Lactose Intolerance and Dairy Sensitivity - How They Differ  
by Fiona Childs
require immediate hospitalization. For this reason, it's essential to determine whether
an individual is suffering from lactose intolerance or from dairy sensitivity before a
serious situation develops. There is no cure for either condition, but avoiding the
products that trigger reactions is usually an effective treatment for both lactose
intolerance and dairy sensitivity.

Lactose Intolerance

Individuals with lactose intolerance cannot break down the simple sugar lactose
found in milk and many other dairy products. As a result, the lactose in these foods
passes virtually unchanged through the digestive system, creating a wide range of
effects including painful gas, bloating, and severe stomach cramps. These symptoms
typically worsen with age, and can be extremely uncomfortable, but are not usually
serious or life threatening. Treatments include lactase supplements and avoidance.
Some doctors recommend slowly introducing small amounts of dairy into the diet of
lactose intolerant individuals in order to reduce the level of intolerance; this usually is
an uncomfortable process, however, and has not achieved consistent results.

Dairy Sensitivity

Dairy sensitivities and allergies are the result of a misidentification by the body's
immune system of dairy products such as lactose or casein; rather than breaking
them down normally as food, the body's defensive system attacks these materials
as foreign and releases white blood cells and chemicals including histamines to try to
fight off the misidentified materials. While lactose intolerance and dairy sensitivity
share some of the same symptoms including bloating, excessive gas, cramps, and
nausea, dairy sensitivities also can cause skin rashes and eczema, asthma attacks,
and upper respiratory congestion. In extreme cases, dairy sensitivities can trigger
anaphylactic shock, a serious allergic reaction with symptoms including hives and
itching, heart palpitations, confusion and anxiety to include slurred speech, and
coughing, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing due to swollen airways. While
antihistamines are sometimes prescribed for mild cases of dairy sensitivity, the best
treatment is to avoid dairy products containing the offending substances. Some
children who exhibit symptoms of dairy sensitivity outgrow the problem in
adolescence or adulthood, while others must avoid dairy products for their entire
lives.


About The Author

Fiona V. Childs

For more information on this topic visit:
It is estimated that as many as thirty
percent of all Americans suffer from
lactose intolerance, a serious
condition that results from a lack of
the enzyme lactase, which is required
in order to break down lactose in the
digestive system. Lactose intolerance
is sometimes misidentified or
confused with a dairy sensitivity or
allergy, but the two conditions are
quite different with disparate
symptoms and root causes. While
most dairy sensitivities are relatively
minor, in some extreme cases dairy
allergies can result in serious or
life-threatening reactions which may
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