lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity

Do you have lactose intolerance or is it something more?

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien Ask Dr. Kimberley, Food, Health 0 Comments

lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity

Lactose is a sugar that’s found in dairy products like milk, cream, yogurt and ice cream. In order for lactose to be absorbed from our digestive tract, the small intestine must first break it down by releasing an enzyme called “lactase”. Unfortunately an astounding 65% of the population has a reduced ability to break down lactose after two years of age, meaning their bodies are not able to digest all of the lactose sugars in these dairy products.

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Hi Dr. Kimberley
 
My food sensitivity test showed that I was sensitive to dairy. Does that mean that I have to avoid all dairy products or only those containing lactose?

What’s the difference between a lactose intolerance and a dairy sensitivity and can I still have lactose-free milk and dairy products?

Thanks!
Natasha


Hi Natasha,

This is a great question and one that I get asked very frequently in my naturopathic practice

Lactose is a sugar that’s found in dairy products like milk, cream, yogurt and ice cream.  In order for lactose to be absorbed from our digestive tract, the small intestine must first break it down by releasing an enzyme called “lactase”.  Unfortunately an astounding 65% of the population has a reduced ability to break down lactose after two years of age, meaning their bodies are not able to digest all of the lactose sugars in these dairy products.  This condition is called “lactose-intolerance”.  

Consuming foods that are high in lactose leads can cause cramping, gas, bloating and/or diarrhea soon after eating from the buildup of indigestible sugars.  People with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate milk and other lactose-containing dairy products with the help of digestive enzymes containing lactase to break down the sugars or by consuming only lactose-free milk and dairy products.

Food sensitivities are different than lactose intolerance and occur due to an immune reaction to the proteins present within a particular food.  In the case of a dairy sensitivity your immune system is producing antibodies to proteins like whey, casein and milk proteins.  Casein is present in most cheeses and whey in softer dairy products like milk, cream and yogurt.  The immune reaction in response to these foods might (but doesn’t always) lead to digestive symptoms and often also causes symptoms like headaches, joint pain, fatigue, nasal congestion, poor immune function, skin rashes and acne. 

In the case of a dairy sensitivity, selecting lactose-free dairy products isn’t helpful to reduce your symptoms because these products still contain whey, casein and milk proteins.  All dairy products will need to be avoided for an extended period of time to decrease your immune reactivity and to relieve inflammation.  Most people experience significant improvement in their symptoms within 1-3 weeks of complete avoidance.

If you think that you may have food sensitivities, your dietary triggers can be identified via food sensitivity testing or by doing an Elimination Diet.  It’s amazing how quickly your symptoms can clear up once the foods triggering an immune reaction are removed from your diet!  

For more information on whether food sensitivities may be at the root of your symptoms and for a specific “how-to” guide on discovering which foods are the culprit sign up for my free eBook series – “A Naturopathic Guide to Identifying your Food Sensitivities”!


Did you know that food sensitivities cause symptoms like fatigue, bloating or IBS, weight-gain and skin concerns?

Free Guide to Identify Food Sensitivities

Discover which foods are the cause of your symptoms with my FREE GUIDE -  A Naturopathic Guide To Identifying Your Food Sensitivities!


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About the Author

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien

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Dr. Kimberley O’Brien is a Naturopathic Doctor with a medical practice in Calgary, Alberta. She is the founder of Healthy Life Redesign and creator of the Elimination Diet Meal Plan online program. Her mission is to help you own your health and live a life you love!


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