Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Is It About Milk, Anyway?

In general, I think it is enough just to know I’m allergic to a certain food. I know I shouldn’t eat it because it results in reactions I really don’t want. I need to know how to get along without it in terms of selecting and cooking foods but I don’t really need a lecture in immunology and food chemistry that would tell me just why I’m allergic.

Except, sometimes, the biology teacher in me resurfaces and I really do wonder.

Since I sometimes wonder, I figure it is more than likely that many, many other people do, as well. In today’s internet savvy age, it is equally likely that many of you already sought out and found this information. Well, for those of us only just getting curious or who are just too busy to have ferreted out the facts, here is some information on just why a person would be allergic to dairy.

Some time ago, I did an entry on the difference between an allergy and a sensitivity (http://heyicaneatthat.blogspot.com/2008/07/allergies-versus-sensitivities-and.html) and in that, I mentioned that an allergic reaction to a food resulted in an overproduction of immunoglobulin E and histamines that bring on the unpleasant hives, itching, swelling and so on that we all recognize with allergies. So, what is in the food that triggers the reaction?

As it happens, it is the proteins in dairy that are the culprits. Specifically, the whey and caseins are the substances in milk and milk products that trigger reactions in allergic individuals. Now, in general, dairy allergies are more common in children and are often outgrown. But, for those of us who find themselves allergic even in adulthood, the problem is the same. Our bodies simply don’t recognize the proteins as safe food and our bodies react as if it was an invasion.

This is different from lactose intolerance, of course. Lactose intolerance is the result of the body’s lack of the enzyme lactase that breaks down milk sugar (lactose) for digestion. Lactose intolerance is characterized by digestive upset which is quite different from an allergic reaction. It doesn’t involve an overreaction of the immune system.

If you are unsure if your difficulty with dairy is the result of lactose intolerance or an allergy, take the time to consult your doctor. Information is always our best ally. To that end, here is a link to confirm the information I’ve handed out today. http://heyicaneatthat.blogspot.com/2008/07/allergies-versus-sensitivities-and.html

So, armed with some more information and understanding about why we need to eat the way we do, let’s go eat that!


Simply...Gluten-free said...

Just found your blog, keep up the great work! I have never been told I am lactose intolerant but I do notice that I do better overall when I elliminate dairy.

Sandra Gordon said...

Welcome! I'm glad you found me. It can be so hard to know if it is a sensitivity or an allergy or something like lactose intolerance. Sometimes, you just have to experiment to find what works and what doesn't, right?

Sandra Gordon said...
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