Let’s talk about a very important topic: recognizing food allergies, specifically a dairy allergy.
Over the past few weeks, milk & dairy allergies has been at the forefront of many conversations with clients to colleagues to a guy at the car dealership. (I know, crazy, isn’t it!?)
One thing was clear from all these conversations. Distinguishing an allergy from lactose intolerance is not as easy or as talked-about as it should be.
Let’s consider this very common scenario: After explaining your or your child’s allergy to milk and dairy, the friend/hostess/colleague replies with an understanding nod and “oh, you’re (your child is) lactose intolerant?”
Until recently, the only physical response to milk that made the news was indeed lactose intolerance, so we can’t blame the friend/hostess/colleague for assuming she was understanding and empathizing properly. She really doesn’t know the difference between an allergy to dairy and an intolerance to lactose, and it’s important we understand the basic science, symptoms and solutions of each as they become more prevalent.
Here’s the skinny on how to recognize an allergy vs. intolerance.
Symptoms: gassy, digestive tract discomfort, diarrhea, abdominal pain within a short time of consuming the food ( 30 minutes – a few hours)
Potential Solutions: Lactaid, Lactose-free milk, Lactase supplement, dairy-free diet, milk alternatives
The Story: As we age, our natural production of lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk so that it may be digested, declines.
If we can’t produce the lactase to break down the lactose, then the lactose stays in the digestive tract, acts as a laxative, and results in gas and loose stools within a few hours of intaking dairy. This is why Lactaid or lactose-free products are more easily digested by those who are lactose intolerance; a lactase insufficiency can be eased by lactase-enriched products, like Lactaid.
A Milk Allergy, on the other hand, is a bit different.
Symptoms: Rashes, congestion/runny nose, itchy mouth/throat, hives, abdominal pain or any other combination of an immunological response
The Story: Food allergies involve the body’s immune system, which is the body’s way of fighting infection and invaders. However, if you or your child is allergic to a particular food, the immune system sees that food as a danger to the body. The immune system then overreacts to proteins in that food, causing an allergic reaction and a release of histamine. Tingling in the mouth, swelling lips, hives and itchy ears are often symptoms that indicate an allergic reaction.
This type of reaction, in contrast to the digestive reaction to a lactose intolerance, can happen within moments with potentially far worse consequences. Any time you, your child or your guest starts “feeling funny” after consuming any foods, particularly the Big Allergens like gluten, dairy, nuts, shellfish, eggs, etc., get medical attention immediately.
As with any food allergy, it’s always best to steer clear of the food/drink and see your doctor.
As always, we love to hear your questions and comments, so leave us a note below!