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Milk and Inflammation: Is Dairy Really Healthy for Everyone?

Updated: Apr 21

Should you be drinking milk? Is milk healthy for everyone, or can it cause inflammation? What's the difference between milk allergy and milk intolerance? Let's break it down.

Milk and dairy products may work for some people, but not everyone. In fact, they can even trigger inflammation. Allergy and intolerance are two different reactions to milk, and it's important to understand them.

Regarding allergy, it's a severe immune system reaction to a foreign invader, such as milk. Exposure to milk can lead to life-threatening symptoms like difficulty breathing, vomiting, hives, and more. Allergy is socially acceptable and well-known, but food intolerance is often misunderstood and less socially acceptable. However, repeated exposure to a food you're intolerant to, like milk, can cause a range of inflammation-related health problems.

On the other hand, food intolerance is caused by gut irritation due to the inability to break down specific foods, such as the lactose in milk. Lactose intolerance is estimated to affect up to 65% of adults worldwide. When lactose-intolerant individuals consume milk or dairy products, undigested lactose becomes food for gut microbes, leading to symptoms like bloating, flatulence, pain, and diarrhea. However, only about 40% of the world's adult population maintains full lactase function, which is the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose in the gut.

Interestingly, there's a genetic and ethnic component to lactose tolerance. Swedes have the highest percentage of lactose tolerance, followed by northern Europeans, Mediterranean people, African and Caribbean people, Asians, and Native Americans, with varying levels of lactose tolerance. Lactose tolerance is actually called lactase persistence, as the activity of the lactase enzyme is naturally reduced after weaning in most mammals, including humans.

It's important to note that lactose intolerance can develop in adulthood, even if someone wasn't intolerant to lactose their entire life. Understanding the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance can help individuals make informed choices about their dairy consumption and prevent potential health problems associated with inflammation.

In terms of whether milk is healthy for everyone, it depends on an individual's tolerance and reactions to milk. Milk and dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients, and they can be a part of a healthy diet for those who can tolerate them. However, for individuals with milk allergy or lactose intolerance, milk may not be suitable and can cause inflammation and other health problems.

Milk allergy is a severe immune system reaction to milk proteins; even small amounts of milk can trigger life-threatening symptoms. It is important for individuals with milk allergies to strictly avoid all forms of milk and dairy products and seek appropriate medical care.

On the other hand, lactose intolerance is caused by the body's inability to fully digest lactose due to a deficiency of the enzyme lactase. This can lead to gut irritation and symptoms like bloating, flatulence, pain, and diarrhea after consuming milk or dairy products. However, lactose intolerance is not life-threatening and can be managed through dietary modifications or lactase supplements.

If you suspect that you have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance on dietary choices. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your individual health needs and help you make informed decisions about whether milk and dairy products suit you.

Although I love ice cream, my body doesn't handle dairy well. While some amazing dairy-free ice cream brands are available in the market, they can be quite expensive, ranging from $8 to $10 per pint. In addition to the cost, I also prefer to know exactly what goes into my ice cream, which is why I'll usually just make my own at home. Making homemade ice cream or sorbet is surprisingly quick and easy, especially when you use frozen fruit and a food processor. I use the Ninja Master Prep Pro with the medium container, and it works great for me. If you're interested, here are 10 quick recipes for you to try out!

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