Dairy intolerance is not the same as lactose intolerance, nor is it the same as an allergic reaction to dairy. However each share some common symptoms. Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products, and for a person to be intolerant, it would require insufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase to break down the lactose.
Dairy intolerance is often a general gastric intolerance to dairy foods, while a dairy allergy triggers an immune response to the components of milk. Still, a dairy intolerance, can result in a variety of symptoms and disruptions in the body, sometimes just as severe as those related to a full-blown allergy. The two main offenders are lactose and casein.
Casein (pronounced kay-seen) is a protein in milk and can be found in everything from potato chips to paint. Though one wouldn’t be consuming paint, it is mentioned to demonstrate how widespread the use of the substance is. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and can be in concentrations as high as 8 percent in milk by weight. The substances are a natural part of dairy and are not an issue at all until someone is either intolerant or allergic to them.
Though symptoms can be unique to the sufferer, there are some common symptoms of dairy intolerance with the top 5 being:
- Stomach pain/cramping
These symptoms would, of course, be noticed after consuming a dairy product. If someone is intolerant to dairy products and eats a big bowl of ice cream, then experiences some discomfort, it is likely that the discomfort was caused by the ice cream. Other common symptoms of a dairy intolerance are more serious conditions such as eczema, acne and other skin disorders, asthma, chronic fatigue, weakness, irritability, inability to concentrate, headaches, congestion, excessive mucus, and joint pain.
Allergic reactions to milk happen when our body’s immune system malfunctions and sees the dairy food as an invader. This then triggers a cascading chemical response as the body tries to fight off the perceived invader causing the sufferer to feel sick with symptoms. At the extreme end of an allergic response would be anaphylactic shock which is a life threatening condition.
It is estimated that upwards of 75% of the world population suffers of dairy intolerance. That means that of every ten friends and relatives, perhaps 7 are cannot tolerate dairy products to one degree or another. It is often something that goes unnoticed and undiagnosed because the symptoms are so varied and are often mistaken for another condition or disease.
Avoidance and outright abstinence of any form of dairy product or its derivatives would solve the problem for one who suffers from sensitivity or intolerance, but it is often extremely difficult since so many products are made from or contain milk or components of milk. Since dairy products are an abundant source of calcium, this presents another issue if one is avoiding or abstaining from dairy consumption.
Consuming replacement foods in one’s diet with alternate sources of calcium is important. Oranges, broccoli, almonds, and many other foods contain calcium, but supplementation is often a good idea as well. An 8 ounce glass of skim milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium as compared to 1 fresh orange which contains about 52 milligrams of calcium. The minimum recommended daily intake of calcium for an otherwise healthy person is 1,000 milligrams. That’s about four 8 ounce glasses of milk compared to 20 oranges!