Did you know that Allergic responses to dairy is one of the most common allergies found in children and also with adults. Cow’s milk and other products containing cows milk is the usual cause of allergic reactions. However, less common there has been evidence of allergic responses to other milk and milk products from sheep, goats, buffalo and other mammals.. An allergic reaction often occurs directly after milk or a product containing milk or other dairy derivatives has been consumed. You may well be asking – What are the signs and symptoms so that I can tell if I have a allergy to dairy and How do I go dairy free, still being able to get adequate calcium and nutrients that are derived from dairy. The good news is that as it is being discovered that more and more people are allergic to dairy there is a great choice of dairy free products to choose from.
What is an Allergy to Dairy?
An allergy to dairy, milk or milk products is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. When you are allergic to cow’s milk your body is reacting in a negative response to one or more of the proteins in it. The offending milk protein can be casein (a casein allergy) or whey (a whey protein allergy) or lactose (the milk sugar). Some people with milk allergies are allergic to all three the casein, whey and lactose.
Is it an Allergy or an Intolerance to Dairy?
Whether you have an allergy and an intolerance to milk both can cause unpleasant digestive complaints. The difference between an intolerance and an allergic response is that generally speaking a food allergy comes on suddenly and can often be dangerous, even fatal requiring a visit to hospital. If you have an allergy to dairy, even consuming a small quantity of dairy or product with dairy in it will trigger a reaction. If it is an intolerance to dairy it may require eating dairy related products over a longer period of time before these reactions begin to occur.
Causes and Risk Factors
As with all food allergies the main cause is an immune system malfunction. If you have an allergy to dairy, your immune system identifies certain milk proteins as harmful, triggering the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the protein (allergen). When you come in contact again with these proteins, IgE antibodies recognize them and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals, causing a range of allergic signs and symptoms. There are two main proteins in found in Dairy that can cause an allergic reaction:
- Casein, found in the solid part (curd) of milk that curdles
- Whey, found in the liquid part of milk that remains after milk curdles
Often people have a reaction to Lactose [the milk sugar] but this is referred to more as an intolerance than an allergy causing embarrassing digestive problems.
Common Signs and Symptoms!
Symptoms experienced from Allergies to Dairy and Dairy products can differ from person to person, occur a few minutes to a few hours after you or your child drinks milk or eats milk products.
Immediate signs and symptoms of an Allergic Response to Dairy:
- Itching or tingling feeling around the lips or mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- Coughing or shortness of breath
- Sudden lose bowels
- Sudden rash appearing
Signs and symptoms that may take more time to develop include:
- Loose bowels or diarrhea, which may contain blood
- Abdominal cramps
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Colic, in babies
- Sinus congestion
- Many times anxiety and feelings of panic. Whether it is an actual allergic response or maybe caused by the reoccurring other symptoms.
The only way to overcome your intolerance or allergy to dairy is to avoid Dairy. Believe me when you do you will be a much happier and not to mention a lot healthier. Let’s first take a look at the many products that also contain dairy that will be important for you to avoid. Always remember to avoid processed and packaged foods as much as possible and when you to purchase any of these items read the labels carefully. This includes foods that are presented as being “Healthy” as well.
Sources of Dairy
The most obvious sources of dairy:
- Whole milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, buttermilk
- Ice cream, gelato
- Cheese and anything that contains cheese
Identifying dairy can be difficult when it comes to processed, packaged, baked goods and processed meats. Hidden sources of Dairy include:
- Ingredients spelled with the prefix “lact” — such as lactose and lactate
- Candies, such as chocolate, nougat and caramel
- Protein powders
- Artificial butter flavor
- Artificial cheese flavor
According to Mayo Clinic, there are four main risk factors when it comes to the development of a milk allergy: Certain factors may increase the risk of developing a milk allergy including: (10)
- Age: It’s more common for children to have a milk allergy.
- Family history: The risk of having a food allergy such as a milk allergy is greater if one or both of your parents have a food allergy or another kind of allergy including hay fever, eczema or asthma.
- Other allergies: Many children allergic to milk also have other allergies. Milk allergy is often the first to develop.
- Atopic dermatitis: Children who have atopic dermatitis, also commonly known as eczema, are much more likely to develop a food allergy.
Even if a food is labelled “milk-free” or “non-dairy,” it may contain allergy-causing milk proteins — so you have to read the label carefully. If there is any doubt, just don’t purchase the item. When eating out you “Must” mention that you have an allergy to “Dairy”, to ensure that your meal will not have any traces of dairy. Examples can be: Does the sauce contain dairy, does your steak have butter or was your seafood dipped in milk before cooking.
Note: If you’re at risk of a serious allergic reaction, talk with your doctor about carrying and using emergency epinephrine (adrenaline). If you have already had a severe reaction, wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that lets others know you have a food allergy.
First of all I would like to say – Beware of Seemingly Safe “Dairy-free” Foods. “Dairy-free” products may still contain milk derivatives, which will still cause problems for you with your allergy to dairy. A milk derivative is defined as a substance that can be made or obtained from milk. These “dairy-free” products are meant for people with lactose intolerance rather than people with an actual milk allergy. Examples of milk derivatives include things like casein and whey, these being known as the root cause of an allergy to dairy. It’s important to fully read labels and my advice and what I personally do, is to buy as little processed and packaged foods as possible. Because even when a product claims to be “dairy-free” or “non-dairy” these labels have no regulatory definition in Australia. For example, coffee creamers labelled “non-dairy” are commonly made from caseinate, a milk protein.
How to Go Dairy Free
Milk alternatives for infants – In children who are allergic to milk, breast-feeding and the use of hypoallergenic formula can prevent allergic reactions.
- Breast-feeding is the best source of nutrition for your infant. Breast-feeding for as long as possible is recommended, especially if your infant is at high risk of developing milk allergy.
- Hypoallergenic formulas are produced by using enzymes to break down (hydrolyze) milk proteins, such as casein or whey. Further processing can include heat and filtering. Depending on their level of processing, products are classified as either partially or extensively hydrolyzed. Or they may also be called elemental formulas. Some hypoallergenic formulas aren’t milk based, but instead contain amino acids. Besides extensively hydrolyzed products, amino-acid-based formulas are the least likely to cause an allergic reaction.
- Soy-based formulas are based on soy protein instead of milk. Soy formulas are fortified to be nutritionally complete — but, unfortunately, some children with a milk allergy also develop an allergy to soy.
If you’re breast-feeding and your child is allergic to milk, cow’s milk proteins will be passed through your breast milk that can cause an allergic reaction. It would be beneficial to exclude dairy and dairy related products for your diet. Talk to your health professional if you know or think that you or your child has an allergy to dairy. Checking for early developments in allergy signs and symptoms even after breast feeding.
Going Truly Dairy Free for Children and Adults – Use Truly Dairy-Free Milk Alternatives: There a lot of alternatives to animal-derived milk these days. Some of my favorite dairy-free milk options include coconut milk and almond milk. Just make sure that you opt for unsweetened versions of these milks so you don’t overdo it on sugar. I purchase Australian Own Organic Non-sweetened Almond milk nutritional benefits include – significant amounts of vitamin E, vitamin D and calcium. Australian Own Non-Sweetened Coconut milk is a favourite one amongst my family. A great dairy-free milk option. It contains healthy fats, together with important nutrients like manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper, magnesium and more in each serving. Trust me as you begin to feel better swapping to these milks you will not miss your cows milk.
Replacing your yoghurt I have Cocobella dairy free Coconut Vanilla. Spreads can be replaced with either almond paste, avocados, cheeses made from soy, nut based cheeses [if you aren’t allergic to nuts] or if you can goats and sheep’s cheese also make great alternatives and a much lesser incidence of allergic responses, seemingly well tolerated in small quantities.
It’s no fun when you body is struggling and symptoms are occurring, being warning bells for you that something isn’t Right! But believe me making the changes will be well worth it. As you begin eliminating those embarrassing moments with bowel and digestive problems helps to make the change to Non-Dairy and avoiding processed, packaged, baked foods and processed meats easy.