What If You Have an Allergy to Yogurt?
Yogurt can be a part of a healthy diet and provide various benefits for your health. However, some people may experience allergy-like symptoms after eating it. There are several conditions causing reactions resembling allergy to yogurt, including milk allergy and lactose intolerance.
Milk allergy involves your immune system. Milk is one of the eight most common food allergens and the most common food allergies in infants and children.
Intolerance to yogurt or other milk products is different from allergy, and the symptoms are usually from mild to moderate.
What Is an Allergy to Milk?
If you have an allergy to cow’s milk, your immune system reacts to the food protein found in milk every time you are exposed to this food.
Milk allergy mostly occurs in young children: in the United States, about 2.5 percent of children under 3 years of age are affected by a milk allergy.
The symptoms of food allergy usually include: itching, hives, swelling, stomach cramps, and vomiting. It takes about two hours for the symptoms to develop.
In severe cases, an allergic reaction to milk may lead to anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening emergency. If you had a history of anaphylaxis, you may be recommended to carry an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector.
To treat the symptoms of milk allergy, you can use short-acting antihistamines, for example, Benadryl with active ingredient diphenhydramine. There are also longer-acting antihistamines, such as Zyrtec (cetirizine hydrochloride), Allegra (fexofenadine), or Claritin (loratadine).
People with milk allergy should avoid eating milk-based products, including yogurt. You can replace it with a dairy-free alternative based on soy or coconut.
Which Dairy Alternatives Can You Use?
Nowadays, most supermarkets and smaller grocery stores offer various dairy-free alternatives to milk. If you have a milk allergy, try dairy-free or vegan butter, vegan milks and yogurts, vegan cheeses and coconut or soy milks, etc.
How Is Milk Allergy Diagnosed?
If you suspect having an allergy to milk, you should arrange a visit to your doctor. Special allergy testing will show whether you are allergic to dairy. In case, your test is negative, you are likely to have another condition, such as lactose intolerance.
If you think you may have a yogurt allergy, see your doctor for a diagnosis. You may have a milk allergy, or you may be lactose intolerant. Seek immediate medical care if your symptoms persist, especially if you have any symptoms that resemble anaphylaxis, such as trouble breathing.
How Is Lactose Intolerance Different from a Milk Allergy?
The symptoms of lactose intolerance are usually digestive, including: gas, upset stomach, bloating, and diarrhea. It may take from 30 minutes to several hours for the symptoms to appear.
Unlike food allergies, food intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system. Instead, the condition is caused by inability of your small intestine to break down lactose – a milk sugar. If the lactose is not broken down, it gets fermented by bacteria in your gut.
Lactose intolerance is a very common condition. According to researchers, about 65 percent of the world population is intolerant to lactose.
People with lactose intolerance may tolerate yogurt better than milk or cream, since yogurt contains less lactose than other dairy foods. However, this rather depends on individual cases.
If you seem to tolerate yogurt relatively well, you may want to try Greek yogurt, because it has less lactose compared to regular yogurt. This is because a bigger amount of whey is removed from the product during the manufacturing process. Experts believe that Greek yogurt is one of the most easily digestible mild-based foods. Some yogurts contain more protein, which also means more lactose. If you have a lactose intolerance, avoid labels saying, “whey protein concentrate”. There are also lactose-free dairy milks available in many grocery stores and supermarkets.
In some cases, you can treat the symptoms of lactose intolerance using lactose enzyme replacement tablets.
Can There Be Other Causes?
It is also possible that you experience allergy-like symptoms, such as nasal congestion or watery eyes, after eating yogurt, but your allergy test show negative. In this case, the reaction is likely to be caused by the histamine found in yogurt.
An allergic reaction involves the release of histamine by your immune system. This chemical is responsible for many allergy symptoms. Apart form yogurt, histamine is contained in foods like sardines, anchovies, or other fermented foods.