Milk allergy is the reaction of the immune system to proteins that are contained in milk. These do not cause any reaction in non-allergic people, but can trigger responses such as vomiting, wheezing, hives, diarrhoea etc. in those who are allergic to milk. In some case, the life-threatening condition anaphylaxis can also be the result of consumption of milk by a person who is allergic to it.
In such a scenario, it becomes important for those allergic to milk to know how to select a diet that contains no milk. However, milk is an important source of nutrients that are required by our bodies to grow and remain healthy. These include calcium and protein. Now, as milk allergy is common in children up to the age of three years, it is necessary that parents know not only how to avoid milk but also its substitutes, so that the child receives proper nutrition from his or her food. Adults who live with milk allergy also need to be able to change their lifestyle so that they are not caused any inconvenience due to milk consumption. Luckily, with some precaution, it is easy to do both these things, as has been explained below.
To avoid food that has milk in it, you need to get into the habit of reading labels on all food that comes packed. Information regarding allergens in the food, such as milk, nuts etc. is clearly mentioned on all food packages these days. Read the labels even if you think there is hardly any chance of something containing milk products: it is possible that milk was used at some step in the production process. As long as you have not cooked the food yourself, you cannot know what it contains, so it is important to ask restaurant staff whether a dish or drink has any milk or milk products in it. If you have the slightest doubt, be sure to ask.
Having dismissed milk from our diet, we can now tackle the problem of finding sources of protein and calcium other than milk. For infants, there are many formula foods which can be used as substitutes for milk. Formula based on soy (some infants, however, can be allergic to soy as well); hydrolyzed protein etc. is suggested for babies or children who show signs of milk allergy. Formula based on oat or rice milk also provides essential ingredients that are cut down upon when dairy is eliminated from the diet.
For infants, toddlers, and adults, there are many alternatives to milk and milk products. These include oat, soy, rice, almond, and coconut milk. Tofu can be used as a substitute for cottage cheese. However, it is possible that these foods cause allergic reactions in some people too. It is best to consult your physician on this matter. Getting tested for food allergies is also a good idea, so you may know just what kind of food to avoid: this can help you prevent allergic response that can cause much inconvenience and even prove dangerous.
Simon Jackson loves to share his knowledge about milk allergy (interesting to know is that the Danish term is mælkeallergi) in various blogs.