What is a Milk Allergy?

By: Felix Paul


A milk allergy is an allergy to milk meaning that if you drink milk you will have an unpleasant immune response which may be unhealthy or even threatening to your wellbeing. A milk allergy however is distinct from a lactose intolerance which works a slightly different way.

The difference comes down to the differences between allergy and intolerance. With an intolerance you have a particular part of your body that is sensitive to a particular substance, or you have a problem with absorbing or digesting it. This then can cause a number of issues such as stomach complaints though these are generally felt over a long period of time and will come on slowly. Someone with a lactose intolerance might go for a long time without realizing that they have the problem as the effects won't be immediate and will include milder problems such as general lethargy and stomach pain. As such many people will confuse lactose intolerance for a general tiredness condition such as ME (and interestingly the two are often linked).

With a milk allergy however the problem is slightly different. Here you are likely to suffer a much more immediate and acute response, and even if it doesn't occur immediately it will be very obvious that something is 'wrong'. The way that a milk allergy works is very different to the way that lactose intolerance works, as here it is not the milk causing the problem but actually your own immune response which is firing when it shouldn't do. In other words, your immune system has overreacted to the milk in your bloodstream and treated it like a toxin thus causing an immune response which will normally consist of swelling, redness and discomfort in the area as your body attempts to mobilize itself and remove the offending substance. Ultimately this can lead to anaphylactic shock in which the body's major organs shut down and the victim is in risk of losing their lives however in most cases a milk allergy won't be this severe. Another danger however is that the throat swells and that this causes difficulties with breathing.

Can Milk Allergy be Cured?

The good news is that there is a cure for milk allergy which works in the same way as cures for other allergies. This uses a technique called 'immunotherapy' in which the body is very gradually reintroduced to the substance in order to desensitize it. For instance then a very tiny amount of the milk will be injected into the blood stream, but will be milk enough that the body doesn't have a huge reaction. Over time this is increased until the body acts normally around the milk and the milk allergy is gone.

Management
Short of immunotherapy it is also possible of course to manage a milk allergy by simply avoiding dairy products and milk itself. There are many possible replacements for milk that are just as beneficial (though sometimes in other ways) and just as tasty (according to some) such as soy milk which comes from soy bean, or goats milk or powdered milk depending on the nature of your allergy.

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A milk allergy can have a large effect on your lifestyle, but fortunately there are cures and management techniques. Visit the links to learn more, or to read about other related issues such as Fructose intolerance

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