Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lactose Intolerance: Marketing Hype or Ligitimate Disorder?

True lactose intolerance results from a deficiency of lactase, the intestinal enzyme that splits lactose (milk sugar) into glucose and galactose, to be absorbed into the blood. Undigested lactose attracts water in the intestine, causing the bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Bacteria in the large intestine metabolize the sugars into irritating acids and gases, increasing the discomfort. The severity varies among individuals.
It is a rare case that a person is born with such a deficiency and pretty limited to certain ethnic groups. More often, lactose intolerance is the result of damaged intestinal lining, either through radiation therapy, malnutrition, diarrhea, toxins (including food poisoning), antibiotics, or by the naturally diminishing lactase activity that comes with the aging process. In many cases, it is a temporary condition.
Many people believe they are lactose intolerant when they are not, thanks to vigorous advertising campaigns that promote products for lactose intolerance. Lactose is found in many foods besides dairy products, so if you are truly lactose intolerant, you would also have the same symptoms from eating certain breads, cereals, salad dressings, cake mixes, or anything containing whey protein and casein.
Yet, even some people with true lactose intolerance are able to consume dairy products. The bacteria in the large intestine can digest lactose in small, regular doses. The metabolic capacity for lactose can develop as the micro flora adapt to digesting it. A few simple tricks can alleviate the discomfort:
  • Consume lactose (dairy) with other foods to slow down the transit of the sugar through the intestines, giving it more time to break down.
  • Eat dairy foods regularly so that the intestinal micro flora remain adapted to digesting lactose.
  • Limit lactose products to no more than 8 oz. at a time.
  • Yogurt has about 10 G. of lactose per cup, but the bacteria help digest it. A serving of hard cheese has less than one gram, while cottage cheese and ice cream contains 4-5 G. Fermented cheeses are usually better tolerated.
  • Lactase enzyme preparations can be added to dairy products, and fermented milk (contains acidophilus) are helpful, especially for temporary symptoms resulting from an illness. Acidophilus is a digestive bacteria that breaks down milk sugar, and is used in the fermenting process of dairy products, as in yogurt and cheese.
Total elimination of dairy products from the diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies that are difficult to obtain from alternate sources. Milk is a major source of calcium, riboflavin (vit. B2), vit. D, and proteins most easily absorbed by muscle tissue.
~Normal and Clinical Nutrition, 6th ed. Whitney, Cataldo, Rolfes

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