Did you know that food intolerances affect approximately 10% of Americans, whereas food allergies are thought to affect 4% of teens and adults and 5% of children? Cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in American children, affecting approximately 2.5%, however many will outgrow this allergy by the time they reach school age (about 80%).
FOOD INTOLERANCE OR ALLERGY?
So, what’s the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy? According to WebMD, a food allergy is an immune system response. It occurs when the body mistakes an ingredient in food — usually a protein — as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. Food allergy symptoms develop when the antibodies are battling the “invading” food. Milk is one of the eight most common food allergies.
A food intolerance on the other hand is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It occurs when something in a food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest or breakdown the food. Intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the most common food intolerance.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A FOOD INTOLERANCE OR ALLERGY?
Symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain and diarrhea are characteristic of both allergies and intolerances. Additional allergy symptoms may include rash or hives, itchy skin, shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the airways to the lungs and anaphylaxis. Intolerances may also cause additional symptoms to those already noted above such as gas, cramps, bloating, vomiting, heartburn, headaches and irritability or nervousness.
Diagnosing milk allergies in adults is not always straightforward since adults can develop them in the absence of any childhood history of allergies. In addition to clinical allergy tests, many doctors are now recommending elimination diets as an effective diagnostic tool for dairy allergies and intolerances. They have found that this method is simple, free, highly effective, and tailored to the individual.
LIVING WITH A DAIRY INTOLERANCE OR ALLERGY
So, you or someone you love is dairy free. Now what? Some individuals who are lactose intolerant may still be able to consume dairy by using a product such as lactaid. This product is said to help break down the lactose found in dairy products such as milk and cheese to allow digestion without stomach discomfort. But for those with a dairy allergy or for whom this type of product is not effective, eliminating dairy may be the only option. That was the case for my husband who, in addition to being gluten free like I mentioned in my last post, is also dairy free. He has personally chosen to simply eliminate dairy from his diet and add very few dairy alternatives in its place. The number one dairy free item we use is almond milk. I have found it to be a great replacement in pancakes, waffles and baking, as well as for smoothies. I always recommend using the plain, unsweetened variety. Or, better yet, you can make it yourself as I have recently started doing after reading several articles about some questionable ingredients used in the name brand products. I have included the recipe below if you’d like to give it a try.
We also use rice milk (again, look for ones made from brown rice and unsweetened), but, much less often. I find rice milk to be better for cooking as opposed to baking, such as for making dairy free mashed potatoes.
And, finally, I’m sure you’re wondering about butter. Luckily, my husband has not had a problem with butter and, as such has not eliminated it from his diet. I couldn’t figure out why that was, but, according to Wikipedia, the butter making process separates the majority of milk’s water components from the fat components and, as such, lactose, being a water soluble component, is largely removed from the butter. Clarified butter (a.k.a. Ghee) has an even lower amount of lactose and may be an even better alternative.
Living with a dairy allergy or intolerance, especially if diagnosed later in life, does require some adjusting. But just like everything else, it can be done and still allow you to enjoy a variety of foods. To help you along the path, I’d like to leave you with a few recipes that are both gluten-free and dairy-free, as well as the recipe for the almond milk. I hope you will enjoy them.
RECIPES THAT ARE BOTH DAIRY-FREE AND GLUTEN-FREE…
- 2 cups blanched almonds
- 4 cups filtered water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Soak almonds overnight.
- Discard soaking water and rinse almonds until water runs clear.
- Place almonds, 4 cups water and vanilla extract in blender.
- Blend for approximately 90 seconds.
- Line fine mesh strainer with a few layers of cheese cloth. Pour blended milk through cheese cloth. Squeeze remaining milk through cheese cloth.
Don’t discard the almond mixture. You can dry it out in a low oven (around 200 degrees) to make almond flour (which is gluten free).
- ½ cup buckwheat flour
- ½ cup gluten free old-fashioned rolled oats
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ripe banana
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (optional)
- 2 cups almond milk
- Mix buckwheat flour, oats, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
- Mash the banana in another bowl, and add vinegar, maple syrup, and milk. Stir and add to the dry ingredients.
- Cook over medium heat until bubbles form. Flip, cook another few minutes on the other side.
- Enjoy plain or with fruit and maple syrup.
- 4 cups fruit of your choice (I try and use what’s in season, but apples and peaches are the ones I use most often)
- 4 tablespoons almond flour
- 4 tablespoons butter (if you can not tolerate butter you can use a non-dairy alternative such as coconut oil)
- ¼ cup gluten free rolled oats
- ½ cup pecans
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Peel and cut fruit. Toss with 1 tablespoon almond flour and dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
- In a food processor, combine oats, pecans, remaining 3 tablespoons almond flour, salt, muscovado sugar, granulated sugar, remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter and vanilla. Process until crumbs form.
- Sprinkle topping over fruit and bake for 20 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown on top (note: I usually bake the apple crisp a bit longer to get the apples to soften more).
- Serve warm. You can also serve with vanilla ice cream for those that can have dairy.
Almond Butter Brownies
Lisa has been raving about these brownies to me and I have yet to try them (although I plan to). Here is the link to the recipe if you’d like to give them a try: http://foodbabe.com/2012/03/04/almond-butter-brownies/. They are both gluten and dairy free.