Monday, October 10, 2011

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose Intolerance

If you are finding it challenging to figure out if you are intolerant to lactose, which is the sugar that is found in milk products, I hope our experiences might help you in your process.

Twenty years ago shortly after my father passed away, my mother began having symptoms of diarrhea. After it persisted for awhile, she went to her doctor. It was determined that most likely the problem resulted from the stress of losing her husband. However, as time went on, the annoying symptoms continued, and she finally was referred to a gastroenterologist. A colonoscopy revealed that there was microscopic colitis seen in her colon. The doctor prescribed a prescription for a medicine costing $75 for a month’s supply of pills, and she was informed that she would probably need to take them for a long time.

When I accompanied her to the follow-up visit a couple of weeks later, it dawned on me that perhaps lactose was contributing to her problem. Since my mother’s symptoms did not appear until hours after drinking milk, she had not perceived that milk was the culprit. But I thought differently about that since we had learned just several months earlier that our daughter was lactose intolerant. It had been difficult to diagnose since the symptoms of it were delayed for hours and sometimes even into the next day. I mentioned this to my mother’s physician, and he suggested that she drink a very large glass of milk to see what would happen. Not wanting to endure possible misery from experimenting that way, my mother chose to simply stop consuming any dairy products for a few days. After two days of eliminating milk from her diet, she was symptom-free!

There are now tests that doctors might order to diagnose this, but we found that simply eliminating dairy products that contain lactose gave us the answer.

Sometimes the body may be producing a small amount of the enzyme (lactase) that helps digests the milk sugar (lactose), and the digestive system may be able to handle very small amounts of dairy products when consumed a few days apart. This factor can add to the confusion of trying to figure out if you are lactose intolerant. For example, it might be possible for you to drink a glass of milk after not having had any for a few days without having any symptoms, thus making someone think that milk doesn’t bother them. But possibly, if you drank a glass of milk for 2 consecutive days, the symptoms might return on that 2nd day of drinking milk.
Fortunately, it is fairly easy to find some lactose-free dairy products. In our family we prefer to use the organic lactose-free milk since we are trying to stay away from any remnant antibiotics that might be found in non-organic dairy products. Lactose-free cottage cheese is available in some grocery stores which works well in lasagna recipes. Sharp cheddar cheeses typically don’t contain lactose since they have been fermented long enough to eliminate the lactose. Also, most commercial yogurts usually have a reduced amount of lactose. However, if you are very sensitive to lactose, you might want to consider making your own yogurt to totally eliminate the lactose. In our family, we use a yogurt machine and ferment it for 24 hours which removes all of the lactose.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I wanted to mention that we have had success in making pumpkin pie by using lactose-free whole milk instead of milk cream. Also, for those who have Crohn’s disease, replacing the sugar in a recipe with rice syrup works well.

If you have any additional tips or info about your experience of being lactose intolerant, I hope you will share your comments. Thanks!

For further information about lactose intolerance, you might want to check out the following websites which give detailed descriptions about it.

Hope you have a blessed fall season!