Chicago Health | Homepage
Got Milk (Intolerance)?

Got Milk (Intolerance)?

By David Himmel, with reporting from Brett Dworski

My mother tells me she never liked mint chocolate chip ice cream until she became pregnant with me. Since I was born, she hasn’t touched the stuff. But this isn’t about my mom. This is about me and how much I love ice cream. I love milk, too. And cheese. But a few years ago, I thought I’d never be able to enjoy dairy again.

At first I thought the stomachaches—bloating and discomfort that lasted for days at a time—were brought on by the daily stressful interactions with my then-girlfriend. When we finally broke up, and the discomfort did not go away, I considered my diet. I realized that my stomachaches seemed to appear whenever I consumed any kind of dairy. I began living a dairy-free lifestyle, which resulted in a much happier tummy. And no, we did not get back together. I was a cool bachelor who would describe himself as lactose intolerant.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, between 30 million and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. Deeba Masood, MD, an allergy-immunology specialist at NorthShore University HealthSystem, says that much of the adult world—about 75 percent— is lactose intolerant, especially those of Asian, South American, African and Native American descent. I am none of these. However, “As we reach adulthood, we may lose the ability to produce lactase,” Masood says.

Lactase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose, which is found in the milk of most mammals. So, when the body is no longer able to produce the enzyme, abnormalities occur in the breakdown of lactose. Bacteria in the colon ferment the undigested lactose, and that’s where digestive issues like diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas and bloating come from. Lactose intolerance is not the same as a milk allergy.

If you are avoiding dairy due to lactose intolerance, you may have trouble getting enough of some nutrients. Dairy foods “are some of the richest sources of calcium, which is required to maintain healthy teeth, bones and [cellular] function. Furthermore, studies have shown an inverse association between milk intake and risk of colon and bladder cancer,” Masood says. That’s not all. Dairy is an excellent source of vitamin D, which is also necessary for a healthy body.

And then there’s the twisted irony of it all. “Fermented/probiotic dairy products, such as yogurt, help establish healthy bacteria in the intestines,” Masood says.

Clearly, I wasn’t doing myself any favors by avoiding dairy. Sure, my guts felt better, but how would I feel in the long run if I continued to remain dairy free? Well, calcium can be obtained through alternative sources such as tofu (a half-cup of tofu has roughly the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk), broccoli, turnip greens, molasses and almonds. Vitamin D can be picked up through sunshine, but sun exposure puts us at risk for skin cancer. I don’t need any more of that. Plus, I really wanted a slice of pizza and a scoop of ice cream. Certainly, many people are vegan or dairy free. But a dairy-free life was unenjoyable for me.

But there’s hope for the lactose intolerant.

I’ve never been officially diagnosed as being lactose intolerant, but the proof is in the pudding. The delicious pudding made with milk. Without the lactase pills, I feel terrible. With them, or with a lactose-free dairy product, I feel perfectly fine and continue reaping all of the benefits that dairy can provide me.

Similar Articles

Antibiotics can be an option rather than surgery for simple appendicitis

Antibiotics can be an option rather than surgery for simple appendicitis

The Medicine Cabinet-Ask the Harvard Expert  By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: A friend recently was diagnosed with

Five can’t-miss signs that your child is lactose intolerant

Five can’t-miss signs that your child is lactose intolerant

By Kadakkal Radhakrishnan, M.D., and Cleveland Clinic's Children's Health Team In order to pinpoint if your

Five diet rules for a healthy heart

Five diet rules for a healthy heart

By Lainey Younkin, M.S., R.D. Heart disease may be the leading cause of death for Americans,

Don’t tolerate food intolerance

Don’t tolerate food intolerance

Harvard Health Blog By Matthew Solan Who hasn't eaten something that didn't agree with them? But when

Strict, gluten-free diet important for anyone with celiac disease

Strict, gluten-free diet important for anyone with celiac disease

Mayo Clinic Q&A DEAR MAYO CLINIC: If someone has been diagnosed with celiac disease but has

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

May 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
April 30, 2017 May 1, 2017 May 2, 2017 May 3, 2017 May 4, 2017 May 5, 2017 May 6, 2017
May 7, 2017 May 8, 2017 May 9, 2017 May 10, 2017 May 11, 2017 May 12, 2017 May 13, 2017
May 14, 2017 May 15, 2017 May 16, 2017 May 17, 2017 May 18, 2017 May 19, 2017 May 20, 2017
May 21, 2017 May 22, 2017 May 23, 2017 May 24, 2017 May 25, 2017 May 26, 2017 May 27, 2017
May 28, 2017 May 29, 2017 May 30, 2017 May 31, 2017 June 1, 2017 June 2, 2017 June 3, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives