Nowadays, including milk and dairy products in your diet or not can be a big issue since the reaction to milk proteins or lactose intolerance is becoming more “common”. These two situations are easily confused, yet they are totally different, with distinct causes and therapies.
Lactose intolerance simply reflects the inability of the digestive system to completely digest lactose and turn it into simple sugar. Yes, lactose is a sugar! The effects are diarrhea and stomach aches - not nice ones - but the good news is it’s dose-dependent. Most importantly, lactose intolerance does not affect the immune system.
When we say it’s dose-dependent it means that if a lactose intolerant person has little amounts of lactose, he/she is completely fine! The problems arrive when having lactose in big quantities. So if someone claims to have diarrhea after the simple contact with a drop of milk, it might not be lactose intolerance, but a possible food-related inflammation due to milk proteins.
Wait, what? Proteins? Yes, when we refer to food-related inflammation due to milk, we are dealing with milk proteins and the immune system. The symptoms correlated to milk-related inflammation can range from meteorism to migraine, arthritis, reflux, diarrhea or dermatitis. Moreover, this is a response that does not depend on the consumed dose: small amounts may be enough to trigger the symptomatology.
Well, so far the differences seem clear, right? Then, what’s the reason for such confusion? The real problem derives from the terminology used. For years people have been calling “food intolerances” those phenomena that were in fact connected to food-related inflammation; the use of the term became intolerant itself! You can read this article for further information about the improperly called “food intolerances”.
Ok now, what about lactose-free products? Well, a correctly diagnosed lactose intolerant person can safely drink lactose-free milk or eat hard cheeses (where there’s almost no more lactose left). And what about someone with food-related inflammation due to milk? Try to guess. The lactose-free products, as their name indicate do not have lactose - a sugar, remember? - but they are still dairy products, they contain milk, so they do have milk proteins… These products will cause the same symptoms - headache, colitis, dermatitis, etc - that a non-lactose dairy will produce. Remember it’s all about the proteins!
Ok, so what can you do? First of all, if you suspect to be lactose intolerance go visit your doctor, who will surely prescribe you a Breath test to correctly diagnose it. If you really are lactose intolerant, besides consuming lactose-free products, you can take digestive enzymes supplements that will help you digest lactose. If you suspect that milk might have different effects on you, take the Food Inflammation Test to measure your food-related inflammations levels, and discover if you’ve lately been consuming an exaggerated or repetitive amount of milk and dairy products. If that's the case you will need to start a rotation diet, controlling their intake but without completely eliminating them from your diet. And here’s just one last thought, that we hope you can get: a lactose intolerant person can have high levels of food-related inflammation due to milk and dairy products if he/she has been recently consuming a lot of dairies, even if they are lactose-free.
As a conclusion, just remember one of our mottos “food is not an enemy”, therefore milk is not an enemy. If you’re a dairy lover you might just need a correct diagnosis that will show you how to rearrange your dietary habits and regain a friendly relationship with milk.