Dairy Intolerance or a Dairy Allergy? | Lifelab Testing

Do I Have a Dairy Intolerance or a Dairy Allergy?

Last Updated: 12th January 2023 · Written by Donna Mastriani

If you’ve suspected for a while now that dairy is a substance that your body has trouble dealing with, but can’t quite put your finger on exactly how-you’re probably asking yourself “Do I have a Dairy Intolerance or a Dairy Allergy?” If you don’t know the answer, you won’t know whether to choose an allergy test or an intolerance test to properly diagnose the problem.

It’s a simple enough question, but the answer can completely change how the problem is managed, and rash action could mean that you end up avoiding some of your favourite foods unnecessarily. The good news is that the symptoms of allergies and intolerances are quite different, so with a little education on the subject, it should be quite straightforward to distinguish between them. With that in mind, we thought we’d explain the facts that will help you to determine whether you need an allergy test or an intolerance test.

Dairy Allergy

A dairy allergy is an immune reaction where your body identifies milk proteins as harmful which triggers the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies cause chemicals to be released which generates an allergic reaction. Most commonly for dairy allergies, individuals are sensitive to the alpha S1-casein protein in cow’s milk.

Dairy Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of dairy allergy can differ between people, with some individuals reacting mildly but others experiencing severe responses. People with allergies are likely to experience negative effects soon after coming into contact with the allergen. The most common allergy symptoms include:

  • Wheezing.
  • Hives / rash.
  • Tingling or itching in or around the mouth or lips.
  • Swelling in the throat, lips or tongue.
  • Persistent coughing.
  • Vomiting.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, dairy allergies could be life-threatening if anaphylaxis occurs. Anaphylaxis symptoms include struggling to breathe, swelling of the mouth and throat, or fainting. In this instance, if the individual has an EpiPen, or other adrenaline auto-injector, this should be used and an ambulance should be called.

Dairy Allergy Test

If you want further confirmation that your symptoms are caused by dairy, then you can order an allergy test easily online. Our basic at home allergy test analyses your sample for milk allergy as well as 37 other key allergens.

Dairy Allergy in Babies

Cows’ milk allergy is estimated to impact around 7% of babies under the age of one, yet most children outgrow this issue by five years old. Although your baby can’t describe that they feel unwell after consuming dairy, it should be simple for you to identify if there is a problem by monitoring your child.

Signs of a dairy allergy in babies

Symptoms of dairy allergy in babies include:

  • Skin reactions: hives, rash, swelling of the mouth, eczema.
  • Digestive reactions: diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach ache.
  • Other reactions: runny nose, watery eyes.

Again, it is possible for a dairy allergy to cause anaphylaxis. If your child experiences severe symptoms that happen suddenly such as swelling of the throat, wheezing and struggling to breathe, then call 999 as soon as possible.

Dairy Intolerance

Dairy intolerance, commonly known as lactose intolerance, is a digestive problem where your body doesn’t generate lactase which is the enzyme to digest lactose. Lactose is a typeof sugar found in dairy products which, if undigested, will travel to the colon causing bloating and gas.

Intolerances are much slower in the way that they manifest and the specific symptoms tend to be much milder than an allergic reaction. Several hours can pass before any ill effects are felt after ingesting dairy that your body doesn’t agree with.

Lactose intolerance symptoms

There are common signs of a dairy intolerance which include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Flatulence.
  • Abdominal discomfort e.g. pains and/or cramps.

Since these symptoms can be slow to develop, a dairy intolerance can be much more difficult to diagnose. The waters are muddied further, as some people are intolerant to all dairy products, whereas others may only be intolerant to specific dairy products like milk or cheese.

Gluten and dairy intolerance connection

Individuals who have undiagnosed, or newly diagnosed, coeliac disease are more likely to suffer from dairy intolerance. Coeliac disease is a condition where your immune system damages the lining of the gut when you eat gluten. This damage means that your body can lack lactase to break down lactose, thus creating symptoms. After these individuals follow a gluten free diet, it is likely that they will no longer suffer from lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance test

In our complete intolerance test, 159 food and drink intolerances are tested. In terms of dairy, our test analyses your sample for antibody reactions to:

  • Cottage Cheese.
  • Cream.
  • Cream Cheese.
  • Curd Cheese.
  • Edam Cheese.
  • Emmental Cheese.
  • Goats Milk.
  • Goats Milk Cheese.
  • Gouda Cheese.
  • Gruyere Cheese.
  • Milk.
  • Mozzarella.
  • Parmesan.
  • Sheep’s Milk.
  • Yoghurt.

This massive list of dairy products is sure to indicate whether you have an intolerance to dairy in general or a specific item.

It is recommended if you have an intolerance to engage in an elimination diet, where you remove the suspect food from your diet to see if your symptoms disappear.

Dairy intolerance foods to avoid

If you are avoiding dairy in your diet, then you should not eat or drink products containing milk such as:

  • Cream.
  • Cheese.
  • Butter.
  • Yoghurt.
  • Ice cream.
  • Milk chocolate.
  • Some cakes and biscuits.

Dairy alternatives

Nowadays it is not difficult to find alternatives to dairy in most supermarkets, due to both allergies and the popularisation of the vegan diet. You can find non-dairy alternatives for milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, chocolate and more.

Milk alternatives

If you’re looking for the best milk alternatives for coffee, tea or hot chocolate, then we recommend:

  • Oat milk.
  • Almond milk.
  • Soy milk.
  • Rice milk.
  • Coconut milk.
  • Pea milk.

Lactose intolerance in babies

As with milk allergy, babies can have lactose intolerance as well as adults. If your baby cannot digest lactose properly, they are likely to experience diarrhoea, excessive wind, and a swollen, painful stomach which gurgles. In this instance, it may be beneficial to try your baby on lactose-free milk formula to see if symptoms disappear. Discuss with your doctor whether to try to reintroduce breast milk or standard milk formula gradually to your baby’s diet after a few weeks.

Dairy allergy and intolerance concluded

For individuals suffering from dairy allergy or lactose intolerance, luckily there are many dairy-free products on the marketplace now that mean you can still enjoy tasty products like cheese and ice cream. If you’re unsure whether you have an intolerance or allergy and don’t know which test to choose, get in touch with one of our helpful team members.

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