Although lactose intolerance and a milk allergy both require one to avoid dairy, they are entirely different conditions. Lactose intolerance has to do with the body’s inability to digest lactose, which makes it a digestive problem. A milk allergy, on the other hand, has to do with the immune system and results in allergic reactions when a person ingests milk proteins.
Lactose intolerance exhibits itself with stomach cramps, gas, diarrhea, bloating, and nausea. These symptoms usually present themselves 30 minutes after consuming dairy. Lactose intolerance may be genetic but also be due to a physical irregularity in the gastrointestinal tract. Lactose intolerance is very prevalent today, affecting over 30 million Americans. The risk of lactose intolerance increases with age.
Although it may appear at any age, a milk allergy is more common among babies and children. In fact, it is the most common food allergy among children under the age of 5 as most stop showing symptoms as they grow up. A milk allergy may seem like lactose intolerance initially, but the symptoms quickly start to resemble those of an allergic reaction such as swelling of the throat or lips and trouble breathing.
Diagnosis of a Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance
A milk allergy is more severe than lactose intolerance and can be difficult to diagnose. However, doctors can order many tests to reach a diagnosis. They often use a hydrogen breath test for lactose intolerance and food allergy testing methods for a milk allergy.
Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance Treatments
Whether you have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy, keeping dairy products to a minimum is a must in either case. However, many people who suffer from lactose intolerance can consume some dairy products that contain small amounts of lactose, e.g. yogurt. If you have a milk allergy, though, you must read ingredients lists carefully to avoid whey, casein, lactalbumin, lactulose, and ghee.
Again, regardless of a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, not consuming dairy products may lead to a calcium deficiency, so it is vital to incorporate foods that are rich in calcium into your diet like almonds and cruciferous vegetables.
Lactose intolerance is more inconvenient and uncomfortable than it is life-threatening, whereas a milk allergy can be potentially dangerous if a reaction is not remedied immediately. Consulting a doctor and getting the correct diagnosis is always the first step.
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