Millions of Americans have seen the popular “Got Milk?” ad campaigns, but millions of Americans are also lactose intolerant. For those unfamiliar with lactose intolerance, it just means that some people lack an enzyme needed to digest the main sugar in milk. American Indians, Asians, and African-Americans seem to be most likely to have this problem.
In the book, “Understanding Nutrition” authors Whitney and Rolfes state that most of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. Only about 30% of people in the world retain enough lactase to digest and absorb lactose efficiently throughout adult life.
In addition to lactose intolerance, many people can also have food allergies with milk being in the top three most common allergens. An allergy to milk is different than being lactose intolerant. With the allergy, there is an immune response rather than just an inability to digest a particular ingredient as is the case with lactose intolerance.
With a milk allergy, the immune system reacts to certain proteins found in milk products with the most common being the protein casein. This allergy can cause symptoms like:
- Abdominal cramps
- Coughing or wheezing
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy skin rash
- Colic in babies
Whether or not you have a problem with milk, it is important to get a food allergy test done. Many people think they don’t have any food allergies because they don’t have severe (anaphylactic) reactions. But most allergic reactions are NOT severe, but rather more subtle. Some people even consider these reactions to be “normal” when in fact their body is trying to tell them something! Many of my patients that have had a food allergy test are surprised to learn what foods they are allergic too.
Allergies can cause major health problems and can worsen the longer they are left uncorrected. Done wait, don’t guess, test!