Many people globally are restricted by food challenges more than ever before. Knowledge and understanding are how we help people navigate through them, so we know how to help care for them in our homes, schools, restaurants, and even hotels.
Here at nécessité, we are shining a light on the difference between being intolerant vs. allergic to one of the top food allergens-Dairy!
Lactose intolerance (aka Lactose Malabsorption) is a common digestive condition affecting millions worldwide. It occurs when the body has difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar in dairy products. The small intestines do not create enough of the enzyme lactase.
The body lacks enough enzymes to digest milk products. People with lactose intolerance often experience digestive discomfort such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products (Milk, Yogurt, Ice Cream, Butter, Cheese). Do you ever consume dairy and then have gas, need a bowel movement, or feel uncomfortable immediately following? If so, you may be lactose intolerant. Check with your doctor for proper testing. Some people turn to LACTAID products or supplements (check with your trusted healthcare provider before taken) to take with or before consuming lactose-containing foods or drinking that glass of cow milk.
The lactase enzyme in LACTAID helps break down the lactose into simple sugars to be absorbed. This process allows for better digestion and absorption of lactose, reducing or eliminating the digestive discomfort typically associated with lactose intolerance. Some individuals may be sensitive and intolerant to lactose, while others may be allergic to dairy. There is a significant difference.
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A dairy allergy can pose a life-threatening reaction for some individuals. Therefore, one may have to stay clear of all dairy products. Everyone is different. Some individuals allergic to Dairy may require an EpiPen (to save their life). In contrast, some sensitive and intolerant to lactose may not require such medicine if they digest any form of dairy. The impact and response are different. Dairy allergy is a very common food allergy that affects individuals of all ages. It is one of the top 8 food allergens. It occurs when the immune system reacts to proteins found in cow’s milk and other dairy products. It is important that dairy allergy not be confused with lactose intolerance, which is a different health condition, as mentioned above.
Dairy allergy is an immune response triggered by the proteins present in cow’s milk (casein and whey). When an individual with a dairy allergy consumes dairy products or foods containing cow’s milk proteins, their immune system mistakenly identifies them as harmful invaders and releases antibodies to fight against them. Then the reaction kicks in. It is different for everyone.
Symptoms of Dairy Allergy:
Dairy allergy symptoms can vary in severity and may manifest shortly after consuming dairy products or within a few hours. Common symptoms include:
Itchy skin, hives, eczema, redness, or swelling.
Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, or constipation.
Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, or nasal congestion.
A severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis may occur, a medical emergency requiring immediate attention. Anaphylaxis symptoms may include difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse, and loss of consciousness. CALL 911 immediately. The exact cause of dairy allergy is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Certain individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing allergies.
Managing Dairy Allergy:
The most effective way to manage dairy allergy is to avoid foods and products containing cow’s milk proteins.
Read food labels:
Learn to identify potential sources of dairy and its derivatives. Common foods to avoid include milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, and some processed foods. Be cautious of hidden dairy sources, such as baked goods, processed meats, and certain medications. Some plant-based cheeses, like rice cheese, may have casein, so reading and learning the ingredients is very important.
Replace cow’s milk with suitable alternatives such as plant-based milk (e.g., soy, oat, coconut, or rice) free from dairy proteins. Read all labels, even if plant-based.
Learn How to Eat:
Consult a healthcare professional or a knowledgeable registered dietitian for guidance on maintaining a balanced diet so you stay energized with vital nutrients.
Allergy Management Plan:
Develop an allergy management plan with your healthcare provider. This may include carrying emergency medication (such as an Epipen-epinephrine auto-injector) for severe allergic reactions, educating friends, family, and caregivers about your allergy, and knowing how to recognize and respond to anaphylaxis.
Seek Professional Advice:
If you suspect a dairy allergy, it is crucial to consult with an allergist or immunologist for an accurate diagnosis. They can perform specific tests, such as skin prick tests and IgE blood tests, to confirm the allergy and provide personalized recommendations for management.
Support and Education:
Connect with support groups or online communities that provide resources, tips, and a sense of community for individuals with dairy allergies. Education about reading labels, cross-contamination risks, and dining out safely can be invaluable in managing the condition.
- Wear a medical bracelet.
- Inform the airline flight crew.
- Wipe down the trays and armrests, and seat belts on airplanes.
- Communicate with the front staff of the hotel when checking in.
- Alert room service. If you are a guest at someone’s home or a dinner guest, advocate for yourself and make it known. You are a nécessité!
Disclaimer: It is always advisable to consult your trusted healthcare professional before taking our advice or making any health changes for yourself or your loved ones. Only stop or add medicine with professional medical support.