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Monday, May 11, 2009

UK Also Marks National Allergy Week

The U.S. has a national Food Allergy Awareness Week.

Nadine Stewart of Lactofree wrote me to tell me that the U.K. has a similar National Allergy Week, starting today.

She also sent me a press release which, like most press releases, was mostly a commercial for the company. Part of it had some objective information, and that part I'm happy to share. For the commercial, just click on the link and go to the Lactofree site.

So what is lactose intolerance? It is thought to affect up to 15 per cent of the population and is the body’s inability to produce enough of the enzyme lactase in the digestive tract. Without it, lactose (the natural sugar in milk and other dairy products) cannot be digested properly, so suffers can feel bloated or experience vomiting and stomach pains after consuming milk or milk-based products.

However, because these symptoms are not limited to lactose intolerance the condition is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Furthermore, some people who experience symptoms of lactose intolerance cut out dairy entirely, believing they are dairy intolerant, without realising that lactose is present in other products.

What’s the difference between lactose intolerance and milk allergy?

Milk protein allergy is when the immune system overreacts to one or more of the proteins found in milk. Milk allergy can be severe and in some cases can cause an extreme and severe reaction know as anaphylaxis (the whole body is affected, often within minutes of exposure to the allergen). When someone has an allergy to milk they can experience symptoms in addition to digestive discomfort, such as skin rashes, eczema, nasal congestions and coughing and the swelling of the lips, mouth and tongue.

In the past these were sometimes called ‘milk intolerances’, but an intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system so it is important to distinguish between them. While lactose intolerance can cause a great deal of discomfort, it won’t usually produce a sudden or dangerous reaction.

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