Dairy Intolerance

What is milk?

pouring a glass of milk

Milk is produced by the mammary glands of animals and is typically a white liquid substance. This can take the form of cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and buffalo milk, amongst others. The most common is cow’s milk and this forms a large percentage of the western diet. Did you know it’s made up of 87% water and 13% solids which includes proteins, lactose, fats and proteins?

There are many health benefits associated with drinking milk. However, not everybody can tolerate it. For some, this could result in an allergic reaction or a delayed reaction due to a milk or lactose intolerance.

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What is dairy?

Food produced from the milk of mammals is classed as dairy. The most common foods made from dairy are yoghurt, cheese, ice cream, and butter.

What is the difference between a milk allergy and a milk intolerance?

Many people suspect that allergies and intolerances are the same thing. However, the biological processes behind them are, in fact, totally different.

Food allergies are an immediate, potentially life-threatening, reaction to foods, such as milk. Symptoms may come on very quickly, often within minutes of eating the food. Approximately 2% of the adult population (UK figures) suffer from food allergies, and reactions are usually for life. If you have food allergies, your body produces IgE antibodies. Food-specific IgG (food intolerance) reactions, meanwhile, are usually delayed and are not life-threatening, but they can make life difficult. Food intolerances are not necessarily lifelong. You can find out more on the differences between allergy and intolerance here.

In addition to milk allergy and milk intolerance, lactose intolerance can also incite further confusion.

What is the difference between a milk intolerance and lactose intolerance?

The difference between lactose and milk intolerance differs greatly. While lactose intolerance is caused by a reaction to the sugar in milk, it is NOT the same as a milk allergy or milk intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is a digestive issue which is caused by an enzyme deficiency. People who suffer from lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products. If you have a milk protein intolerance (defined by YorkTest as a food-specific IgG reaction), your body reacts negatively to the dairy protein. This means that you should look to remove all animal milks, such as cow, sheep or goat from your diet as the proteins are similar, unless they are separately tested.

Lactose intolerance can produce similar symptoms to a milk allergy and a milk intolerance; the reaction of a lactose intolerance can be delayed, similar to an IgG reaction. However, lactose intolerance is for life, similar to an allergy. If you suspect you have a lactose intolerance, please consult your GP where they may perform certain tests which could diagnose the deficiency, such as a hydrogen breath test.

What are the symptoms of being allergic to dairy?

A food allergy could be fatal, and a reaction is almost immediate, affecting around 2% of the population. Symptoms of a milk allergy may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Swollen lips or tongue
  • Wheezing and chest tightness
  • Feeling sick, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Itchy, red and watering eyes.

If you are concerned you may have an allergy to dairy, it is important to consult your GP.

What are the symptoms of dairy intolerance?

The symptoms of a milk protein intolerance (IgG) are wide-ranging, so it is important to discuss your symptoms with your GP before taking a closer look at your diet. Dairy intolerance symptoms could include, but are not limited to:

  • IBS symptoms – abdominal pain, bloating, excess wind
  • Skin complaints – eczema, psoriasis, urticaria (hives), rashes, itchy skin
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Respiratory problems
Can you outgrow a dairy intolerance?

Yes, it is possible to outgrow a milk intolerance, if this is an intolerance to the milk protein (IgG). However, please note that if you are diagnosed as lactose intolerant by your GP, you cannot outgrow this type of intolerance, but it can sometimes be helped by taking digestive enzymes.

How long does it take for dairy intolerance to show?

A food intolerance usually involves a delayed biological reaction. It is thought that a milk-specific IgG reaction can take between 2 to 72 hours to show.

How do you test for a milk intolerance?

There’s an easy way to determine if you are milk intolerant. YorkTest, Europe’s leading provider in food intolerance testing, has been providing IgG food intolerance testing, which include milk-specific IgG antibody reactions, for over 35 years.

YorkTest FirstStep TestYorkTest’s FirstStep Test – £24.99 – This indicator test provides a simple yes or no result for a food intolerance. If a positive reaction is identified, you can progress onto one of the full food intolerance programme to see which individual food triggers you have, including milk-specific IgG. You will also be provided with post-result aftercare, including content material and nutritional consultation(s).

It is estimated that 45% of the population suffer from a food intolerance. YorkTest has found that the average person reacts to 4 to 5 different ingredients. Our Premium Food&Drink programme, for example, can assess the level of anti-milk antibodies in the blood, such as cow’s milk, sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. You may find you react to cow’s milk but tolerate other animal milks.  Therefore, it’s always worthwhile to consider an IgG food intolerance test before jumping into an elimination diet by yourself.

Please note that YorkTest’s programmes do not measure the levels of lactase, and therefore do not diagnose lactose intolerance. If the food intolerance test results indicate that you may have a milk intolerance, it does not mean that you have lactose intolerance, although you may wish to consult your doctor for further tests, as you may have both.

Which foods contain dairy?

There are many products which contain milk. Being aware of these is important when making changes to optimise your diet. The following list of ingredients should be avoided if you have a milk intolerance:

dairy intolerance and ice cream

  • Milk (whole, semi skimmed, skimmed, UHT, condensed, powdered)
  • Cream (single, double, soured, 
  • whipping, aerosol)
  • Cheeses (hard, soft and spreadable)
  • Butter and buttermilk
  • Crème fraiche
  • Fromage frais
  • Ice cream
  • Yoghurt
Does milk have other names?

Since December 2014, the Food Information Regulation classified 14 major food allergens which fall under the Food Safety Authority (FSA). It is a legal requirement that food businesses must provide allergen information in any food they sell or provide, making it easier for people with food allergies or intolerances to identify the trigger foods they need to avoid.

You will notice the main allergens on product packaging in bold and milk is one of them. However, milk can also take on other names that may not necessarily be in bold.

Milk can also be called:

  • Lactoglobulin
  • Lactalbumin
  • Casein
  • Caseinate
  • Lactose

If you notice these names on product packaging, it’s best to steer clear of these ingredients if you are actively avoiding milk products.

What are dairy-free foods?

If you have a milk intolerance, there’s no need to worry. Now more than ever, there are plenty of milk-free and dairy-free options available in major supermarkets, coffee shops, and restaurants. To ensure you maintain a balanced diet which provides protein, calcium and fat-soluble vitamins, you can supplement your diet with a variety of dairy alternatives. These include:

  • Coconut milk
  • Rice milk
  • Oat milk
  • Sunflower or olive oil spreads
  • Soya cheese
  • Nut cheese
  • Almond or hazelnut milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Soya milk
How do I get enough calcium on a milk-free diet?

Milk can be an important source of calcium and, therefore, it is natural to become cautious when removing this from your diet, due to a risk of Osteoporosis or calcium/Vitamin D deficiency.

If your results show you have a milk intolerance, YorkTest’s Nutritional Therapists are here to help. Nutritional consultations are provided with any of YorkTest’s full food intolerance programmes which gives you a worthwhile opportunity to discuss a range of alternatives not listed above that could support with your elimination diet and your calcium levels. They will also give you bespoke advice on what foods and drinks you need to avoid which contain milk/dairy that are currently in your diet.

Making health happen

Did you know that 4 out of 5 people who followed one of our full programmes noticed an improvement in their symptoms? You can check out our 2017 customer survey for more information. To give you an insight into our customer journeys, we’ve selected a few snippets below whose lives were improved after eliminating milk from their diet amongst other trigger foods. They’ve found their food fingerprint with YorkTest. Is it time to discover yours?

Further support

Whether it’s to ask a quick question or to purchase a test, you can find us on live chat, or you can call our friendly Customer Care team on our free phone number: 0800 074 6185.

Liked this? You might also be interested in:

Milk allergy or intolerance? – Not sure on the difference? This blog post gives you complete explanations on milk allergy, milk intolerance and also lactose intolerance.

Dairy-free breakfast ideas – Get the lowdown on dairy-free breakfast ideas to kickstart your day.

5 food swaps for your food intolerances – did you know the average person reacts to more than one food and drink ingredient? Find out what other alternatives you can have to support your elimination diet, following a YorkTest programme.

YorkTest define food intolerance as a food-specific IgG reaction
YorkTest recommend that you discuss any medical concerns you have with a GP before undertaking a YorkTest programme

YorkTest define Food Intolerance as a food-specific IgG reaction. Our information is intended to provide nutritional advice for dietary optimisation. YorkTest do not claim to treat or cure symptoms and recommend that you discuss any medical concerns you have with a GP before undertaking a YorkTest programme.


YorkTest Offers Money Back Guarantee. We Will Refund You If You Are Not Intolerant​



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