Dairy Allergy vs Intolerance

There is still much confusion over allergies, sensitivities and intolerances.

In fact, having a true food allergy is actually not as common as having a sensitivity or intolerance. True allergies (IgE sensitivities) are determined by a skin or blood test or via an elimination diet program.

The most common foods people can be allergic to are: cow’s milk (and related products), eggs, nuts, shellfish, soy, wheat and white fish.

Today, I want to focus on a major mover: dairy.

Dairy includes:

  • milk (cow, goat, sheep, buffalo)
  • cheese
  • yoghurt
  • sour cream
  • whipping cream
  • cream
  • milk kefir
  • milk-based ice cream
  • and anything else you can think of that’s made with milk from another animal.


Dairy Allergy

If a person is allergic to dairy, it means their immune system will create a cascade of reactions against certain proteins (such as casein) found in the food itself. If ingested, they will have a severe reaction within minutes to hours.

Possible symptoms include:

  • severe itchiness
  • rash
  • hives
  • respiratory attack (such as asthma)
  • or in the worst case scenario – anaphylaxis.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance means a person cannot break down lactose, a natural sugar found in milk and milk-derived dairy products.

The inability to digest this sugar is due to a complete lack, or underproduction, of the enzyme, lactase.

As babies, we need lactase to help us digest our mother’s milk (breast milk also contains lots of lactase to help with this), but as we grow up and find other means of sustenance, our bodies naturally reduce the production of this enzyme or stop making it altogether. It’s a very natural process of weaning, in which all mammals participate.

Although some nomadic cultures depend on milk for survival and have genetically adapted, the majority of us have not, and so the effects of consuming milk can be quite unpleasant.

Some symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • cramping
  • bloating
  • gas
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting

You might find that you can digest hard cheeses more easily than cream or milk and this is due to the fact that hard cheeses contain only small amount of lactose (because the bacteria used to make these cheeses eat most of the lactose sugar).

What’s happening for you?

To sum up, if you have a suspected or confirmed dairy allergy: avoid it at all costs! The allergic reactions involved can be very dangerous.

If you suspect lactose intolerance, eliminate all dairy for a minimum of two weeks and reintroduce foods slowly to see how you feel after consuming dairy products.

Do you need help figuring out which ingredients in the foods you buy contain dairy?

Check out my course: Demystifying The Supermarket to learn more!

Non-Dairy ‘Mylk’

If you are quite certain you need to avoid dairy, check out my post about making your own nut mylk (a great alternative to animal milks!).