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Dispelling a dairy myth


How often do you hear milk blamed for annoying symptoms like headaches and bloating? These symptoms are often associated by some alternative therapists and healthy professionals with cows’ milk allergy.


The truth is that true cows’ milk allergy is very rare, and there is a large percentage of the population who could be putting themselves at risk by avoiding dairy unnecessarily.


A true food allergy occurs when the body reacts to certain proteins in the offending food. Often this can trigger symptoms such as hives, swelling of the lips, eyes or face, vomiting or diarrhea, difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis .


Food allergies should always be medically diagnosed. People with a true milk allergy should eliminate all milk and dairy products from their diet. Most people who are allergic to cows’ milk will also be allergic to goats’ and sheeps’ milk .


Cows’ milk allergy is thought to affect only a small proportion of Australians. It is most common in early childhood, occurring in approximately 2% of children under 2 years of age . Fortunately, the vast majority of children (about 90%) grow out of their milk allergy by three years of age.


It is very rare to develop a cows’ milk allergy as an adult. I see in my practice a number of mums who take their children off dairy in the hope that it may fix their symptoms. Too often however it can be hit and miss. Often they may be avoiding milk and including other foods with the offending proteins.


If you are avoiding dairy unnecessarily you could be missing out on calcium, zinc and a range of other nutrients in dairy. If you think you may have an allergy you should go an see your doctor or dietitian for advice.

29 Feb 2012

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