What is the difference between lactose intolerance and milk allergy

The human being has introduced the milk of cow (and also of sheep or goat) for thousands of years in their diet, its role being especially important in times of scarcity and famine and, although it obviously has many nutritional benefits, the truth is that, in our days, there are more and more cases of intolerances and allergies. Lactose intolerance and milk allergy have different symptoms and have different treatments, we tell you the differences between these two diagnoses.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when there is an enzyme deficit, called lactase, which is responsible for breaking down milk sugar that is none other than lactose. A correct level and functioning of the enzyme lactase causes it to break down lactose into glucose and galactose, however if this division does not occur due to an alteration in lactase, lactose passes into the large intestine and undesirable symptoms that affect the system appear digestive.


Symptoms that occur if lactose division in the stomach is not performed would be upset stomach, heavy digestion, abdominal bloating, flatulence, diarrhea … which will vary in number and intensity depending on the level of efficiency of our enzyme lactase and, obviously, the amount of milk or derivative that has been ingested.

You also have to keep in mind that With age, lactase production decreases, so people who have never had intolerance problems can experience symptoms at maturity. This enzyme also stops being produced in the body of those people who do not consume milk but could be reactivated by gradually reintroducing milk into the diet.


As this pathology is increasingly common, there are lactose free alternatives on the market so that the affected person can continue to consume, if you wish, milk and its derivatives without problems.

Milk allergy

Food allergies are caused by proteins that act as algenes triggered by an abnormal and exaggerated immune reaction. Being an allergy, in this case the immune system is involved as it detects an agent that is considered harmful to the body and causing an excessive reaction to milk protein. This response triggers a series of symptoms typical of any allergic reaction, itching, swelling, redness, hives, vomiting … the respiratory system may even be affected in the most severe cases.


Generally the reaction is given to cow protein but it can occur against sheep or goat's milk. How is it diagnosed? Through an analytical to measure immunoglobulin E levels, an antibody that is involved in the immune system response. Milk protein allergy is more common in young children than in adults, although it usually resolves before 5 years of life in the vast majority of cases.


For a person allergic to milk, the treatment would consist in eliminating the diet of cow's milk and its derivatives and reintroducing the food under medical supervision. Lactose-free milk in this case would not be a solution since, although lactose is removed, the milk protein would remain intact..


Although thousands of years ago drinking milk for our ancestors was undoubtedly an advantage at the nutritional level, since an intolerance was preferable to malnutrition, the ability of the human being to be able to divide and tolerate lactose, therefore, is not an evolutionary advantage but it has been crucial in those times of famine. Nowadays the human being continues to benefit from the nutrients of the dairy but the number of intolerances and allergies grows, two very different pathologies that have different solutions as you will see.

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