Lactose intolerance or milk allergy?

Article 2 min

Contrary to popular belief, lactose intolerance and milk allergy are two very different conditions. Discover the difference and get a better understanding of treatment options.

By DFC - PLC, Nutrition Team
Family cooking a meal together

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem that involves a lactase deficiency—insufficient amounts of the enzyme necessary to properly digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy dairy even when you’re lactose intolerant and avoid the digestive discomforts associated with this condition, such as drinking milk in small portions throughout the day (instead of one large glass all at once) and with other foods; consuming yogurt which is usually well tolerated; eating aged cheeses which are naturally low in lactose like Cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan; or choosing lactose-free milk products.

What is a milk allergy?

On the other hand, a milk allergy is the result of an overreaction of the immune system to the protein in milk. Milk allergies are quite rare, especially in adults. They usually occur in 2 to 4% of infants, and are outgrown by most children by the age of three. Possible symptoms of a milk allergy include hives, eczema, swelling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal congestion, coughing, and wheezing. Contrary to people who have lactose intolerance and can continue to enjoy dairy products in various ways, those with a milk allergy should eliminate dairy from their diet entirely.

The importance of a proper diagnosis

Should you suspect that you or your child has a milk allergy, do not self diagnose. It is very important that you consult a doctor or an allergist. An incorrect evaluation of the problem can lead to the unnecessary elimination of foods, which can cause nutritional deficiencies.