What does a milk allergy look like in adults
Symptoms of lactose intolerance usually develop within a few hours of consuming food or drink that contains lactose.
They may include:
- stomach cramps and pains
- stomach rumbling
- a bloated stomach
- feeling ill
The severity of your symptoms and when they appear depends on the quantity of lactose you own consumed.
Some people may still be capable to drink a little glass of milk without triggering any symptoms, while others may not even be capable to own milk in their tea or coffee.
Treating lactose intolerance
There’s no cure for lactose intolerance, but cutting below on food and drink containing lactose generally helps to control the symptoms.
Lactose-free products include:
- lactose-free cows’ milk
- soya milks, yoghurts and some cheeses
- rice, oat, almond, hazelnut, coconut, quinoa and potato milks
Your GP may also recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements.
You may be advised to take lactase substitutes, which are drops or tablets you can take with your meals or drinks to improve your digestion of lactose.
When to seek medical advice
The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be similar to several other conditions, so it’s significant to see your GP for a diagnosis before removing milk and dairy products from your diet.
For example, the symptoms above can also be caused by:
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a long-term disorder that affects the digestive system
- milk protein intolerance – an adverse reaction to the protein in milk from cows (not the same as a milk allergy)
If your GP thinks you have lactose intolerance, they may propose avoiding foods and drinks containing lactose for 2 weeks to see if your symptoms improve.
Complications of lactose intolerance
Milk and other dairy products contain calcium, protein and vitamins, such as A, B12 and D.
Lactose also helps your body absorb a number of other minerals, such as magnesium and zinc.
These vitamins and minerals are significant for the development of strong, healthy bones.
If you’re lactose intolerant, getting the correct quantity of significant vitamins and minerals can prove hard.
This may lead to unhealthy weight loss and put you at increased risk of developing the following conditions:
- osteopenia – where you own a extremely low bone-mineral density; left untreated, it can develop into osteoporosis
- osteoporosis – where your bones become thin and feeble, and your risk of breaking a bone is increased
- malnutrition – when the food you eat does not give you the nutrients essential for a healthy functioning body; this means wounds can take longer to heal and you may start to feel tired or depressed
If you’re concerned that dietary restrictions are putting you at risk of complications, you may discover it helpful to consult a dietitian.
They can advise you on your diet and whether you require food supplements.
Your GP should be capable to refer you to an NHS dietitian free of charge. Or you can contact a private dietitian.
The British Dietetic Association has information on how to discover a private dietitian.
Sheet final reviewed: 25 February 2019
Next review due: 25 February 2022
Not to be confused with Lactose intolerance.
Milk allergy is an adverse immune reaction to one or more proteins in cow’s milk.
When allergy symptoms happen, they can happen rapidly or own a gradual onset. The previous may include anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition which requires treatment with epinephrine among other measures.
The latter can take hours to days to appear, with symptoms including atopic dermatitis, inflammation of the esophagus, enteropathy involving the little intestine and proctocolitis involving the rectum and colon.
In the United States, 90% of allergic responses to foods are caused by eight foods, with cow’s milk being the most common. Recognition that a little number of foods are responsible for the majority of food allergies has led to requirements to prominently list these common allergens, including dairy, on food labels. One function of the immune system is to defend against infections by recognizing foreign proteins, but it should not over-react to food proteins.
Heating milk proteins can cause them to become denatured, meaning to lose their 3-dimensional configuration, and thus lose allergenicity; for this reason dairy-containing baked goods may be tolerated while unused milk triggers an allergic reaction.
Management is by avoiding eating any dairy foods or foods that contain dairy ingredients. In people with rapid reactions (IgE-mediated milk allergy), the dose capable of provoking an allergic response can be as low as a few milligrams, so recommendations are to avoid dairy strictly. The declaration of the presence of trace amounts of milk or dairy in foods is not mandatory in any country, with the exception of Brazil.
Milk allergy affects between 2% and 3% of babies and young children. To reduce risk, recommendations are that babies should be exclusively breastfed for at least four months, preferably six months, before introducing cow’s milk.
If there is a family history of dairy allergy, then soy baby formula can be considered, but about 10 to 15% of babies allergic to cow’s milk will also react to soy. The majority of children outgrow milk allergy, but for about 0.4% the condition persists into adulthood.Oral immunotherapy is being researched, but it is of unclear benefit.
Is it an allergy?
Lactose intolerance is not the same as a milk or dairy allergy.
Food allergies are caused by your immune system reacting to a certain type of food.
This causes symptoms such as a rash, wheezing and itching.
If you’re allergic to something, even a tiny particle can be enough to trigger a reaction, while most people with lactose intolerance can still consume little amounts of lactose without experiencing any problems, although this varies from person to person.
What causes lactose intolerance?
The body digests lactose using a substance called lactase. This breaks below lactose into 2 sugars called glucose and galactose, which can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
People with lactose intolerance do not produce enough lactase, so lactose stays in the digestive system, where it’s fermented by bacteria.
This leads to the production of various gases, which cause the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.
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 final for a few weeks.
In the UK, lactose intolerance is more common in people of Asian or African-Caribbean descent.
Lactose intolerance can develop at any age. Numerous cases first develop in people aged 20 to 40, although babies and young children can also be affected.