Signs and Symptoms: Could you be Allergic or Intolerant to Dairy?
Dairy intolerance and allergies are incredibly common and the topic has become more widely recognised in recent years, perhaps also attributed to the fact that intolerances and allergies are on the increase, worldwide.
According to the Food Intolerance Institute of Australia, approximately 75% of the population are indeed intolerant to dairy products: including milk and byproducts like yoghurt, cheese, chocolate, milkshakes, rich creamy dishes, ice-cream and others.
The startling reality is that many people who are dairy intolerant are not aware of this and instead consider alternate reasons for their unpleasant symptoms and digestive discomfort.
Human beings are the only mammals on Earth who continue to consume milk after weaning - and considering that dairy is the milk of another species (originally designed to wean another species), it makes sense that our bodies may run into difficulty digesting and processing this food source - particularly when we consider the extent of dairy consumption in a typical Western diet : yoghurt and milk for breakfast, milk in our hot drinks, cheese sandwiches and rich dairy based meals, salads and sweet treats.
Our society and culture has indeed become obsessed with milk, through prolific and clever marketing as well as the global obsession with protein and calcium intake. In previous articles we discuss how a plant-based diet can more than adequately provide sufficient protein AND calcium - and we go into research behind the benefits of these sources as opposed to animal based products.
There is a distinct difference between dairy intolerance and allergies...
Lactose intolerance is caused by the body having insufficient lactase to digest lactose. This, like any food intolerance, worsens as people age and if not recognised, acknowledged and managed appropriately can lead to further health issues.
Left unmanaged, dairy intolerance can result in poor absorption of vital nutrients like iron, which in turn can result in an iron deficiency, weakened bones, exacerbated arthritis, osteoporosis and even severe dehydration.
Symptoms commonly experienced include: stomach pain, bloating, gas and diarrhoea. Resolved through either restriction or removal, sufferers can enjoy health and wellbeing through instead consuming the plethora of dairy-free and plant-based options that are becoming more readily available worldwide. Replacing cow’s milk with rice, oat, soy, almond or coconut milk are delicious substitute options that also carry with them superior nutritional benefit.
Cow’s milk allergy is far more severe and is caused by an immune response to one or both milk proteins. Symptoms can include vomiting, hives, diarrhoea, wheezing and sometimes even life-threatening anaphylaxis. If there is any family history of dairy allergy, then it’s important to look out for the following signs of sensitivity: eczema flare-ups, loose stools, ear infections, constantly runny nose, bloating, cramps and rhinitis. Given the severity of milk allergy symptoms, these tend to be diagnosed and managed far more quickly than intolerances.
If you suspect that you may have a dairy intolerance, keeping a daily food diary goes a long way towards isolating food-based symptoms and observing consistencies. Why don’t you try removing dairy from your diet for a fortnight and see if you notice a difference? Through substituting with non-dairy, plant-based options, you will most definitely be receiving healthful benefits during your trial period!
Many who learn that they are dairy intolerant find it difficult to come to terms with removing a food that is so ingrained in the Western culture and average day. They may even become concerned about protein and calcium intake and how they will effectively substitute.
Don’t dismay! There are a host of plant-based, non-dairy rich sources of calcium – many of which contain a far more superior and diverse array of nutritional benefits e.g. sesame seeds, tahini, hummus, almonds, rhubarb, dried apricots, oranges, limes, kiwi fruit, broccoli, kale and leeks are all great sources of calcium. For inspirations and more information on non-dairy calcium sources, click here.
*This article is in no way intended to replace the opinion of a qualified professional. If you are concerned about your own or your family's health or symptoms, it is always advised to seek guidance and advice from a qualified medical practitioner.*
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