Do you think you may be allergic to yogurt? It’s entirely possible. Yogurt is a cultured milk product. Milk allergy is one of the more common food allergies today. It’s the most common food allergy in babies and young children.

If you can’t tolerate yogurt, you may not have a true allergy. There are other conditions that have similar symptoms. If you think you may have a problem with yogurt, your doctor can help you determine your next steps.

Learn more about yogurt allergy.

Milk Allergy

An allergic reaction is your body’s response to a specific food protein that it sees as a threat. A yogurt allergy is a milk allergy by definition, says Sharon Chinthrajah, M.D., clinical assistant professor in the divisions of allergy and immunology at Stanford University and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Cow’s milk allergy is most common in young children. It affects 2.5 percent of children younger than three years old. Most children eventually outgrow this allergy.

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Common symptoms of a milk allergy range from the more minor, such as hives, swelling, and itching, to the more severe, including abdominal pain and vomiting. Some milk allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. Your doctor may ask you or your child to carry an EpiPen.

Treatment for mild milk allergy symptoms includes short-acting antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or longer-acting antihistamines, which include:

There’s no cure for food allergies. The simplest solution is to avoid the problematic food altogether.

In a true allergy, symptoms often occur within two hours of ingestion. If you have a true milk allergy, you won’t be able to eat yogurt. You’ll also be asked to avoid all milk or milk-containing products, such as cheese and ice cream.

Lactose Intolerance

A milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance. An allergy is an immunological reaction to the proteins in milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, your body lacks the ability to break down lactose, a milk sugar, in your small intestine.

Bacteria in your gut ferment lactose instead of it being broken down by your body. The symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  • gas
  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • diarrhea

These symptoms can appear anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours after having dairy.

Lactose intolerance is very common and affects approximately 65 percent of people globally. Unlike a milk allergy, lactose intolerance can sometimes be treated with lactose enzyme replacement pills. You may also need to avoid dairy and products that have lactose.

If you’re lactose intolerant, you may be able to tolerate yogurt better than milk or cream. That’s because yogurt has less lactose than most dairy products. Everyone responds to dairy differently, so your tolerance will be different than someone else who is lactose intolerant.

Greek yogurt has even less lactose than regular yogurt because more of the whey is removed. Greek yogurt is one of the most easily digestible dairy foods. Just make sure “whey protein concentrate” isn’t on the ingredient list. This is sometimes added to increase protein, but it also increases the lactose content.

Other Causes to Consider

What happens if your symptoms after eating yogurt resemble an allergic reaction but blood tests prove otherwise? It’s possible your watery eyes or nasal congestion could be your body’s response to the histamine in yogurt.

Histamine, which your body creates, is what causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Histamine is also found in many foods, including:

  • sardines
  • anchovies
  • yogurt
  • other fermented foods

Another potential cause of an allergic reaction to yogurt, though less common, is omega-3 fatty acids. Some yogurt companies have added omega-3 fatty acids to their products to boost heart health claims. You can also find omega-3 fatty acids in fish and nuts.

Speaking with Your Doctor

If you think you may have a yogurt allergy, see your doctor for a diagnosis. You may have a different allergy, such as a milk allergy, or you may be lactose intolerant. Seek immediate medical care if your symptoms persist and especially if you have any symptoms that resemble anaphylaxis, such as trouble breathing.