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Milk Allergy

Posted by : Prince, 01 Jun 2011 12:38 PM
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Allergy is a steadily increasing health problem for all age groups in our society. Food allergies mostly against milk, eggs, peanuts, soy or wheat affect large population. Milk allergy receives a significant mention because it is the first foreign protein encountered by the infant. Milk allergy can develop in both formula-fed and breast fed infants. Breast fed infants can develop milk allergy to cow's milk protein passed on through mother's milk.

Recent reports in India show that milk allergy is more rampant in big cities and is on the rise. It has been reported that it used to affect less than 5% of the general population in 1990, while today it is estimated to be over 50% in people who live in metropolitan cities of India suffering from health problems caused or aggravated by milk and milk products.

Allergy to milk normally remains unsuspected and undiagnosed but is a common cause of many health problems including stomach pain, peptic ulcers, hyperacidity, chronic diarrhoea, ulcerative colitis, type 1 diabetes, asthma, eczema, depression, hyperactive or aggressive behaviour, rheumatoid arthritis and flatulence. In most severe cases, failure to thrive has also been associated with allergy to milk.

We, at Hinduja Hospital offer a simple blood test that measures the immune system response to milk by measuring the amount of specific antibody, immunoglobulin E (IgE) responsible for allergic reactions to milk.

Our results of MILK specific IgE levels in 300 cases (2006-07) is alarming since 50 to 55% of children and 30 to 40% of adults, referred to us for suspected allergy to foods /milk, presenting with various clinical symptoms from skin rash to breathlessness, had detectable levels of milk specific IgE as measured by specific immunoassay and confirmed by immunoblot. As per the established classification based on IgE levels, our patients could be classified from Class 1 (mild) to class 6 (very high) and in our experience of 10 years, the numbers tested positive for food allergy in general and milk allergy in particular has gone up significantly.

The reasons could be varied from excessive use of pesticides on grass that cows eat, to wide spread administration of antibiotics to cows, to animal residues and to the addition of growth additives and hormones in cow's feed.

These issues need to be addressed since lower incidence of allergies has been reported in literature in people who drink cow's milk grazing on natural grass in fields with no pesticides and without being administered with exogenous drugs and additives.

Today milk allergy seems to be a serious problem affecting increasing number of people with symptoms which probably can be alleviated or cured by eliminating milk and its products from the diet.

Besides, in order to prevent any exposure of allergic patients to milk, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should release an ordinance requiring all food manufacturers to list common food allergens in plain terms on all food labels .For example, if a product contains casein, a milk protein, the product label should term "contains milk", to make it easier for a common man to identify the allergen.

Patients identified with milk allergies should know what they are eating or drinking, teach children with milk allergy not to accept food from friends and wear a Medical Alert Bracelet with information about your allergies.
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