Am I lactose intolerant? Or do I have food allergies?

It is estimated that as much as one third of the world’s population is lactose intolerant.

What is a lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a condition where a person has difficulty digesting milk sugar (lactose). The underlying problem of this condition is a lack of proper enzymes in the intestines.

milk allergy

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • Bloating
  • Stomach pains
  • Gas
  • Loose stools or diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Is lactose intolerance a form of milk allergy?

No. Lactose intolerance is caused by an insufficient amount of lactase (enzymes that break down milk sugars). A milk allergy has nothing to do with enzymes but is caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system toward milk proteins. In the case of a milk allergy, the body thinks that the milk proteins are an enemy and tries to fight them off. This “fight” is what triggers allergic symptoms. Much like lactose intolerance, milk allergy can cause stomach distress, but it can also cause coughing, asthma, skin rashes, and allergic rhinitis.

What can I do about milk allergy or lactose intolerance?

There is no cure for lactose intolerance, but there are ways of reducing its symptoms. You can stay away form dairy products altogether, but milk is loaded with vital nutrients: calcium, Vitamin D, potassium, proteins.

Drinking lactose-reduced milk is a good way to maintain the nutrients of milk while missing out on the problems associated with lactose. You can also try milk substitutes such as soy, rice, almond or coconut milk. If you do this, though, be careful to get essential nutrients from milk in different ways throughout the day or take supplements (such as calcium supplements.) Click here for a list of nutrients found in dairy foods.

Most people can tolerate up to 10 grams of milk per day (about 1 glass worth). Beyond that, many people find that drinking milk with other foods or drinking little bits of milk throughout the day can make milk tolerable.

Where milk allergy is concerned, it used to be that the only thing one could do was avoid milk, but a new treatment called sublingual immunotherapy is changing that. The treatment involves under-the-tongue drops that “teach” the body to tolerate milk proteins. Contact the Family Allergy Clinic for more details.