Lactose intolerance is defined by a person having a deficiency in the enzyme lactase.
Lactase is needed in order to digest the sugar component in milk called lactose.
Many people are lactose intolerant, but millions more have an immune reaction to dairy. Unfortunately, most people don’t recognize that there is a difference between the two issues. These people usually do not figure out that dairy is causing their symptoms because they never actually eliminate dairy from their diet, only lactose. Avoiding lactose only partially helps their condition and often doesn’t help at all. What they don’t realize is that even though they are avoiding lactose, they are not avoiding dairy.
The most blatant example is lactose free milk. Lactose free milk is still a major dairy product. If you are drinking lactose free milk you haven’t even begun to eliminate dairy from diet, only lactose. Dairy is used in many products that are considered to be lactose free. Whey protein powder is essentially dried milk, without the lactose. Whey is not only sold as a protein powder, it is also used as an ingredient in hundreds of different food products from bread to soup to candy.
If you have an immune reaction to milk, then you have a dairy allergy. Any form of dairy in any food product is then a trigger for you. This includes all milk, cheese, whey, casein, cream, half and half, and even butter.
Symptoms can range from virtually any digestive problem to eczema, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and even chronic sinusitis. In fact there are hundreds of symptoms that can result from a dairy allergy. (For more visit the Center for Food Allergies.)
Many, many infants react to dairy, which is typically the first food introduced to an infant in the form of infant formula. Dairy can cause reflux, vomiting, colic, poor development, and inability to sleep.
The only way to avoid all sources of dairy is to read all ingredients and to find acceptable alternative products. There are now hundreds of good dairy free foods on the market, and the list is expanding every day. Although traditionally these have typically been soy based, there are many other options these days. Earth Balance brand margarine, for example, is an outstanding butter substitute.
Soy, rice, almond, oat, hazelnut, and even coconut milks are now widely available. Coconut, rice and soy ice creams are wonderful ice cream alternatives. Even dairy free cheese is improving since the introduction of the Daiya brand line of cheeses. They are used in Amy’s brand dairy free macaroni and cheese, a surprisingly rich and tasty product.
If you haven’t ever tried eliminating dairy from your diet, but suspect that it may be a problem for you, you really should get tested for a dairy allergy. Your health is worth it! It is by far the most problematic food seen at our clinic and readily shows up as positive lab work with the advanced food allergy testing we use.
And there is no need to worry about not getting enough calcium. There isn’t a single animal on the planet that drinks cow’s milk as an adult (including cows!), and none of them has issues with bone density. We simply don’t need it, and in millions of cases suffer more than we benefit.
Dr. Stephen Wangen is the award winning author of two books on solving digestive disorders, and a nationally recognized speaker on IBS. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio. He was recently named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.