Milk allergy or dairy allergy are the most common food allergies seen in my practice and cause a multitude of health problems.
Dairy may be the most misunderstood food of our culture. It is often assumed to be of high nutritional value and even mandatory for good health, although it can create serious health problems.
An allergy is an immune response that results in inflammation and tissue damage. Such a response to food can be exhibited in any part of the body, therefore it can cause a wide range of problems. Food allergies also interfere with nutrient absorption, resulting in conditions such as iron deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, and fatigue.
What Are the Possible Milk Allergy Symptoms?
A dairy allergy, like any food allergy, is capable of triggering a wide array of milk allergy symptoms. Some of the most common complaints include ear infections in children, sinusitis, heartburn/reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. A more complete list includes:What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is an enzyme deficiency, not an allergy. However, lactose intolerance can be the result of a dairy allergy and the two are frequently confused.
What Causes a Milk Allergy?
Most likely it is a genetic condition. In the big picture, humans have only recently introduced cow’s milk into the diet, so it’s not surprising that the immune system doesn’t always recognize it as a friendly substance.
Why Is It so Difficult to Recognize One's Own Food Allergy?
This is a significant problem because of the difficulty in connecting your symptoms with your eating habits. Your symptoms probably vary in intensity or come and go. The trick is that allergy symptoms may show up hours or even a day later, after a food is well absorbed into your system. And if you stop to think about it, you probably eat dairy every day.
Even if you only eat something 2 or 3 times per week you can still have a significant allergic reaction to it.
Which Foods Are Dairy Foods?
Dairy includes all types of milk from a cow, all cheese, butter, half and half, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream and other obvious milk products. It also includes the proteins casein, whey, and lactalbumin, which are found in many processed foods. Low-fat and nonfat milk are just as allergenic as whole milk. And eggs don’t come from cows, so they’re not considered a dairy product.
How Do I Determine if I Have a Dairy Allergy?
The only sure way to determine if you have a milk allergy is to have your blood tested for antibodies to dairy. This is done with an ELISA Food Allergy Panel.
If you suspect that you may have a dairy allergy, or you experience any of the symptoms listed earlier, be sure to call the office at 206-264-1111 to schedule an appointment.
Milk Allergies - Case Studies
Case #1: 48 year old female with severe abdominal pain. Occasional gas and bloating. Five months prior to her office visit she started experiencing pain so severe that she was prescribed Vicodin. Pain interfered with her sleep. When younger she was diagnosed with colitis. Blood food allergy testing demonstrated allergies to dairy, beef, and brewer’s yeast. Elimination of allergenic foods, especially dairy, resulted in the complete resolution of her symptoms and she was able to discontinue her pain medication.
Along with the resolution of my pain was the enlightenment of how food allergies affect so many things in my general health. [Dr. Wangen’s] enthusiasm for maintaining overall health made me much more aware of caring for myself. Kim N.
Case #2: 41 year old female with a lifetime history of acid reflux, vomiting, and constipation alternating with loose stools. As a baby she was colicky and spit up constantly. History of ear infections as a child, including tubes in ears. Then sinus infections in high school. Always thought anxiety was a primary cause of her problems. Blood food allergy testing demonstrated strong allergy to dairy and eggs. Removal of dairy and eggs resulted in a dramatic improvement in reflux and vomiting.
… the gastroenterologist finally said, “I can’t do anything more for you. This is just what you have to live with.” …[When I saw] Dr. Wangen he immediately suggested food allergy testing… Within 2 weeks I stopped being nauseated! ...I was poisoning my body every day without realizing it! Terri C.
Ear Infections and Dairy Allergies
Do you ever wonder why some kids get lots of ear infections, often resulting in multiple doses of antibiotics and eventually tubes in their ears? Why don't the antibiotics ever completely solve the problem?
Ears require drainage by the eustachian tube, which opens into the back of the throat. In young children this tube is not fully developed and is very susceptible to being blocked by inflammation. Anything that causes inflammation can block the eustachian tube, resulting in a warm moist breeding ground for bacteria in the inner ear.
Antibiotics kill the bacteria, temporarily, but they don't change the inflammation of the eustachian tube or the breeding ground. This is when placing a tube through the tympanic membrane is recommended. These don't solve the inflammatory problem either, but they do get the drainage going.
The real cause of the problem is the inflammation of the eustachian tube. Usually this inflammation is caused by a food allergy, most often dairy. Children generally drink and eat a lot of dairy. Invariably it's the very first food introduced into the diet.
A milk allergy is by far the most common cause of ear infections. Removing dairy from the diet will usually result in complete resolution of this problem. However, occasionally further food allergy testing is required to determine the source of the inflammation.
Is Lactose Intolerance
More than a Digestive Problem?
Lactose intolerance is a deficiency in the enzyme lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose. People with a lactose intolerance typically experience an upset stomach, bloating, gas, and loose stools. These are also common symptoms of a dairy allergy.
Many patients complain of a lactose intolerance. They usually say that taking Lactaid or a digestive product designed for lactose intolerance will resolve their digestive problems. However, they obviously didn’t schedule an appointment just to tell me this and they are usually experiencing one of the other symptoms associated with a dairy allergy. (See page 1.)
Not surprisingly, the lactose intolerance usually turns out to be a dairy allergy, which is an actual immune response to dairy. The dairy allergy has apparently damaged the digestive tract to the extent that it has caused a deficiency in the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells lining the digestive tract.
Many people mistakenly believe that they can continue to eat dairy products as long as they take a digestive aid, or they avoid milk but still eat cheese, etc. Unfortunately, most continue to suffer from their milk allergy even though their digestive symptoms have diminished. If you have a lactose intolerance and experience any of the symptoms listed on page one then you should be tested for a dairy allergy via an ELISA blood test.
A True Dairy Substitute that Tastes Like Milk!
Finally, a milk substitute that actually tastes like milk. DariFree is a potato-based milk product by Vances Foods. I recently tasted DariFree and was amazed by the similarity to cow's milk. I'm not sure that it's even possible to taste the difference.
However, a word of nutritional caution. DariFree only contains carbohydrates/sugars and has no protein. Ideally this product might be used as an early substitute for those recently diagnosed with a dairy allergy. In children it should not be relied upon as a milk substitute, but primarily as a transition food while introducing soy or rice milks, which have much more nutritional value.
DariFree is not yet widely available, but you can track it down at www.vancesfoods.com. Top
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Dr. Stephen Wangen
1229 Madison St., Suite 1220 · Seattle WA 98104 · 206-264-1111
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