The Difference Between Dairy Allergies & Lactose Intolerance

Dairy Allergies vs Lactose Intolerance: What's the Difference? The terms “dairy allergies” and “lactose intolerance” are often used interchangeably because people think they mean the same thing, but they do not. Here’s what you need to know about these two different conditions.

Dairy Allergies

If you have a dairy allergy, your body sees the proteins in milk and other dairy products such as ice cream as threats. Dairy allergies are a more severe condition than lactose intolerance. These allergies involve the immune system and release substances in the body that trigger allergy symptoms. Allergic reactions caused by dairy allergies range from mild symptoms, such as rashes, to more severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing. Other symptoms caused by dairy allergies include:

  • Gas
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you have other allergies, you are more likely to develop dairy allergies. If you have eczema or one or both of your parents have another allergy, including hay fever or asthma, you are more susceptible to developing a dairy allergy.

Available Treatment Options for Dairy Allergies

Available testing options for dairy allergies are skin prick and blood tests. The skin prick test requires a small amount of the dairy liquid to be placed under your skin. If an allergy is present, red, raised bumps will appear on the skin. During a blood test, the number of antibodies in your blood is measured.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerances involve the digestive system. If you have lactose intolerance, your body can’t make lactate. Lactate is the enzyme required to digest lactose—the sugar contained in milk—properly. Instead of your body digesting milk in your small intestine and stomach, undigested lactose travels to your colon and is broken down by bacteria. This breakdown process can cause painful gas and bloat.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance and dairy allergies are similar, which is why they are often mistaken for one another. Lactose intolerance symptoms include:

  • Hives
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Swelling of the lips and face
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Abdominal cramps

Blood in the stool is another symptom of lactose intolerance and most common in children.

Available Testing Options for Lactose Intolerance

The available testing options for lactose intolerance are the lactose intolerance test, hydrogen breath test, and the stool acidity test.

The lactose intolerance test requires you to drink a liquid that contains a substantial amount of lactose. This test takes about two hours to complete. At this time, your glucose levels are measured. Glucose is the sugar in your bloodstream. If your glucose levels do not increase after drinking the liquid, your body is not properly digesting lactose.

A hydrogen breath test is also an option. This test is similar to the lactose test. You will consume a liquid that contains high amounts of lactose. Once you drink the liquid, the hydrogen in your breath will be measured regularly. If your body isn’t digesting lactose properly, your colon will break down the enzyme, causing hydrogen to be released from your body and detected on your breath.

The stool acidity test is also available. This test is commonly used to determine lactose intolerance in babies, children, and other people who can’t be tested using different methods. The stool acidity test performs tests on stools for lactic acid. This acid is created by the process of the colon breaking down undigested lactose. An acidic stool is an indication you have an intolerance to lactose.

In addition, try making some dairy-free dessert options at home using an ice cream cookbook containing dairy-free recipes. This way, you’ll have your favorites ready and stored in your mini freezer. For the best experience, you’ll need an ice cream maker, a waffle cone maker for homemade waffle cones, and a whipped cream dispenser for fresh dairy-free whipped cream.

If you want some fun and easy dairy-free desserts, you can never go wrong with classic options like snow cones and homemade popsicles. You can even make these desserts sugar-free if you want.