Lactose intolerance is estimated to affect as much as 33 percent of the world’s population. With it being Native American Heritage Month, this is a highly relevant topic because most Native Americans are lactose intolerant! (Lactose intolerance is also common among people of Asian, African and Hispanic descent.)
Lactose intolerance is a condition where a person does not create enough of the enzyme lactase to break down the lactose (sugar) in milk. Lactose intolerance is more common in adults than children.
Lactose intolerance should not be confused with milk allergy which involves an inappropriate immune response to the proteins in milk. With milk allergy, the immune system mistakes the proteins for “invading enemies” and tries to fight them off. This results in a variety of symptoms. Like lactose intolerance, milk allergy can lead to gastrointestinal problems like bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea, etc. But milk allergy can lead to other symptoms, too, including hay fever, skin rashes, and respiratory problems (wheezing, asthma, etc.)
If you suffer from discomfort after drinking milk, talk to a doctor. He or she can help you determine what is causing your troubles and rule out more serious problems. If you are lactose intolerant, try reduced-lactose alternatives or even soy, rice, or almond milk. You can also try drinking small amounts of milk throughout the day or ingesting your milk along with other foods (like cereal).
If you suspect you have a milk allergy, a skin test can help confirm the diagnosis. For treatment, sublingual immunotherapy has been shown to be effective in desensitizing the body to milk. It is administered as drops under the tongue. Contact AllergyEasy for details.