Milk allergy and lactose intolerance: What’s the difference?
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A dairy intolerance, or lactose intolerance, is a highly common digestive problem where the body can not digest a specific type of sugar mostly found in milk and other dairy products such as cheese or yoghurt. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are not only uncomfortable but can be embarrassing in some cases.
According to the NHS, some of the most commonly reported symptoms of a dairy intolerance include:
- Passing wind
- A bloated stomach
- Stomach cramps and pains
- A “rumbling” stomach
- Feeling nauseous
The severity of the symptoms a person experiences can vary depending on how strong their intolerance is, or how much lactose they have consumed.
Some people, for example, are able to consume a piece of cheese or glass of milk with little to no side effects.
Others, however, will be impacted by the smallest trace of lactose in their food, such as a dash of milk in their coffee.
Unfortunately, lactose intolerance can not be cured.
People with lactose intolerances are urged to avoid dairy and to always read the ingredients of the food they consume.
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The NHS states: “There’s no cure for lactose intolerance, but cutting down on food and drink containing lactose usually helps to control the symptoms.”
Lactose-free products are also available, such as lactose-free cows’ milk, soy-based yoghurts, milks and cheeses, and nut milks.
The NHS adds: “The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be similar to several other conditions, so it’s important to see your GP for a diagnosis before removing milk and dairy products from your diet.”
What causes lactose intolerance?
In order to digest lactose, the body uses a substance called lactase.
This breaks down lactose into two sugars called glucose and galactose, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream.
However, people who are intolerant to lactose do not produce enough lactase, so the lactose stays in their digestive system.
This is then fermented by bacteria, resulting in the production of various gases which cause the common symptoms of an intolerance.
In most cases, an intolerance can develop between the ages of 20 and 40, or in babies and children.
The NHS states: “Depending on the underlying reason why the body’s not producing enough lactase, lactose intolerance may be temporary or permanent.
“Most cases that develop in adults are inherited and tend to be lifelong, but cases in young children are often caused by an infection in the digestive system and may only last for a few weeks.”
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