3 Signs Your Child Is Sensitive (Not Allergic) To Dairy, From An N.D.

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Some of the biggest battles between parents and children begin at the dinner table. Despite a parent's best efforts to sneak veggies onto the plate, most kids will go pick around the greens and go straight for the grilled cheese, polished off with a glass of milk.

While there's nothing wrong with good ol' fashioned comfort food now and again, some parents may wonder if the dairy-rich meals are wreaking havoc on their child's health. Thankfully there are some telltale signs your kid may have a dairy sensitivity, and you can easily make the switch to dairy-free ingredients, if necessary.

Dairy sensitivity vs. allergy

Many children (and adults) have food intolerances that aren't full blown allergies, but can still affect overall health and comfort.

Food allergies are immune-mediated responses that can lead to hives, anaphylaxis, and swelling. Food sensitivities or intolerances, on the other hand, are triggered by a response in the digestive system, not the immune system. They generally occur when a person can't process or digest a certain food.


Signs your child may be sensitive to dairy.

1. Digestive issues

Digestive upset is one of the most obvious signs your child has a food sensitivity. Tummy aches, gas, constipation, and diarrhea are all symptoms of food sensitivities. If your child is suffering from many of these gastrointestinal (GI) issues, it may be worth cutting out dairy for a while to see if the symptoms dissipate.

2. Eczema

Cow's milk is one of the most common food allergens in children who suffer from eczema. Since the skin condition is triggered by inflammation, removing dairy from your child’s diet may dramatically reduce the severity of their rashes.


3. Headaches

While the symptom is less common than gastrointestinal issues, headaches and migraines have been associated with lactose intolerance. If your child has headaches after consuming dairy—especially in combination with the other symptoms—it's possible that the two are connected.

Try swapping their cow's milk with almond, oat, or another plant-based milk alternative, and use nutritional yeast in place of cheese, then see if the headaches lessen.

Bottom Line.

Food sensitivities aren't always the cause of these health conditions, but they can be a huge contributing factor. It’s also important to remember that every child is different. Meaning, not all kids with these symptoms have a dairy sensitivity, and not all kids with a dairy sensitivity will display these symptoms.

Seek the help of a pediatrician to help identify food sensitivities and guide you in planning a more gut- and kid-friendly diet (yes, ice cream is still on the table). And, of course, if there are any concerning signs or symptoms, please reach out to your doctor immediately.

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