Do you know anyone who can't consume milk or milk-based products? The condition is not uncommon and these people are classified as lactose intolerant.
Lactose is main carbohydrate or sugar found in milk, and in varying quantities in dairy products made from milk including yoghurt, ice cream, soft cheeses and butter. Lactose (milk sugar) intolerance results from an inability to digest lactose in small intestine.
Back in cave-days, only time a person would ever ingest lactose would be when they were infants getting milk from their mothers. During their adult lives milk was never consumed. Only with invention of agriculture has milk become readily available to adults. Lactose is unique in that only in milk does it exist as a free form, unattached to other molecules.
What causes lactose intolerance?
Lactose is digested in small intestine by an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme allows body to break down lactose into two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. These are quickly absorbed by intestine and provide energy for body. The level of lactase enzyme varies between individuals, as does severity of symptoms caused by lactose intolerance.
What are symptoms of lactose intolerance?
Symptoms range from milk abdominal discomfort, bloating and excessive wind to sever abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.
Substitutes for lactose-containing foods
Lactose intolerance generally isn't serious and can be controlled by some simple changes in your diet. The dietary changes for lactose intolerance should include exclusion of those foods highest in lactose. There is now a wide range of fresh soy milks, yoghurts and ice creams which are lactose free and calcium enriched. Many dairy foods actually have little or no lactose so you can continue to enjoy them.