What is lactose intolerance?
It is estimated that one in three adults suffer from lactose intolerance and it appears to be inherited in about 80% of the world’s population, including most Greeks, Asians, and Africans. What’s more, while lactose intolerance is so common, and some people may suffer terribly with it, the majority of sufferers do not know they are lactose intolerant, and are unaware it is lactose that is causing their bodies distresss. So what is lactose, and why are so many people intolerant to it?
Lactose is one of the prime sugar compounds found in milk. It is present in any milk which comes from animals or humans. In our bodies, we have many different kinds of enzymes which deal with our food intake. These enzymes are basically converters. They take the raw materials we consume, and convert them into special fuel and nutrients our bodies can then use. Without these enzymes, our bodies wouldn’t be able to run on what we give them as raw materials, almost like a diesel car wouldn’t run if you put petrol into it. The enzyme that is responsible for converting lactose into something useful is lactase, which is produced within the small intestine. As babies, our lactose tolerance tends to be at its highest in our lifetimes. This is because of human evolution, where females produce breast milk and babies are weaned on this milk, and sometimes only on this milk, for a short time. When a baby gets older, between the ages of two to five, we tend to lose much of our tolerance to lactose. The reason for this is, although lactose can sustain a baby during the earliest times, it is absolutely inadequate and inefficient as a main glucose source for people who are older and more active. When we get older and begin eating other foods, our main source of glucose is carbohydrates. Because of this, our small intestines begin to produce less of the lactase enzyme, because high amounts simply aren’t needed anymore.
The result is, when we drink milk or consume other products which are high in lactose content, our bodies can have a hard time processing all of the lactose due to such low lactase production. This can lead to symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea. Of course, symptoms will depend entirely on an individual’s lactase production levels and lactose consumption levels. It also is worth noting not all babies are lactose tolerant, and some may suffer side effects. If you think your baby may be lactose intolerant, you should raise your concerns with your doctor. Those who suffer from any discomfort after eating or drinking milk products can consume foods labeled lactose-free or take an enzyme preparation such as Lact-Aid to aid digestion. Remember that lactose intolerance varies and the amount of lactose allowed in a diet depends on an individual’s tolerance. Some people cannot tolerate milk, ice cream, or creamed foods, but they can eat aged cheeses and yogurt (some brands are better tolerated than others) without difficulty.
Food additives that dairy allergy sufferers should avoid
If you suffer from dairy allergy or intolerance you should beware of the following list of food additives. Each of these additives can be made from dairy and could make you sick. Keep this list in your wallet or purse so that you can check food labels for these hidden sources of dairy.
Food Additives That May Contain Dairy:
● Calcium caseinate
● Calcium lactate
● Calcium stearoyl lactylate
● Lactic Acid
● Potassium lactate
● Sodium stearoyl fumarate
Eliminating dairy and dairy derivatives from your diet usually means you have significantly decreased the amount of calcium in your diet. Make sure you get adequate calcium by including the following foods in your dairy-free diet:
● Almonds, sesame seeds, filberts
● Asparagus, cabbage, broccoli
● Blackstrap molasses
● Figs, prunes
● Kale, collard, turnip/mustard/dandelion greens
● Oats, soybeans, tofu
By C. Farlow, Food Additives: A Shopper’s Guide to What’s Safe and What’s Not