Wonder whether you have an allergy to dairy OR whether you’re lactose intolerant?

We learned last week that there are many ways that we can react to the same foods, in this case, dairy.  Let’s discuss the three ways we can react to casein, the main protein in cow dairy.

These are the common symptoms of a “hidden” reaction (IGG antibodies in blood) to dairy protein:

  • Fatigue for no reason
  • Pinkish-purplish circles under the eyes (we call these “allergy shiners”) and many children have these!
  • Puffiness under the eyes
  • Horizontal creases in the lower eyelid
  • Chronic fluid retention
  • Chronic swollen glands
  • Chronic bloating and gas
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain, body aches
  • Acne, eczema, hives, itching, rashes
  • These reactions are usually delayed, up to 2 days after eating the food, and chronic.

Whereas these are the symptoms of lactose intolerance, which is the inability to digest the carbohydrate, lactose, in dairy foods:

  • Bloating
  • Pain or cramps in the lower belly
  • Gurgling or rumbling sounds in the lower belly
  • Gas
  • Loose stools or diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • These reactions are usually immediate and acute.

Now, here’s the tricky thing. All of the symptoms of lactose intolerance can also be caused by an IgA reaction. This type of reaction occurs in the lining of the intestinal tract, just like lactose intolerance does, but the treatment is very different.  That’s why testing is so helpful for successful intervention.

The symptoms we manifest and how we react to a food depends on the type of antibody we make, and where in the body we are reacting.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • IgE:  These are the immediate and acute reactions, such as the ones that people have to shellfish and peanuts, where the throat swells shut, lips get puffy and hives might appear. Allergists test for these reactions using skin scratch testing.
  • IgA: These are reactions that occur in the lining of the digestive tract, mostly in the small intestine. Gluten allergies (to wheat, barley and rye) are almost always IgA reactions.  IgA reactions tend to be digestive, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea, although IgG symptoms can also manifest in the intestines.
  • IgG:  The “hidden” allergies that often don’t show a reaction until up to 48 hours after a food has been ingested, so it is hard to connect a certain food with a reaction. The symptoms tend to be low grade and chronic rather than acute, and show up as fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, foggy thinking, etc.

The tricky thing is that we can develop different types of reactions to the same foods.  For example, dairy can be an IgA, IgG, or IgE reaction.  Eggs, soy and corn are other common foods that can trigger various types of antibodies and therefore react in different ways.

Other food allergies are becoming better recognized as well, including dairy.  Let me first clarify that lactose intolerance is not a dairy allergy. It’s the inability to digest the carbohydrate in milk, lactose, because of a missing enzyme. That enzyme is easily replaceable in the form of over the counter “lactaid” pills.  Yogurt and “lactaid” milk products have pre-digested the lactose and can be used comfortably by those with lactose intolerance.

However, no amount of lactaid will help someone with a dairy allergy. As I mentioned earlier, dairy allergies can take place anywhere: in the lining of the digestive tract (IgA), in the blood (IgG), and by the immune system (IgE).

The most common form of dairy allergy, the IgG reaction, is best identified through blood testing. The IgG allergies result from Leaky Gut, a condition where the lining of the intestinal tract changes from being an impermeable membrane to a permeable one. Food proteins can then pass or “leak” through the compromised gut membrane and go into the bloodstream.   Once in the bloodstream, the immune system identifies the food protein as an invader and creates the IgG antibodies.

The most common causes of Leaky Gut include repeated antibiotic use, hidden infections of the gastrointestinal tract, chronic under-consumption of protein, long term use of steroid or non-steroidal medications, and excessive stress combined with a poor diet. We are now learning that GMO foods are probably contributing to IgG food allergies as well.

If you want to sort out unpleasant reactions you may be having to foods, consider doing some food allergy testing with us.  Our favorite testing is the IgG and IgA tests plus of course, the Celiac Profile, which assesses several ways people may react to gluten.

If you need help sorting out which test is right for you, consider a Free 15 minute Consult with one of our nutritionists.  It’s easy and you’ll get answers to often frustrating health mysteries!