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What Is Dairy Free Food?

 Dairy refers to milk and any part of milk that comes from cows and other mammals. So to be dairy-free, a product must have no milk and no part of milk.

What Is Lactose Free Food?

 Lactose, on the other hand, is merely an ingredient in milk, or a part of milk. It is the sugar component of dairy products.  So a product that is dairy-free will not have lactose in it. What this means is that a product which is dairy-free is also lactose-free, but a product that is lactose-free is not neccesarily dairy-free.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Is also called lactase deficiency and hypolactasia, is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and to a lesser extent milk-derived dairy products.

What causes lactose intolerance?

The body digests lactose by using an enzyme called lactase to break down lactose into two simpler sugars called glucose and galactose, which can then be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Enzymes are proteins that cause chemical reactions to occur.

In cases of lactose intolerance, the body does not produce enough of the lactase enzyme so lactose stays in the digestive system, where it is fermented by bacteria (in the same way that yeast is fermented to produce beer). It’s this fermentation process that causes the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.

What Is the difference between Dairy Free And Lactose Free Food?

What is  usually refered to as dairy versus what lactose is, which is just one part of dairy. Dairy refers to milk and any part of milk that comes from cows and other mammals. So to be dairy-free, a product must have no milk and no part of milk. Lactose is merely an ingredient in milk, or a part of milk. It is the sugar component of dairy products. So a product that is dairy-free will not have lactose in it. A product which is dairy-free is also lactose-free, but a product that is lactose-free is not neccesarily dairy-free. 

A person with a milk allergy is quite often allergic to two protein components of milk,that is casein and whey. They are often found in products labeled "lactose-free" because although they are part of dairy in the same way that lactose is part of dairy, they are separate from one another. A product can remove the lactose but the rest of the milk can still be there!

So if your only concern is lactose, then lactose-free and dairy-free are both okay for you. However if you are allergic to dairy or parts of milk other than lactose like casein or whey, then stay away from lactose-free products and keep to those that are labeled dairy-free or vegan. 

Allergy - cow's milk

 Cow's milk allergy is an immune response to one or more of the proteins (albumin, casein or whey) in cow's milk. This means that when you consume cow's milk, your immune system identifies the protein as dangerous and mobilises your body's defences.The only effective treatment for cow's milk allergy is to fully eliminate cow's milk and any products containing it.

The difference between intolerance and allergy.

An intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. If you’re allergic to something, even a tiny particle can be enough to trigger a reaction, while most people with lactose intolerance can still consume small amounts of lactose with no ill-effects.

Terms such as food allergy and food intolerance are often used interchangeably, yet they represent a disparate group of conditions. Modern classifications have divided adverse reactions to food into those that are immune mediated - food allergy and those that are NOT immune mediated - food intolerance

Diagnosing lactose intolerance

If you suspect that you may be lactose intolerant, it is important  to get a diagnosis confirmed or ruled out by a doctor.

Who is affected

Levels of lactose intolerance can differ between different ethnic groups. For example, it is thought that only 1 in 50 people of Swedish descent have some degree of lactose intolerance whereas almost all people of Chinese descent have the condition. Most symptons first develop in people aged between 20 to 40, although in rare cases the intolerance can be present at birth. Both sexes are equally affected by lactose intolerance.

The above is a summary of information from the following sites. Visit them for more information:

BBC Good Food Guide

Dairy Free Cooking

Wikipedia

NHS UK

National Digestive Diseases USA

Lactose . com.au  Australia

Allergy UK