Forget Gluten, Maybe Dairy Is Your Problem

If you’re experiencing discomfort every time you eat, you may have a food intolerance

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Maybe wheat isn’t what you’re allergic to.

Food allergies are unfortunate — they can make dining out and traveling very difficult. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that between 1997 to 2011, food allergies increased by 50 percent. Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans live with food allergies, many of which go undiagnosed. Recognizing symptoms could help you eliminate the food that irritates your body.

Click here for The 7 Most Common Food Allergies slideshow.

Now that every product can be made without gluten, more and more people are trying out the gluten-free diet. When it comes to gluten intolerance, sufferers can experience celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, long before gluten allergies became the talk of the town, lactose allergies were — and still are — extremely common. Similar to gluten intolerance and celiac disease, milk allergies and lactose intolerance are two distinct conditions.

“Lactose or dairy intolerance occurs when the small intestine cannot make an adequate amount of lactase, which is the enzyme necessary to break down lactose in dairy products,” says Bridget Bennett, nutritionist for Indie Fresh. “It can result in very similar symptoms as gluten intolerance, with painful bloating, gas, and diarrhea resulting from undigested compounds passing into the large intestine.”

Symptoms can be alleviated by eliminating dairy or the lactase enzyme found in dairy products. However, it is difficult to diagnose a food allergy or disease, because many symptoms overlap.

“While celiac disease is an autoimmune response where the proteins in gluten cause the small intestine to become damaged, non-celiac gluten sensitivity does not involve the small intestine but manifests more like an allergic reaction, even though testing may show no antibodies,” Bennett says.

Similar to diets designed to address dairy intolerance, eliminating foods that contain gluten when you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can improve symptoms and restore your health. Bennett recommends getting tested to rule of the possibility of other gastrointestinal diseases.

“If an intolerance or allergy is suspected, I recommend first backing off allergy-specific foods and evaluating how you feel, day to day,” Bennett says. Keeping a food diary can be helpful for recognizing which foods encourage certain symptoms. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment and meeting with a nutritionist may be your first step to feeling better and eliminating allergy symptoms.  



The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow The Daily Meal editorial staff member, Julie Ruggirello.