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

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

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