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Food allergies involve the bodys immune system, which normally fights infection. When someone is allergic to a particular food, the immune system overreacts to proteins in that food.
People who are allergic to cow's milk react to one or more of the proteins in it. Curd, the substance that forms chunks in sour milk, contains 80% of milk's proteins, including several calledÂ caseins. Whey the watery part of milk holds the other 20%. A person may be allergic to proteins in either or both parts of milk.
Every time the person eats these proteins, the body thinks they are harmful invaders. The immune system responds removing the toxin. This causes an allergic reaction, in which chemicals like histamine are released in the body.
Milk allergy is like most food allergy reactions: It usually happens within minutes to hours after eating foods that contain milk proteins.
Although it's not common, milk allergies can cause a severe reaction calledÂ anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may begin with some of the same symptoms as a less severe reaction, but then quickly worsen. A person might have trouble breathing, feel lightheaded, or pass out. If it's not treated, anaphylaxis can be life threatening.
Milk allergy is often confused with lactose intolerance because people can have the same kinds of things happening to them (like stomach pains or bloating, for example) with both conditions. But they're not related:
Milk allergy is a problem involving the immune system.
Lactose intoleranceÂ involves the digestive system (which doesn't produce enough of the enzyme needed to break down the sugar in milk).
All true food allergies are caused by an immune system malfunction. Your immune system identifies certain milk proteins as harmful, triggering the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the protein (allergen). The next time you come in contact with these proteins, these IgE antibodies recognize them and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals. Histamine and other body chemicals cause a range of allergic signs and symptoms.
Milk allergy symptoms, which differ from person to person, occur a few minutes to a few hours after drinking milk or eating milk products.
Immediately after consuming milk, signs and symptoms of a milk allergy might include:
Signs and symptoms that may take more time to develop include:
Loose stools, which may contain blood
Coughing or wheezing
Itchy skin rash, often around the mouth
Colic, in babies
There are two main proteins in cow's milk that can cause an allergic reaction:
Casein, which is found in the solid part (curd) of milk that curdles
Whey, which is found in the liquid part of milk that remains after milk curdles
You or your child may be allergic to only one milk protein or allergic to both casein and whey. These proteins not only are present in milk, but they're also found in processed foods. Additionally, most people who react to cow's milk will also be allergic to sheep, goat and buffalo milk. Some people who are allergic to cow's milk are also allergic to soy milk.
Substitutes to Milk:Â based on soy, rice, almond, hemp seed, and oat, fortified or not, are available in such flavours as plain, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla
Alternative for calcium: Luckily fortified nut and grain milk offer similar key nutrients as dairy milk. You can also buy calcium-fortified orange juice. There are also good calcium-rich foods like dark leafy greens (kale, Bok choi, collards, and broccoli), sardines, and almonds.
The best way to treat food allergy is to avoid the foods that trigger your allergy. Sometimes food allergens can be airborne, especially in steam, and can cause reactions. Boiling or simmering seafood is a particular offender.
Always ask about ingredients when eating at restaurants or when you are eating foods prepared by family or friends.
Carefully read food labels. South Africa and some other countries require that eight major food allergens are to be listed in common language, for example, "milk" rather than a scientific or technical term, like "casein."
Know how to use injectable epinephrine and antihistamines to treat emergency reactions. Teach family members and other people close to you how to use epinephrine, and wear an ID bracelet that describes your allergy. If a reaction occurs, have someone take you to the emergency room, even if the symptoms subside. Afterwards, get follow-up care from an allergist.
â€¢ The most common food allergens are the proteins in cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and tree nuts.
â€¢ An allergist is the best qualified professional to diagnose a food allergy. Testing performed by an allergist often helps determine if foods are causing your symptoms.
â€¢ Some food allergies can be outgrown.
â€¢ The best treatment is to avoid the foods that cause your reaction.
â€¢ Read food labels carefully and ask about ingredients at restaurants or when eating food prepared by another person.
An allergist is a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of problems such as allergies and the assessment and treatment of patients with infections, such as immunodeficiency diseases like food allergy to milk.
The right care can make the difference between suffering with an allergic disease and feeling better. By visiting an allergist, you can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works and educational information to help you manage your disease.