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Nutrition Q & A

Is Lactose Intolerance the Same as a Milk Allergy?

Many people confuse lactose intolerance with an allergy to milk, but a milk allergy is quite different. Lactose intolerance occurs when your body cannot digest lactose, the carbohydrate in milk. Symptoms include gastrointestinal complications such as diarrhea, gas and cramping. But if you have a milk allergy, your body’s immune system thinks milk is a “harmful invader” and sends out antibodies to fight off the milk protein. The symptoms of a milk allergy are often similar to those of lactose intolerance. However, they usually are more severe and may include other symptoms such as itchy eyes, rash, runny nose and wheezing. People with a milk allergy must completely avoid milk products, while those with lactose intolerance may consume small amounts.

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