What is the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance?

These terms describe different conditions. Milk allergy has already been discussed in this article. It is caused by proteins in the milk binding to IgE, which is found on sensitised mast cells. The mast cells release a number of chemicals which cause the symptoms.

Lactose intolerance occurs where a person does not have any lactase, the enzyme which breaks down lactose in the gut into its components glucose and galactose (lactase, glucose, and galactose are types of sugars). The lactose passes through the small bowel into the large bowel where bacteria break it down. The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating, and flatulence. Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed with a breath test, that checks for hydrogen (and methane). There are also tests that check the acidity of your stool.

There are three types of lactose intolerance. Primary lactose intolerance occurs in cultures where drinking milk after infancy is rare, and people do not have lactase because they do not use it much. This is high in east Asians and Native Americans, as well as some African populations. Secondary lactose intolerance is caused by another disease in the gut. A common temporary form of secondary lactose intolerance is caused by gastroenteritis. The third type of lactose intolerance is called congenital lactose intolerance. In congenital lactose intolerance, the baby lacks lactase from birth, and it is diagnosed in infancy.

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