Milk allergy vs lactose intolerance

Milk allergy vs lactose intolerance

Milk allergy is a food allergy that occurs when the milk proteins irritate the body, release antibodies and give allergy reaction. Either it’s cow milk, organic milk, breast milk or processed powder milk, they are all responsible for milk allergy symptoms.

Lactose intolerance is a non-allergic reaction that occurs usually in adults and premature babies, who can’t digest lactose, a sugar present in dairy products. It happens when they do not produce enough lactase, an enzyme in the intestines that helps digest lactose.

What differentiates these two reactions? Milk allergy involves the immune system, and lactose intolerance doesn’t, which translates to the consequence what is not tolerated now, might be easily tolerated at another time; and the reactions are minor.

Symptoms of milk allergy vs symptoms of lactose intolerance

Milk allergy symptoms can be gastrointestinal (vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, even mucous and blood in stool), dermatological (skin rash, eczema, hives) or respiratory (runny noise, itchy eyes or even asthma).

Lactose intolerance symptoms appear when lactose stays undigested in intestines and it causes gas, bloating, stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea; they appear usually within 2 hours after the lactose was consumed and undigested.

Milk allergy vs lactose intolerance diagnosis

The best way to identify the milk and lactose problem is to eliminate them totally from the diet for two weeks. During this time all the milk protein and lactose traces should be gone from the system. Then, reintroduce them slowly and observe the reactions. And always write down what you have eaten and what have been the reaction.

In both cases, the person should be tested. For milk allergy blood and skin tests should be performed. For lactose intolerance, a lactose breath test is recommended. In some cases, the doctor may refer to a specialist who may need to perform more advanced tests.

Milk allergy vs lactose intolerance treatment

In adults, it is relatively easy to be on a dairy-free diet and use milk substitute, like soy milk or rice milk. Soy milk doesn’t contain lactose and many brands offer soy milk calcium fortified. In the case of baby allergies, it is quite more difficult, since the babies need to drink a lot more milk. They need to be switched to a special formula, soy-based or even hydrolyzed, casein-based formulas, like Nutramigen.

When dealing with milk allergy or lactose intolerance, it is crucial to read food labels. Obviously, it is not enough to avoid milk in the diet. You should look for lactose-free products and avoid any products containing hidden lactose (like whey). Also, when lactose intolerant, you can use the try and error method. You have to find your own answers what is bothering your intestines the most, in which quantities and what you should avoid in the diet. In the case of lactose intolerance, you should avoid regular milk and soft cheeses, like American cheese or mozzarella. It is usually fine to eat yogurts or aged cheeses, like Swiss or Parmesan, because lactose is broken down in there.

In either case, you should supplement your body with the necessary calcium, since your are probably not consuming the sufficient amount of calcium (calcium supplements, orange juice or soy milk calcium fortified, vegetables rich in calcium like cabbage, eggplant, kale). You should always consult your doctor or pediatrician. In the case of lactose intolerance, the doctor may suggest getting over-the-counter lactase, which should be taken right before the meal to help digest the lactose.

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