One of the most common foods to react to is dairy. But not all reactions are the same.
Having symptoms after eating dairy of any kind can be frustrating, and even make you feel like life won’t be the same ever again!
But thankfully, understanding the differences between types of reactions to dairy can help you overcome your particular problem, and sometimes even help you get back to “normal” again.
What is the difference between a dairy allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity?
- Dairy allergies occur when the IgE antibodies and T-cells respond to a food molecule . In other words, your body thinks that a foreign invader has entered the body and it mounts an immune response. Allergic reactions to food are usually very serious, and often life-long. They can be triggered when smelling, touching, or eating a particular food such as dairy. Although a dairy allergy is rare, it is the most serious of the three reactions and you should consult a practitioner who can help you determine the root cause and a way to deal with the symptoms.
- Dairy intolerances occur when the body is lacking an enzyme needed to digest a certain food. Lactose intolerance is one common example caused by a lack of enzymes (specifically “lactase”) responsible for breaking down the milk sugar (called “lactose”) in dairy. As a result of being deficient in enzymes, your body cannot break down the sugar and it enters your digestive tract fully intact, disrupting the microflora in the gut producing gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. The good news is that raw dairy contains many naturally occurring enzymes which help break down lactose and “pre-digest” the milk sugar. This is why as many as 80% of lactose-intolerant people can drink raw milk beautifully. 
- Dairy sensitivities are experienced when an individual eats dairy and sometimes experiences adverse effects like bloating and gas, abdominal pain, brain fog, or nausea, but an immune response isn’t triggered. The body’s response to the food varies from case to case. Dairy sensitivities are very common today, and are often associated with the condition called “leaky gut.” Leaky gut often develops when the body is exposed to toxins like glyphosate (Roundup most commonly sprayed on grain crops) and isn’t being nourished and protected properly by real foods (like collagen-rich bone broth and nutrient-dense animal products), low stress, and a healthy lifestyle. This leads to food particles passing from the digestive system into the bloodstream, triggering reactions in the body that can vary based on the level of exposure to a food. This means that for dairy, someone may be fine on yogurt and cheese, but react to milk. Some may react to regular milk but might be fine on A2 milk. Raw milk is often beneficial to those who struggle with a sensitivity to dairy because the structure of the proteins in raw milk is more natural to your digestive system and less likely to enter the bloodstream and cause a reaction. 
How To Heal Dairy Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities
Now that you’re more clear about what the differences are between dairy allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity, let’s discuss options when it comes to treating each of these groups.
Understanding A Dairy Allergy
As mentioned above, consult a qualified practitioner if you find yourself extremely allergic to dairy or any food group. Because this is serious, you’ll want to better understand your own body and what to do in the case of a reaction. You may find that you’re not as sensitive as you thought, and may be able to implement some of the remedies for a dairy intolerance or sensitivity.
How To Overcome Dairy Intolerance
Dairy intolerance is common with pasteurized milk, but the good news is that raw milk can help! Raw milk’s natural enzyme lactase will help your body break down sugar. Switching to raw milk will allow up to 80% of lactose-intolerant people to drink milk again. To enhance the benefits of lactase and further break down the lactose before consuming dairy, try making yogurt or kefir (both fermented products) which boost lactase enzymes. This is easy to do at home by simply obtaining a starter and inoculating and incubating your yogurt or kefir. Try a small amount (4-6 oz) at first, then work your way up.
How To Overcome A Dairy Sensitivity
Dairy sensitivities vary widely, so it’s helpful to understand that the most likely culprit causing dairy sensitivity is the proteins in dairy. Fats are much less likely to cause a reaction. Therefore, consider this list of dairy products listed in order from the least to the most reactive based on the content and properties of the dairy proteins in them:
- Ghee or clarified butter (virtually zero dairy proteins)
- Fermented dairy, such as yogurt and kefir
- Whole raw milk
- Raw cheeses (made of primarily the milk solids; protein)
- Pasteurized milk (denatured proteins)
Cutting out the most problematic dairy products from your diet (like pasteurized milk, for example) can be a place to start if you react to dairy. Introducing raw milk can further help you deal with a dairy sensitivity, and in the worst case, restricting your dairy intake to only ghee is an option until you can heal your gut.
Consulting a practitioner who can do a food sensitivity test and gut analysis will give you a much more concrete plan for restoring dairy to your diet by healing your gut. This typically involves drawing blood to determine which foods you react to and matching them up to your gut health to determine how to heal and restore your gut to prevent food particles from entering the bloodstream causing the sensitivity.
- For help identifying and creating a customized protocol to overcome and heal leaky gut and eliminate food sensitivities, check out Robust Living Nutrition where Nicole Bartlett NTP offers consultations and testing. www.robustlivingnutrition.com