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I Love Milk, But Milk Doesn’t Love Me...Is This Menopause?

Posted Oct 20 2009 10:00pm

My husband and I recently discovered that we both have become dairy intolerant. This problem seems to be a common complaint of aging babyboomers and menopausal women and is most likely the result of the age related loss of the intestinal enzyme lactase.

As many as 22% of adult white Americans are lactase deficient. Adult-onset lactase deficiency varies widely among countries. Northern Europeans have the lowest prevalence at approximately 5%. Central Europeans have a higher prevalence at approximately 30%, and Southern Europeans have a much higher prevalence at approximately 70%. Hispanic and Jewish populations also have a high prevalence at approximately 70%, while Northern Indians have a much lower prevalence than Southern Indians, at approximately 25% and 65%, respectively. Almost all (90%) Asians and Africans are affected.

If you have bloating, abdominal discomfort or gas from 1 hour to a few hours after ingestion of milk or dairy products may signify lactose intolerance.

Most people with lactose intolerance should avoid dairy products, however some people can tolerate full fat milk or full fat yogurt because fats decrease the rate of gastric emptying. The rate of gastric emptying is important in the development of symptoms, which may develop if lactose moves quickly to an intestine that is low in lactase. Fats decrease the rate of gastric emptying, whereas carbohydrates increase the rate of gastric emptying. Thus, if dairy products that contain lactose are consumed with carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates, symptoms are more likely.

Another solution is to try goat milk , goat milk yogurt and goat milk cheeses. Goat milk still has lactose, however it is more completely and easily absorbed than cow's milk, leaving less undigested residue behind in the colon to quite literally ferment and cause the uncomfortable symptoms of lactose intolerance.

It may also be that the person is not lactose intolerant at all, but instead is one of the 1-in-10 people who are allergic to the major protein of cow's milk ... alpha S1 casein protein. The symptoms are almost identical to those of lactose intolerance. Both goat milk and human milk lack this offending protein.

Goat milk contains more of the essential fatty acids (linoleic and arachidonic acids) and a higher proportion of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids than cow's milk. The fat in goat milk may be more readily digested and absorbed than cow milk because lipases attack ester linkages of such fatty acids more readily than those of longer chains. And, unlike cow's milk, goat milk does not contain agglutinin; as a result, the fat globules in goat milk do not cluster, which helps facilitate digestion and absorption.

As a 52 year old female, I’m concerned about getting enough calcium. Here are some tips to help you deal with lactose intolerance and to ensure that you are getting at least 1200-1500 mgs per day.

• Choose lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk. Oftentimes full fat lactose free milk is much easier for most people to digest.

• Take a lactase enzyme supplement (such as Lactaid) just before you eat dairy products. These can be taken in drops or tablets and even added directly to milk (they tend to make milk taste a bit sweeter if left for a long time).

• When you do drink milk or eat lactose-containing foods, eat other non-lactose foods at the same meal to slow digestion. Remember simple carbs are the worst and fats tend to slow the digestion.

• Drink juices that are fortified with calcium.

• Eat a variety of dairy-free foods that are rich in calcium, such as broccoli, beans, tofu, or soy milk. Consider hard cheeses such as cheddar, which are lower in lactose and easier for the lactose intolerant individual to digest.

• Yogurts that contain active cultures are easier to digest and much less likely to cause lactose problems. Opt for full fat varieties versus fat free.

• Learn to read food labels. Lactose is added to some boxed, canned, frozen, and prepared foods like bread, cereal, lunchmeats, salad dressings, mixes for cakes and cookies, and coffee creamers. Be aware of certain words that may mean the food has lactose in it: butter, cheese, cream, dried milk, milk solids, powdered milk, and whey, for example.
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