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What's the Difference Between Dairy Food Allergies and Lactose Intolerance?

By Expert HERWriter
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differences between lactose intolerance and dairy food allergies iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Recently I had a question about the difference between lactose intolerance and dairy food allergies. In both cases our bodies have an adverse response to dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese.

Some people are so sensitive to dairy that they will respond to any foods that contain these products. I thought I would be helpful to explain the differences between these two conditions.

I will start with lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the inability to break down milk or milk products because the body is no longer producing an enzyme called lactase.

Since all mammals only require milk at the beginning of life, as we age our bodies stop producing lactase as we get older. If we continue to eat dairy after our body has stopped producing lactase, we will start having symptoms when we consume dairy.

Have you noticed that in your twenties or thirties, that you and your friends started to notice difficulty with dairy? Without the lactase enzyme, you may experience gas and bloating, diarrhea, and pain in the abdominal region after eating dairy products.

It has been estimated that at least 10 percent of the population may be affected.

Dairy food allergies cause a completely different reaction in the body. With a dairy food allergy, the immune system responds to any dairy products as substances that could potentially do harm to the body.

The immune system responds to dairy products by mounting an immune response against them similar to the way it would mount a response to a bacteria or virus.

Dairy food allergy reactions can be mild or severe. The mild immune response causes a variety symptoms, including sinus congestion and dark circles under the eyes.

There can be other symptoms including itching in the mouth or diarrhea, or abdominal symptoms. This response is what is sometimes confused with lactose intolerance.

I want to note that some milk allergies can sometimes be very severe, causing an anaphylactic reaction.

This reaction begins within minutes or even seconds of exposure to a dairy product.

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Dairy is not a major allergen for adults, and most children will develop a tolerance to milk by the time they reach school age. And as i know there is no cure for dairy allergy at this time, managing your allergy involves avoiding all dairy products and being prepared for future reactions. All the important points are mentioned in this article.

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May 3, 2012 - 3:53am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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