It can be difficult to tell a milk allergy from acid reflux disease.
Sometimes the symptoms of milk allergy and acid reflux disease are very much alike. A person who is allergic to milk may have problems with their digestive tract that are similar to the burning in the esophagus that is caused from acid reflux disease.
If upset stomach or vomiting occurs after drinking milk or eating milk products, doctors often recommend testing for a milk allergy. If this food allergy is identified, symptoms sometimes go away when milk products are avoided. An allergist can test for a milk allergy to see if milk is causing the problem.
Acid reflux disease
Acid reflux disease can cause reactions to foods that are similar to a milk allergy reaction of the digestive tract. According to the Mayo Clinic, acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This may cause a sour taste in your mouth and throat. Heartburn, or a burning feeling in your chest, is also common. A more serious type of acid reflux is GERD. GERD causes frequent heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and can cause other symptoms.
Several life changes have been found to help acid reflux disease and GERD. Losing weight, avoiding certain foods and eating smaller amounts of food at a time are often helpful. Some foods, called trigger foods, can begin an episode of acid reflux, including fried foods and chocolate. Antacids are often the first type of treatment for this disease, and your doctor can prescribe medication that will prevent excess acid from being produced in your stomach. Since GERD is more serious and often happens regularly, it may require further treatment, including surgery.
Milk allergy and GERD may be related
Some research has shown a link between milk allergy and GERD. A 1999 study that involved information gathered from mothers of infants pointed to the fact that many babies who had symptoms of vomiting and colic improved when taken off of milk-based formula. The GERD symptoms occurred again when the babies were again given formulas containing milk.
Another study that involved babies with the GERD symptom of frequent vomiting showed that about 50 percent of the babies had a milk allergy. This was shown when the babies had an Immunoglobulin E blood test for a milk allergy. The babies were taken off of milk and milk products, but only 20 percent of them had fewer GERD symptoms.
GERD in infants
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published a study online in August 2011 that involved children who were an average age of 12 months old. Eighty-one children in the study had symptoms of GERD and were given the drug omeprazole for one month. Two-thirds of the children experienced relief of their symptoms. The babies who did not respond to this medication were taken off of cow’s milk. Four weeks after milk was taken out of their diets, the group showed no signs of GERD.
This study found that one-third of the children with GERD symptoms had a milk allergy. The test showed that milk allergy can appear to be GERD during infancy. More research is needed to find the connection between milk allergy and GERD.