Lactose is present in all kinds of animal milks. Goat milk, for example, has about 5 to 10% more lactose than cow’s milk. In the past it was thought that only a minority of people suffered from lactose intolerance, but the latest research is dispelling this myth. The reality is that virtually all people are lactose intolerant – it’s just a matter of degree.
Lactose intolerance affects the body by causing varying degrees of nausea, bloating, cramps, gas, and diarrhea, which begin between 30 minutes and 2 hours after milk consumption. This happens because the body is unable to breakdown the lactose properly,
The symptoms vary depending on the amount of lactose consumed and the tolerance of the consumer. Lactose intolerance usually gets worse as you get older (you don’t outgrow it), with men and women suffering equally.
Lactose is the main sugar in milk. When it is consumed it gets broken down by lactase bacteria into glucose and galactose. But if, like most people, you don’t have enough lactase you will not be able to break the lactose down and this then causes the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Human babies have enough lactase to digest the lactose in human milk. But in the first few months or years of life the baby gradually loses the capacity to breakdown and digest lactose.
For example, in the USA the medical profession regards over 50 million people as being clinically lactose-intolerant. Some racial and ethnic populations are more widely affected than others. As many as 75 percent of African-Americans and American-Indians (and 90 percent of Asian-Americans) are said to be lactose-intolerant. The condition is known to be least common among people of northern European descent.
Even people who do not regard themselves as being lactose intolerant do in fact feel the effects whenever dairy milk is consumed. However, the effects for some people can be so mild as to be hardly noticeable. Slight feelings of bloating or indigestion will typically be associated with overindulgence or a rushed meal rather than with lactose intolerance.
There are dozens of studies showing how lactose in dairy milk causes human illness (too many to quote here). A quick search on Internet will reveal lots of studies into the subject.
The dietary guidelines given by the US authorities (for people wanting to avoid lactose intolerance) is to recommend they eat other calcium-containing foods like broccoli, fish and calcium fortified juices. This is poor advice because what people really want is information on milk alternatives.
You may, of course, consume ‘lactose reduced’ or ‘lactose free’ milk. For example in North America you can buy ‘Lactaid’ which is a brand of lactose-free milk. The drawback is that lactose-free milks are in general not so widely available, and are usually more expensive.
But the biggest drawback is that lactose-free milk is usually ultra-pasteurized (also known as UHT or ‘Long Life’ milk). This is a major drawback because all the research is showing that UHT milk is much worse for health compared to regular pasteurized milk. For example, the research is showing that UHT milk may be the biggest dietary cause of a variety of serous brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntingdon’s and others.
What then is the best way to avoid lactose in milk? There is a simple solution: switch to milk made from nuts, seeds, or soybeans. These non-dairy milks offer a wonderful variety of delicious flavours and they are full of healthy nutrients.