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Food allergies and food intolerances are very different conditions. A true food allergy occurs when there is an abnormal reaction by the immune system to one or more food protein. Being uninformed often causes people to self-diagnose milk allergy. In reality, research has shown that cow’s milk allergy affects only 2–6% of infants and 0.1–0.5% of adults worldwide. An allergy is an abnormal immune response to one or more proteins brought on by an enhanced count of the IgE-type antibody. This reaction leads to undesirable or even dangerous symptoms. Symptoms for cow’s milk allergy may include hives (urticaria), vomiting, diarrhoea, colic, rhinitis and gastroenteritis. A qualified health practitioner, either a medical doctor or a dietitian, can diagnose an allergy through an elimination process. If the patient is allergic to cow’s milk, all forms of dairy products must be avoided, including milk and flavoured milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, ghee, ice cream, soured milk products, milk powder, etc. Food labels have to be studied carefully to determine whether a product contains milk powder, milk solids, casein or whey, since these can all lead to an allergic reaction. Intolerance to a food should be distinguished from an allergy since intolerance is not a response of the body’s immune system. The intolerance is more likely caused by a shortage of an appropriate enzyme or a reaction to certain ingredients that occur in the food, whether natural or artificial. Lactose is the natural sugar in milk of mammalian origin (including breast milk). The enzyme lactase aids in the digestion of lactose by breaking it down into two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. Lactose intolerance, therefore, is the condition where a person does not have sufficient levels of lactase to digest lactose. Bacteria that occur naturally in the colon ferment undigested lactose received from the small intestine. This fermentation process may lead to the formation of acid and gas, while the body may simultaneously attempt to dilute the concentration of the lactose by re-absorbing water from the blood. This can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Intakes of more than 12 g lactose (typically one glass of milk) may lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, discomfort, bloatedness, wind, cramping and diarrhoea. Consuming small quantities of milk together with other foods and naturally fermented dairy products, such as yoghurt or maas, is recommended. Cheese contains virtually no lactose and should not have any adverse effect.

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Rediscover Dairy