Living with a Milk Allergy or Intolerance
More than an inconvenience, an allergic reaction can lead to serious health issues if the sufferer is not careful. Identifying the allergy first is necessary in being prepared to combat negative reactions. With milk allergies, this can be tricky. It is easy to confuse having an allergic reaction to milk with being lactose intolerant. Knowing the differences between the two can help sufferers of both to adapt their diets accordingly, saving them from unnecessary discomfort.
Allergic Reaction vs. Intolerance
It is easy to mistake lactose intolerance for a milk allergy, but doing so can be especially beneficial for those who are genuinely allergic. In an allergic reaction, the immune system incorrectly identifies milk proteins as harmful substances, resulting in the release of antibodies to fight the perceived invaders. The histamines that are then released create the allergy symptoms. The lactose intolerant simply have difficulty digesting the milk sugar called lactose. The immune system is not involved.
Some people with lactose intolerance can digest small amounts of dairy products that are low in lactose, while those with milk allergies have a reaction to all dairy products. Some cheeses, for example, are low in lactose. Ricotta, Swiss, cottage, Parmesan and colby tend to be lower in lactose and are sometimes acceptable for the lactose intolerant.
The Best Diet
Avoiding all dairy products is important in preventing serious allergic reactions. Including fruits, vegetables and seafood in a diet helps in getting enough calcium when forgoing dairy. Some substitutions for dairy products are simpler than others, but are often necessary in cooking and baking. One of the easiest ingredients to substitute is butter. In many cases, a dairy-free margarine can used instead. For foods to be baked, be sure to use a margarine that is low in water content.
Rice milk is a promising substitute for milk itself, because of its sweetness and a flavor that many find is relatively close to milk. It can also be used in baked goods and in sauces that work with natural sweetness. Cheese is one of the more difficult foods to substitute, although tofu-based products can often fill this need. Nutritional yeast can be used in place of Parmesan cheese, such as when it is sprinkled over a serving of pasta.
Repercussions of Poor Diet
It is not always easy to stick with a diet that takes allergies into account. Choosing sorbet instead of ice cream, however, can save a person from an emergency room visit. The failure to avoid dairy products can result in itching, hives, shock and even anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. It is much healthier to explore a dairy-free diet.