Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are often mixed up and confused for the same thing, even though the conditions are both very different and have different causes behind them. Although they may sound similar to each other, they have different causal agents that need to be understood properly.
When you speak of lactose intolerance, you are talking about a condition that takes place in the digestive tract. You see, every time you consume milk, your body releases an enzyme called lactase that helps break the lactose in the milk down and helps you digest it.
Those who suffer from lactose intolerance cannot make this enzyme or make enough of it to be able to properly digest milk all the way. This causes a lot of digestive problems and discomfort. The non-digested lactose, which is the sugar in the milk, moves away from the stomach and small intestine.
The lactose ends up in the colon where all kinds of gut bacteria feed on it and break it down, releasing gas as a byproduct. This process causes you to feel very bloated and gassy and causes digestive irritation and might even cause you to have watery bowel movements.
A dairy allergy, on the other hand, treats milk in your body like a foreign invader, attacking it ferociously. Your body starts releasing a chock full of histamines into your systems in order to attack the milk proteins, and these histamines are what cause allergic symptoms to appear in your body.
The allergic reaction to milk can sometimes have mild symptoms like redness and rashes. Other times the symptoms can be severe and life-threatening like loss of breath and losing consciousness.
Telling Milk Allergy & Lactose Intolerance Apart from the Symptoms
Some of the main symptoms of both are pretty much similar to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, gassiness, bloatedness etc.
However, there are some very specific defining features that help you recognize a milk allergy as separate from just lactose intolerance. These symptoms include rashes, red patches on the skin, swelling of various body parts, especially the face, closing up of the throat, and difficulty in swallowing.
Very rarely, a milk allergy can also produce bloody stools, specifically in very small children and infants, which is another symptom to look out for. Other than that, anaphylaxis is a condition that is known to be caused by food allergies which are very serious and threatening.
Anaphylaxis can manifest itself anywhere from a few a minutes of consuming the allergen food for several hours and it consists of multiple allergic symptoms attacking the body all at one time.
Other than simply noticing the symptoms, you can have special tests done to determine whether which you have. For these tests, doctors will have you consume a large amount of milk and then measure your body’s responses towards it. A lack of rising in glucose levels will point to lactose intolerance being diagnosed.