Lactose intolerance is not the same thing as a milk allergy. Even though these two health problems are often incorrectly defined and confused, you should know that they are two totally different health conditions.
What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance happens when an individual does not produce enough lactase enzymes in the small intestine to digest the lactose in dairy products. So, lactose intolerance is a digestive problem and is definitely not an allergy.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea and bloating. Lactase is an enzyme needed for digestion of the disaccharide lactose. If you have a lactase deficiency, you can’t digest lactose properly so this disaccharide is fermented by the microflora in your intestines and during this process gas is produced, and that is how all the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance occur.
There are four different types of lactose intolerance which include:
Congenital lactose intolerance – is a very rare condition when no lactase (or a very small amount of it) is produced by the small intestine from birth. This type of lactose intolerance is a genetic disorder.
Primary lactose intolerance – happens when our bodies stop producing great amounts of lactase around the age of five.
Secondary lactose intolerance – happens because of an injury, illness or possibly a surgery that affects the small intestines.
Developmental lactose intolerance – happens in babies who are born prematurely. As the baby grows older, it usually goes away on its own.
So the thing that you should remember when it comes to lactose intolerance is that it’s all about the lack or absence of the enzyme lactase.
And what about milk allergy?
When you hear the word allergy, it means that the next thing you will hear about is the immune system and the antibodies. Caw’s milk is one of the most common allergens especially in infants and young children. If you are allergic to something that means that your immune system is overreacting to some component of the ingested food. Symptoms of allergic reactions can occur minutes or hours after the ingestion of the allergen (milk or milk product.) These reactions are often mild but sometimes an allergic reaction to milk or a milk product can be life-threatening. That is why you need to know that intolerance is not the same as an allergy, and even though you can feel really bad when you ingest lactose and you have lactose intolerance, the good news is that it can’t kill you.
So, milk allergy is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system to milk and products containing milk. In most cases, its symptoms are not life-threatening, but sometimes they can be.