How Does Milk Allergy Differ from Lactose Intolerance?

Milk allergy is actually a type of food allergy which is triggered by the adverse immune reaction of the body against some constituent of the milk of any animal. It is actually an abnormal response of the body’s immune system towards milk and products containing milk.

Usually alphaS1-casein protein commonly found in cow’s milk causes this type of food allergy which can even induce anaphylaxis which is a very serious, potentially life threatening situation.

However it should always be remembered that lactose intolerance is a totally different condition from milk allergy which may occur due to reaction against any of the dozens of proteins present in the milk. These proteins are usually species specific and one person allergic to cattle milk can drink other milks without triggering allergic reaction within themselves.

Lactose Intolerance vs. Milk Allergy

Lactose intolerance is on the other hand a food sensitivity of non-allergic type and it usually occurs when the production of lactase enzyme, responsible for the digestion of sugars, especially abundant milk sugars, reduces or stops altogether resulting in complication regarding sugar digestion. However, lactose intolerance will occur after consuming too big quantities of milk as compared to milk allergy. Although lactose intolerance is considered a disease condition it is fairly common among adults.

Symptoms of Milk Allergy

After the consumption of milk by a milk allergic patient, immediate reaction is triggered within a few minutes (which can be delayed to some hours in some patients) inside them that can cause respiratory, gastrointestinal or dermatological reactions like constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, stomach pain, skin rash, vomiting, hives, gastric distress or severe conditions like atopic dermatitis, anaphylactic reaction, infantile colic, migraine, oesophagitis and many other severe reactions of similar nature.

Milk Allergy is the most common type of allergy found in children. However, most children outgrow it by the age of 3 but unfortunately some kids remain allergic to milk for their entire lives.

Although all children like some alternative of milk from time to time, for milk allergic children it is especially a problem which is the actual base of all baby formula milks. About 2-3% of infants suffer from milk allergy although it can be triggered at any stage of life. The avoidance of milk is the best solution to this problem but for infants it is virtually impossible. So a consultation with a doctor is required who after testing suggests some alternative to milk-based formulas as well as dairy products.

Soy Protein Formulas

Milk substitute formulas include soy protein formulas, hypoallergenic formulas based on hydrolyzed proteins and free amino-acid based formulas. Elemental formulas containing free amino acids are considered the best solution for this infant allergy (in Danish – Modermælkserstatning). For milder forms of milk allergy (in Danish the term is Mælkeallergi), partially hydrolyzed formulas (PHFs) are used more frequently. In hydrolyzed formulas, casein and whey are used more frequently as protein source because of their amino acid composition and high nutritional quality. Infants who are breastfed have lower risk of developing this type of allergy.

However, it is still fairly obscure as to why the immune system starts seeing milk protein as a foreign body which should be destroyed at all costs but some scientists believe that this allergy can be genetic too. The real reasons of this type of allergy are not fully understood till now but researchers are trying their best to do so.

Lyuben Georgiev

I am a writer who love writing interesting articles on medicine and health topics.

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