Difference Between Lactose and Dairy Free

A very common mistake that people make is thinking lactose free and dairy free mean the same thing. However, lactose free and dairy free do not mean the same thing although lactose free can be a sub result of dairy free for some cases. Lactose free and dairy free diets are important for different reasons, and it is important to identify their differences and similarities.

What is Lactose Free?

Lactose is a sugar; specifically a disaccharide. This sugar is made up of two constituents, glucose and galactose. These simple sugars are readily absorbed by our bodies. Therefore, when we consume any meal containing lactose, it will be broken into glucose and galactose inside our intestines. The enzyme, which does this job, is called lactase. In some of us, this enzyme is not produced in adequate quantities, or there is a variation in the production. This leads to a condition called “Lactose intolerance” where people who has the lactase deficiency experience gas, stomach ache, bloating, and even diarrhea after a meal which contained lactose. To avoid this complication they either eat “lactose free” food or take lactase supplements. Lactose is a main part in milk. Therefore, avoiding dairy based food is a must. Milk, cream, desserts with milky base, creamy vegetables, soups should be avoided. Butter does not create much of a problem in most cases because, during the production, most of the lactose is separated. Yoghurt is also tolerable for many because the bacteria that are used to convert milk to yoghurt have lactase enzyme and break the lactose beforehand. A person who has lactose intolerance, therefore, should have “lactose free- dairy products” or “lactose free” food.

What is Dairy Free?

Dairy free means “milk free”. Like some cannot tolerate lactose in milk or any other food, some others cannot tolerate milk proteins; mainly casein. This is generally known as milk allergy. What happens is when casein enters our body; our immune system recognizes these molecules as dangerous substances and increases the level of immunoglobulin E and histamine to attack. As a result, inflammatory response is shown by symptoms such as vomiting, skin itching, diarrhea etc. As this is an immunological response, it should be taken very seriously, and people who even have a minor milk allergy should avoid milk-based food at all times. Some doctors go to the extent to say that a milk allergic person should not eat a meat loaf if it is cut from the same knife after cutting cheese.

All lactose free meals are not dairy free. If the protein constituent is present, it cannot be counted as a dairy-free food. Some food items target people who want to lose weight. They use milk substitutes, which may contain casein derivatives like sodium caseinate. These are equally dangerous for a milk allergic person. The only substitutes possible are soy milk, almond milk etc. having a plant origin.

What is the difference between Lactose free and dairy free?

• Lactose free is any food without lactose sugar, but dairy free means any food without milk; specifically without the milk protein casein.

• Lactose free food is used for lactose intolerance, but dairy free food is used for milk allergy.