Lactose intolerance and milk proteins-allergy: two different realities


milk_glass_handIn this season of the year, the appearance of colitis as well as the manifestation of symptoms typical of the irritable bowel syndrome are definitely more evident than usual.

The fault is always ascribed to air conditioning or to bigger quantities of fruit and dairy products ingested.

Referring to the reactivity towards milk proteins or to lactose intolerance is a common source of discussion, even though the features, the causes and the therapeutic approaches existing for these two conditions are often easily mixed up.

Lactose intolerance is a problem that does not concern the immune system. Instead, it depends on the ability of the digestive system to completely assimilate lactose by transforming it into a simple sugar. The only effect that this condition may cause is diarrhea and stomach-ache, dependently from the dose assumed. Nothing happens at all when eating small quantities of lactose: in order to have a real reaction, it is necessary to eat reasonable quantities. People that confess having diarrhea only for the simple contact with a drop of milk should not investigate about lactose intolerance but instead on a potential food-related inflammatory reaction due to cow’s milk proteins.

Instead, the allergy to milk proteins (IgE-dependent) and the inflammatory reaction to milk depend on an immune system-driven reactivity and may cause either an allergic reaction (when IgE are involved) or all the typical signs of food-related inflammation, such as bloating, migraine, arthritis, gastric reflux, diarrhea and dermatitis. This type of reaction does not depend on the dose of food introduced in the organism: a limited quantity may be enough to trigger a response.

The real problem arises from the terminology normally used. For many years, people called “food intolerance” those food-related inflammatory phenomena caused by a delayed hypersensitivity reaction; indeed, to describe the gluten sensitivity, the definition as “non-celiac gluten intolerance” is still in use.

For this reason, it is common to associate the term “intolerance” with those immunological reactions generated by food-related inflammation.

Instead, the term “lactose intolerance” refers only to the digestion of a sugar, without involving inflammation and the immune system. In such a way, confusion becomes total and many people employed in healthcare may often be unsure about the meaning and the implications of the different terms.

A person that is lactose intolerant can drink lactose-free milk or eat aged cheeses (in which all the lactose has been completely consumed) without any problem, but he/she will keep suffering from headache or colitis if he/she is hypersensitive to milk proteins instead, significantly present in any diary product, even those devoid of lactose.

To tackle lactose intolerance (therefore, the biochemical/digestive condition), it is sufficient to control the amount of lactose ingested or to use enzyme mixes containing lactase (such as Zerotox Enzymes, Digestive Enzymes (Solgar) or Similase (Nutri), while the correct identification of the personal food reactivity is necessary to cure from milk protein hypersensitivity, along with the definition of a rotation diet gradually allowing a complete recovery of food tolerance.

While curing food-related inflammatory conditions, it is often necessary to help the organism in this process by providing an anti-inflammatory support (through Perilla oil, Zerotox Ribilla (blackcurrant oil and Perilla oil), Quercetin Complex) and improve the correct intestinal colonization with the most suitable probiotics.

All the aforementioned aspects serve a limited use in the sole case of biochemical lactose intolerance.

Since lactose intolerance is diagnosed through the Breath test, often people don’t investigate further and believe they can still eat milk proteins devoid of lactose, whereas such a biochemical condition is accompanied, in many cases, with other food-related reactions, which should be investigated correctly for a correct dietary definition able to lead back to a rich and varied nutrition and, above all, to the adequate re-education of the whole organism’s inflammation.