, if caution is warranted through the cheese aisle.
The most common dairy components that people have trouble with are lactose and casein, with intolerance to each presenting differently. Lets look at both.
Breastfeeding A Baby Who Can’t Tolerate Milk
If your baby is lactose-intolerant, you don’t need to change your diet. It doesn’t matter how much dairy you consume, the amount of lactose in your milk will be the same.
However, if your baby is diagnosed with milk allergy, you will need to remove all dairy from your own diet too. You will need calcium and vitamin D supplements every day. Your doctor or allergy specialist will advise you.
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How Can You Safeguard Yourself
If youre dairy sensitive, its important to know how to protect yourself. Here are some tips:
Lactose Intolerance Vs Dairy Allergy
Although a dairy allergy can feel like lactose intolerance and vice versa, theyre distinctly different, says Dr. Ligresti. Lactose intolerance is technically not a food allergy. Its not triggered by an immune system reaction and instead happens when your body cant digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk, according to the Cleveland Clinic9. Lactose intolerance typically only causes digestive symptoms after you have milk or milk products, such as:
Lactose intolerance is also more common in adults and tends to develop with age. Thats because, as you get older, your body starts to produce less lactase, an enzyme that is needed to effectively break down lactose10. So, even if youve enjoyed dairy products throughout your life, you can start to develop symptoms due to an intolerance at any time.
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Dairy Allergy: What To Eat And What To Avoid
I love when you share my recipes!
Dairy allergies 101 – everything you need to know to stay safe with a dairy allergy. Includes dairy allergy vs dairy intolerances, a list of symptoms, and what you need to avoid to not have a reaction.
Dairy allergies are one of the most common allergies and it is included in the top 9 allergens affecting the world. It is often confused with dairy intolerance. While the symptoms of allergies and intolerances do overlap, they are different conditions of the body with different outcomes. However, there are simple things you can do to determine if you have a dairy allergy and how best to manage it.
This article walks you through all aspects of a dairy allergy, symptoms, what to avoid, what you can still enjoy, and how best to manage your dairy allergy.
Diagnosis Of Cows Milk Allergy
If you or your child have allergic symptoms, visit your family doctor who will ask some questions about your reactions. You can also discuss your record of your symptoms. To diagnose your allergy, your doctor may refer you to a clinical immunology/allergy specialist.If your symptoms appear rapidly after eating or drinking milk or dairy products, the allergy may be easier to diagnose, whereas symptoms that take longer to appear make diagnosis more difficult.Allergists can test for allergies using a number of methods depending on the type of potential allergy. To test for an allergy, the allergist may:
- do a skin prick test
- do a blood test
- ask you to temporarily avoid all milk or products containing milk , then follow up with the introduction of milk back into your diet under strict medical supervision.
A number of methods claim to test for allergies but have not been medically or scientifically proven. They can be costly and could lead to dangerous avoidance of certain foods. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommends that you do not use certain methods to have potential allergies tested, including:
- cytotoxic food testing
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How Can You Tell If You Have A Dairy Allergy
Now, how can you tell if youve got a dairy allergy? All right, lets not hurt. Lets for example, see how much cows milk youre drinking. When I think of dairy, Im thinking about cows milk. I dont care whether its green top, blue top, yellow top or whatever kind of top that youre having, but its still going to have in it. Okay? Sugars, its going to have proteins in it, that can really affect you. So, there are various proteins in cows milk that really affect some people bad.
A lot of its got to do with tolerability and also your gut function. Ill explain all this. So, the first thing you look for in the dairy allergy is you look for mucus, for snot. You look for saliva, excess saliva production, but particularly you look for phlegm. Okay, for coughing up. You can even see sometimes mucus in the stool if you have a look. Some people whove got a real dairy allergy, have lots of mucus in the stool. Mucus coming up from the throat. I dont know where you guys live. If you live in New York City, youve probably never seen a cow before, but theyre big animals. They got four legs, theyre massive. Okay? If you see a cow, I want you to have a look at its face, all right? And what do you see hanging down here? Strands of mucus all hanging down.
About Eric Bakker N.D.
Eric is the past Vice President of the NZ Natural Medicine Association and is currently on their editorial advisory board.
Symptoms Of Milk Allergy
Signs of milk allergy are consistent with food allergy symptoms overall. Reactions can range from mild to severe, and symptoms may include:
- Stuffy nose and mucus congestion
- Swelling of the airways
A severe allergic reaction to milk might also result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that involves many organs at the same time. Itâs important to note that allergic reactions are hard to predict, and a previously mild reaction can sometimes turn into a dangerous one. If you think you might have a milk allergy , it needs to be taken seriously.
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Keep A Record Of Your Symptoms
Keep a diary that describes your symptoms or your childs symptoms and when and where they occur. Your diary could include information about whether the symptoms occur:
- inside your home, outside or both
- for a short time or longer
- at night, during the day or when you wake up
- after you have had a particular food or drink
- after you have taken a particular medication, either prescription or over the counter from a pharmacy or supermarket
- after you have taken a herbal medicine.
How To Find Out If You Have Lactose Intolerance
There are several ways your doctor might test you for lactose intolerance. Usually, the first step is to consume a high-lactose beverage. Then, your doctor will either measure the:
- Glucose in your blood
- Hydrogen levels in your breath
- Acid in your stool .
As an alternative, your doctor may also request a blood test that does not require any ingestion of lactose, as it checks for a specific genetic trait: the presence of the gene called Lactase persistence gene. This is the gene encoding for the enzyme Lactase, and its absence implies you will lose your ability to digest lactose at some point in your life due to genetic pre-programming.
If you want to be tested for lactose intolerance, you should follow up with your primary care doctor, allergist, or gastroenterologist.
But often, people with reactions to dairy find it easier to challenge themselves to âtestâ for lactose intolerance at home â provided the symptoms they experience arenât extreme. This can be done by either taking a lactase pill before eating dairy, or consuming a dairy product where lactose has been removed by the previous addition of lactase . In either case, if you no longer have a reaction to dairy, then you can be reasonably sure that lactose intolerance is the problem, rather than a dairy allergy.
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What Is A Dairy Allergy Exactly
A dairy allergy is an adverse immune reaction to a food protein, says Rosario Ligresti, M.D.6, chief of gastroenterology at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. There are two milk proteins that can trigger this out-of-whack immune response: casein and whey . You could be allergic to one or both of them. And some bad news: If youre allergic to cows milk, youre likely allergic to sheeps and goats milk too, per the Mayo Clinic7. Typically, allergic reactions arise soon after you ingest dairy products.
Theres also a subset of people who have a chronic inflammatory disease called eosinophilic esophagitis , she notes. In this case, a food allergymost often to cows milktriggers swelling that specifically affects the esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach.
Am I More Likely To Have Dairy Allergy
Youâre more likely to develop dairy allergy if:
- You have other allergies
- You have eczema
- One or both of your parents has a food or other allergy, like hay fever, eczema or asthma
- Youâre young. Milk allergy is more common in children. As you get older, your digestive system is less likely to react to milk, but you’re likelier to have lactose intolerance.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be similar to several other conditions, so it’s important to see your GP for a diagnosis before removing milk and dairy products from your diet.
For example, the symptoms above can also be caused by:
- irritable bowel syndrome a long-term disorder that affects the digestive system
- milk protein intolerance an adverse reaction to the protein in milk from cows
If your GP thinks you have lactose intolerance, they may suggest avoiding foods and drinks containing lactose for 2 weeks to see if your symptoms improve.
Signs You Might Have A Dairy Sensitivity Or Allergy:
You have gas, bloating and other digestive problems. According to the Academy of Family Physicians, about 75% of adults worldwide are not capable of digesting milk. By the age of 3 or 4, we have stopped producing the enzyme lactase that helps us digest milk. Without this enzyme, eating dairy can cause a number of digestive problems.
You had frequent ear infections or tubes as a child. Many people with dairy allergies also suffered from persistent ear infections as children. In fact, Dr. Barry Sears says, allergies can clog the nasal passages and Eustachian tubes, and this prevents middle-ear fluid from draining. The fluid becomes like water in a stagnant pond, a culture, medium for bacteria. If this sounds familiar, give dairy a break, your middle ear will thank you!
You LOVE cheese, yogurt, milk and anything that comes from a cow. If you fit into this category, you may think that you could NEVER live without your dairy. Were sorry to break the news but this is all the more reason to consider taking it off your plate. The food we love and crave the most is often the food that is sabotaging our health. Too much of a good thing can often be a bad thing.
You have asthma or difficulty breathing. Do you carry an inhaler or have trouble breathing after a meal? There are over 25 million Americans who suffer from asthma. According to top Functional Medicine doctor Mark Hyman, dairy and gluten are the most common cause of asthma.
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