Ice cream. A treat that is loved by people all across the globe - myself included. It tastes so good, good enough to make me sick. Suddenly, I am covered in red rashes and find myself sneezing profusely. I remember my mom saying, “I told you to stay away from milk and milk based products. You don’t listen to me! “ But how do you resist something so tasty? I pondered. ”You have to resist for your own good.” This may be easier said than done.
According to Mayo Clinic, an allergy is an abnormal response of our own immune system, causing our bodies to fight a peaceful substance. This can cause a variety of symptoms which can range from coughing and wheezing, to shortness of breath and digestion problems. I am lucky that my milk allergy is moderate and does not cause anaphylaxis (closing of the airway). Some people, however, aren’t as lucky. In fact, anaphylaxis is quite a common issue. Though there are parallel symptoms between a milk allergy and lactose intolerance, it is important to note that they are not the same. Each needs different routes of treatment in order for a patient to experience relief.
So, how did I find out I have a milk allergy?
When I was about one year old, my mom took me to a doctor as I was showing signs of breathlessness after drinking milk. They performed blood and skin tests, and determined that I had developed a milk allergy. When I first learned this, I wondered: “why did it take so long to figure it out?”
It didn’t. We don’t have a fully developed immune system at birth. As it continues to grow, our systems can make mistakes and initiate fights that have no source of prior conflict, hence allergies. In my case, when I drink milk, my immune system sends out antibodies to attack the casein protein found in the substance, which creates sickness-like responses. These responses are different in each individual.
How do I cope with my love for sweets and how do I manage symptoms?
I rely on antihistamines or sometimes epinephrine shots. Both of these help my body to realize that there is nothing harmful to battle within it. Since you can’t be taking these drugs constantly, I avoid consuming milk at all costs. I do this by looking up the labels for each and every product I eat. Sometimes the casein protein will be found in food products that don’t list it as an ingredient. It is important to be aware of this, and consult your immunotherapist or general practitioner about any foods or drinks you are concerned about. I mainly eat soy or rice based frozen desserts, sorbets or puddings which are really good substitutes for those I can’t enjoy, like ice cream. I will admit, I give in sometimes and eat treats that contain the casein protein, but I quickly pay for it by experiencing my usual symptoms. Then as usual I have red rashes and have to take antihistamines. I have to take supplements too to fulfill my daily calcium and Vitamin-D requirements. This makes for quite the hassle. Thankfully, this allergy is well-known and science revolving around it is rapidly advancing. Soon enough, we will have better treatment. It’s just a matter of time, patience and symptom management.
In the meantime, however, if you or someone you know is struggling with symptom management or resistance, please feel free to reach out to me through our TWE platforms. I would be more than happy to offer you further tips and tricks.