General Question

poofandmook's avatar

Lactose Intolerance?

Asked by poofandmook (17282points) July 30th, 2008

I’ve tried to look this up on Google, but a) there’s too much technical science stuff to wade through, and b) some info I need is missing.

Do people generally develop LI as they get older? Is it LI if milk and cheese bother you but not other dairy products like ice cream, butter, sour cream, whipped cream, etc.? Also, is it LI if it doesn’t happen all the time?

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7 Answers

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I can’t answer all of your questions, but I can answer some of them, based on nutrution and human physiology classes I’ve taken.

LI can be linked to genetics, (for example full-blood Native Americans are almost always completely lactose intolerant), but it can also be linked to aging. How this works is,
“Normally, your body produces large amounts of lactase (the enzyme that digests lactose) at birth and during early childhood, when milk is the primary source of nutrition. Usually your lactase production decreases as your diet becomes more varied and less reliant on milk. This gradual decline may cause symptoms of lactose intolerance.”

Before 1492, the Native American diet did not include any form of dairy products, (such as cows, sheep, goats as these were not present in the North America at the time), after infancy, they did not inject lactose at all, so their bodies stopped producing lactase. After generations of this, Native Americans are just more prone to LI.

So, not everyone gets LI as they get older, but if you have it, it can get worse as you get older.
Different dairy products have differing amounts of lactose, and they are consumed in varying amounts. For example, of the list you mention, I think butter has very little actual lactose, since lactose is milk sugar, and butter is only a part of milkfat. Also you wouldn’t eat 8 oz of butter or sour cream in one sitting, like you would milk. Also, “hard cheeses such as Swiss or cheddar have small amounts of lactose and generally cause no symptoms.” Apparently yogurt is usually cool too, because yogurt, because “the bacteria used in the culturing process naturally produce the enzyme that breaks down lactose”.

Yes, it is still LI if it does not happen all the time. So the enzyme lactase is essential to digesting lactose. If your body does not make enough, that’s when you have a problem. So let’s say your body makes enough to digest one glass of milk, but not two, or enough for one glass of milk, but not that AND mac. and cheese. When you only eat the mac&cheese, you’re fine, but when you drink the milk too, then you have symptoms.

I guess I did answer all your questions. The Mayo Clinic website was pretty straightforward, if you still are unclear, don’t hesistate to ask me, or you could look there.

Also, you didn’t ask this, but I read about something called “lactase enzyme tablets”. It sounded like you could get them at a pharmacy without a prescription. Basically you take the tablet right before eating, and it replaces the lactase your body was lacking.

poofandmook's avatar

@chica: That’s Lactaid, right?

The reason why I ask is because I’ve been pretty into cold cereal these past several days, mainly because I can get 4oz individual cups at Quick Chek and it’s the perfect size. Yesterday after eating one for 2 meals, I was sick to my stomach. Today, after eating one for breakfast, I was sick to my stomach again. Yet Monday, I ate basically one for each of the three meals and was fine. Very odd.

Indy318's avatar

Being lactose intolerant is actually a normal characteric of humans, those who can digest milk after their childhood are the mutants. This mutantstion is relatively new (just a few thousand years) due to fact we started to herd cows and sheep as the human population became more civilized. The ability to digest lactose was only needed until we are weaned to solid foods, then out body naturally decreased its lactase (enzyme needed to break down the dairy sugars) production. In Europe, lactose intolerance very low because milk was still avaiable in the diet, so the people adapted to allow a healthy digestion of milk.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

i thought “lactaid” was a brand of lactose-free milk my grandma used to drink, but i really don’t know.

it does seem odd. but like indy said, almost everyone has some degree of intolerance (personally i’m a huge mutant. i drink 3 or 4 glasses in one meal)

the mayoclinic article also mentioned that if you injest dairy with other foods, it digests slower, and that’s somehow better. did you eat any other food with the cereal the day that you were fine?

poofandmook's avatar

I’m trying to remember… I might’ve had PB&J at some point. That sounds likely. Strawberry jelly, white bread.

sdeutsch's avatar

Lactaid makes several milk products (which are life-savers for us lactose intolerant folks), but they also make the enzyme pills that chica is talking about. That way, if you want to eat something else with lactose in it (cheese, ice cream, etc.), you just pop one of the pills with your first bite, and it helps you digest the lactose.

I’ve been using Lactaid pills (as well as the milk) for several years, and I highly recommend them. There are lots of things that I thought I’d have to give up when I started to become LI, but now I can eat all the creamy stuff I want!

Also, if ice cream is bothering you, Breyers just started making a lactose-free version of their vanilla ice cream – I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine it’s pretty good.

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