Home Story Think You Are Allergic To Milk? It Could Also Be Milk Intolerance

Think You Are Allergic To Milk? It Could Also Be Milk Intolerance

On National Milk Day, decode the jargons and find out why the two conditions are totally different
Bipasha Das | Nov 26, 2019

Milk is a white coloured liquid formed in the body of mammals to feed their young when they are born, until their digestive system adapts to external complex foods. Hence for a new born mammal, including humans, it is known as a “complete food.” As children grow up, gradually the need for milk comes down and they are weaned in to different solid foods.

In Indian society, milk plays an important role as a primary source of protein and calcium, not just for children but also for adults. The milk consumed is mainly from cow or buffalo. Let’s see what is the nutrition content in the kind of milk we consume:

As per ICMR guidelines, the nutrition content of milk per 100 ml is:

Allergy and intolerance

Milk contain a carb called lactose. During the digestive process, lactose breaks down into glucose (sugar) and galactose (simple carbs). These are absorbed into the bloodstream, at which point the liver converts galactose into glucose. Some people lack the enzyme (lactase) required to break down lactose. This condition is called lactose intolerant.

Lactose intolerance and milk allergy are very different conditions. Milk allergy usually shows up early in life. Lactose intolerance is more common, takes longer time to develop and can occur at any age. Milk allergy is a true food allergy caused by an allergic reaction to the protein in milk not from lactose.

Lactose intolerant people show symptoms in 30 minutes to two hours after ingesting milk or a dairy food. Symptoms may include:

•Stomach pain

•Gas and bloating

•Nausea

•Diarrhoea


Milk Allergy can begin within a few minutes or sometimes after few hours. Symptoms may include:

•Stomach pain

•Nausea

•Diarrhea

•Skin rash

•Swelling of the lips or throat

•Trouble breathing

Dietary interventions

There is no need to completely avoid foods and beverages that contain lactose—such as milk or milk products. If you avoid all milk and dairy products, you tend to reduce the source of calcium and Vitamin D in your body.

People with lactose intolerance can tolerate a stipulated amount of lactose in body at a time. These strategies can help manage dairy in diet:

Divide and conquer: Try dividing daily lactose intake into 100 to 230 ml per serving, spacing them out through the day.

Take it along with meals: Solid food slows down emptying of the stomach and allows extra time for lactase to break down lactose. For example, have a small glass of milk along with a full lunch.

Pills as support aid: Lactase tablets help digest lactose Taking these pills approximately 30 minutes prior to ingesting dairy products should control most symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.

Go for curd or Yogurt: Yogurt or curd with live and active cultures is low in lactose and mostly don’t give any problems. The bacterial cultures in yogurt pre-digest the lactose, making it a suitable food for many people with lactose intolerance.

Alternatives to dairy

Dairy products are an important source of calcium, protein, vitamins A, B12 and D. Following is a list for those who want to switch to alternate sources:

Try plant-source milk: almond, soya milk, rice milk, oat milk

Calcium: Seaweeds, nuts and seeds, beans, oranges, figs, quinoa, amaranth, collard greens, okra, broccoli, kale, and fortified products such as orange juice

Vitamin A: Carrots, broccoli, Beetroot, sweet potatoes, cod liver oil, liver, spinach, pumpkin, egg, apricot, papaya, mango, and peas

Vitamin D: Levels can be enhanced by exposure to natural sunlight, consuming fatty fish, eggs, fish liver oils, and some fortified plant milks and other fortified food products

Lactose-free milk: A person with severe symptoms should check the label to ensure that its 100 per cent lactose free


Pix credit: Noemí Jiménez, Unsplash Photo Community