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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…
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.