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Milk Allergies and Lactose Intolerance

Published date: March 5, 2013 | Modified date:
by Dr Stephen Wangen

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Milk allergy or dairy allergy are the most common food allergies seen in my practice and cause a multitude of health problems.

Dairy may be the most misunderstood food of our culture. It is often assumed to be of high nutritional value and even mandatory for good health, although it can create serious health problems. 
Lactose intolerance is frequently confused with milk allergy, but the two conditions are not the same. We’ll discuss these two dairy food disorders below.

What’s a Dairy Allergy?

An allergy is an immune response that results in inflammation and tissue damage. Such a response to food can be exhibited in any part of the body, therefore it can cause a wide range of problems. Food allergies also interfere with nutrient absorption, resulting in conditions such as iron deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, and fatigue.

What Are the Possible Milk Allergy Symptoms?

A dairy allergy, like any food allergy, is capable of triggering a wide array of milk allergy symptoms. Some of the most common complaints include ear infections in children, sinusitis, heartburn/reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is an enzyme deficiency, not an allergy. However, lactose intolerance can be the result of a dairy allergy and the two are frequently confused.

What Causes a Milk Allergy? 

Most likely it is a genetic condition. In the big picture, humans have only recently introduced cow’s milk into the diet, so it’s not surprising that the immune system doesn’t always recognize it as a friendly substance.

Why Is It so Difficult to Recognize One’s Own Food Allergy? 

This is a significant problem because of the difficulty in connecting your symptoms with your eating habits. Your symptoms probably vary in intensity or come and go. The trick is that allergy symptoms may show up hours or even a day later, after a food is well absorbed into your system. And if you stop to think about it, you probably eat dairy every day. 
Even if you only eat something 2 or 3 times per week you can still have a significant allergic reaction to it.

Which Foods Are Dairy Foods? 

Dairy includes all types of milk from a cow, all cheese, butter, half and half, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream and other obvious milk products. It also includes the proteins casein, whey, and lactalbumin, which are found in many processed foods. Low-fat and nonfat milk are just as allergenic as whole milk. And eggs don’t come from cows, so they’re not considered a dairy product.

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