Dairy Free 101

The difference between allergy and intolerance.

Terms such as food allergy and food intolerance are often used interchangeably, yet they represent a disparate group of conditions. Modern classifications have divided adverse reactions to food into those that are immune mediated – food allergy and those that are NOT immune mediated – food intolerance..

dairy free 101


Cow’s milk allergy is an immune response to one or more of the proteins (albumin, casein or whey) in cow’s milk. This means that when you consume cow’s milk, your immune system identifies the protein as dangerous and mobilises your body’s defences. If you are allergic to dairy, you will experience an immediate Type 1 hypersensitivity reaction. This response can be triggered by a very small amount of milk protein. Reactions range in severity from acute dermatological or digestive manifestations such as eczema, hives or diarrhoea to more severe potentially life threatening anaphylaxis or chronic malabsorption and inflammation. The only effective treatment for cow’s milk allergy is to fully eliminate cow’s milk and any products containing it.


Intolerance to lactose in cow’s milk, is a non immunological condition. The age of onset, previous history of milk tolerance and dose related symptoms of bloating and diarrhoea make it relatively easy to distinguish intolerance from true allergy to cow’s milk. Dairy intolerance may have various causes, the most common is an inability to digest lactose. All animal milks (cow’s goat’s and sheep’s) contain a sugar called lactose. We make an enzyme in our guts, called lactase, which breaks down the lactose in the milk to be absorbed. Some people do not produce enough lactase to digest the sugar. Without lactase, the sugar ferments in the gut. An intolerance to dairy is less severe but may also bring about digestive, skin and inflammatory symptoms.

Everyone’s Different

The problem is lot of us don’t have enough lactase to break down lactose efficiently. Those with an intolerance may find they are less sensitive and are able to consume small amounts of dairy products with no ill-effects, particularly products which have been further processed such as live yoghurt or cottage cheese. Some find it easier to tolerate the milk of other animals such as goat, sheep or buffalo. Each individual is different and you will need to establish your own intolerance levels.

Individuals suffering from lactose intolerance might find it beneficial to supplement lactase enzymes to help digest dairy products. It is advised that you consult a doctor or accredited health practitioner before embarking on a supplement programme.

We love cows, don’t get us wrong. However, dairy seems to cause some people to develop allergies or some maybe lactose intolerant. Dairy products naturally originates from cow milk. Milk is high in nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B2, phosphorous, magnesium and vitamin B12. Calcium is an important mineral involved in the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, and also also plays a regulatory role in muscle contraction and blood clotting functions. There are many benefits to dairy products, but for those who prefer dairy-free alternatives, we would love to share alternative sources for similar nutrients that you usually get from dairy products.

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