Lactose intolerance and milk allergy are sometimes used interchangeably, although they really represent two separate digestive issues, one of which is more severe than the other.
Lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of lactase, an enzyme required to break down lactose, the sugar present in milk and other dairy products. Milk allergy is a genuine food allergy induced by an allergic response to milk protein.
“Lactose intolerance and milk allergy are not the same thing,” says Amy E. Barto, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts. “Milk allergy usually manifests itself early in life.” Lactose intolerance is more frequent, develops more slowly, and may occur at any age.”
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance vs. Milk Allergy
Lactose intolerance may be inherited or triggered by small intestine damage caused by a viral or bacterial infection, according to Dr. Barto. It’s also pretty frequent, and more so in certain groups. “Lactose intolerance affects approximately 80 to 90 percent of African-Americans, and it is also very common in Asians and Native Americans,” explains Barto. “It’s also worth noting that lactose intolerance worsens with age and is quite common in the elderly.” Lactose intolerance is estimated to affect 30 to 50 million Americans.
Lactose intolerance symptoms usually appear between 30 minutes and two hours after consuming milk or a dairy product. Symptoms could include:
- Stomach pain
- Gas and bloating
Milk allergy is often associated with cow’s milk, but you may also be allergic to other forms of milk, including soy. Milk allergy is more frequent in newborns and children, although it may occur at any age. Milk allergy is the most prevalent food allergy in children, affecting more than 2% of those under the age of three. Milk allergies are common in children under the age of five.
Milk allergies might manifest itself within minutes or after many hours. Symptoms could include:
- Stomach pain
- Skin rash
- Swelling of the lips or throat
- Trouble breathing
Diagnosing Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy
Lactose intolerance may usually be recognized from milk allergy by less severe symptoms and a person’s history of dairy difficulties, although physicians aren’t always able to tell the difference immediately once. “Your doctor may instruct you to keep a food diary, avoid dairy for a period of time, and then reintroduce it,” Barto explains. “If in doubt, lab tests can assist in making the diagnosis.”
- Hydrogen breath test. Lactose that has not been digested releases a lot of hydrogen gas in your breath. Lactose intolerance may be diagnosed by detecting this hydrogen after drinking a lactose-containing beverage.
- Stool acidity test. Lactose that has not been digested increases the quantity of acid in the feces. This test may be used by doctors to identify lactose intolerance in young children.
- Food allergy testing. If your doctor believes you have a milk allergy, you may be sent to an allergist for skin testing or have a blood sample obtained for allergy testing at a laboratory.
Can You Consume Dairy If You Have Lactose Intolerance or a Milk Allergy?
Most dairy products should be avoided or limited if you have one of these illnesses. “However, it is critical to ensure that you are getting enough calcium,” explains Barto.
You may be able to handle tiny quantities of dairy if you have lactose intolerance. You may experiment with hard cheeses and yogurt products, which are lower in lactose than milk. There are also a number of dairy-free calcium-rich foods, such as spinach, almonds, and dark leafy green vegetables.
If you are allergic to milk, you should read labels and avoid items containing dairy products such as casein, whey, lactulose, lactalbumin, and ghee.
Consult your doctor if you or your kid are experiencing symptoms of milk allergy or lactose intolerance. He or she can evaluate the issue and advise you on how to eliminate dairy while still keeping excellent nutrition, which is crucial regardless of age.
Is lactose intolerance equivalent to a milk allergy?
Lactose intolerance is not the same as milk or dairy allergy. An immunological response to dairy causes swelling, breathing issues, and anaphylaxis. Lactose intolerance is characterized by an inability to digest the sugars found in milk products. It causes bloating and diarrhea in the intestines.
Can you be allergic to milk but not lactose?
Casein proteins A1 and A2 are found in the majority of cow’s milk. Small studies have recently revealed that some persons who believe they are lactose intolerant are not. They are simply unable to digest the A1 protein, resulting in symptoms similar to lactose intolerance.
How can I tell if I’m lactose intolerant?
Lactose intolerance symptoms commonly appear 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking lactose-containing foods.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting.
- Stomach cramps.
Can you suddenly develop a milk allergy?
Milk allergies are most common in childhood, although they may occur at any age. It is the most prevalent food allergy among children, yet many outgrow it by the age of five.