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a question about lactose intolerance

  • m

i am LI. a friend said that HARD cheeses dont contain lactose and therefore are OK. a web site i just consulted says that yogurt may be OK because of yogurt cultures. any LI folk with opinions?? ps: there are more and more of us among caucasian americans. it used to be mainly a non Caucasian issue.

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  1. I think it just depends on you and your gut. I'm cooked-milk intolerant. I probably am a little lactose intolerant. Straight pasteurized milk makes me really sick, aged cheeses usually don't, some yogurt is ok, some isn't, kefir doesn't bother me at all... But I can drink raw milk with impunity (and do! I LOVE my weekly quart of jersey milk!). I use tons of lactaid with regular dairy (and still feel like I'm ignoring my body trying to tell me something important) but don't need it with raw milk. Of course, I kill that quart over the course of a week, but if I replaced those little bits with regular milk, I'd never want milk in my coffee again.

    People get away with aged cheeses and yogurt because the lactose is already broken down. Not all yogurt has a lot of culture-action. You might want to look into making your own kefir-- if you do a 2-3 day aged batch, it has minimal lactose left in it.

    And I'd bet there are a lot of folks like me who can digest raw milk, with all the good bugs still in it, and whose problem really isn't so much with the lactose. But raw milk is such a no-no these days, sadly.

    1. From closely monitoring my l.i. spouse's intake I'd agree with Vetter, different guts have a lot of different variations of intestinal flora. My dear wife didn't even realize she had the problem 'til I gave her my observations and hypothesis and it was empirically upheld (she used to be fond of cannoli, and her reaction alerted me). The fresh-style cow's cheeses are a no-no for her unless baked, goat cheeses are less of a problem, aged cheeses no problem. She hasn't run into any yoghurt that gives her trouble (we've found an organic, zero fat greek style that's quite thick and creamy, and she can enjoy huge dollops of it). She's o.k. with ice cream or gelato in moderation, where the equivalent quantity of normal milk/cream wouldn't be.

      If you've examined the genetic why's of lactose tolerance--it evolved in human guts relatively recently--it actually illustrates how rapidly some adaptations can occur. Since it was people in a relatively small area of northern Europe who first developed the tolerance, much farther west than the Caucasus mountains that gave that 'racial' label its name, it really isn't odd that many euro-americans are intolerant. Part of my spouse's gene pool is from the Mediterranean, for example. Most folk of Anglo-saxon heritage are tolerant because the British isles was settled by several groups (incl. the Angles, Saxes, Danes) all in or adjacent to the original area of the earliest adaptation. So you could more accurately say it used to be and perhaps still is mainly a non-Anglo-Saxon/Nordic/Germanic issue.

      1. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who cannot tolerate more than a very small amount of any dairy product. Even hard cheeses and yogurt, if eaten in any amount more than...perhaps an ounce...will produce the undesirable symptoms that all L.I. people are aware of.

        So, the amount of half & half that I put in my coffee is not problematic. One or perhaps two cheese canapes are okay. A couple of spoons of yogurt is not problematic. But, any quantities more than these will definitely be a problem for me.

        Luckily, Costco sells their house-brand "Lactaid" at a very substantial discount to the name-brand stuff, so I don't have to hesitate to take a caplet whenever I suspect that I am going to have a problem. The only glitch is when I occasionally forget to put some in my pocket before going out to dinner. Then, it can be quite a challenge to find dishes that contain no dairy.

        But, to get back to the original question, you will have to do some experimentation on your own in order to see what you can tolerate and what you can't tolerate. Just bear in mind that quantity is part of the equation. And, for your own peace of mind, I suggest that you do your experimenting on a day when you are not at work!

        4 Replies
        1. re: Ted in Central NJ

          i am in the same boat ted. i can tolerate only sharp cheeses,yogurt,in small portions. people always trying to force feed me stuff .....after i take Lactaids....yet it's all about the portions....cannot take 2 lactaids then eat so much dairy it would take a box of lactaids to handle.i will check b/j's /costco for those cheaper lactaid pills.as for coffee i drink it black now. thanks for the info.

          1. re: mike the lactose intolerant

            many people who are lactose intolerant actually have celiac disease (the inability to digest gluten which is the protein in certain grains including wheat, rye, barley, spelt, etc). Because they have not been diagnosed (according to the CDC 1 in 133 people in the USA have Celiac Disease, 1 in 5000 are diagnosed), the long term ingestion of gluten causes other auto-immune diseases and reactions.. including lactose intolerance. So, if the lactose intolerance is something that is adult onset, you may wish to consider exploring the possibility of celiac disease. The good news is that for many people, once they go on the gluten-free diet, they can -- after a time -- enjoy lactose again. Go figure.



            and more for further information

            1. re: karmalaw

              Karmalaw, I hear you! Since I first replied to this thread, I've figured out that I'm gluten intolerant. 2 months off of gluten and I can tolerate reasonable amounts of regular dairy-- it's AMAZING. I wish I'd figured it out sooner.

              1. re: Vetter

                congratulations! At least you'll minimize the possibility of other auto-immune diseases now (thyroid disease, adult onset diabetes, lupus, and more are auto-immune diseases). I've been gluten free for 10 years now -- it becomes very easy.. let me know if you need any help trying to recreate or replace foods you love.. I've figured out work-arounds for many.

        2. There's a rare and much more serious condition called galactosemia, where the cannot have galactose. Some are finding that hard or Dutch cheeses are ok.

          1. I'm lactose intolerant but still indulge (with consequences) in dairy products because I grew up eating them and enjoy their taste. I find that my gut can better take hard cheeses and yogurt than soft cheese and straight milk. My stomach can handle cooked milk (ie in an egg custard) better than milk from the fridge but can't handle heavy creams (whipping, table, half/half etc) in any form. Through the years I've tried to retrain my stomach to accept milk by consuming larger quantities every month. I've been able to increase my milk consumption to about a cup a day (still with stomach rumblings). Most of the time, I just drink soy milk or lactose free milk

            As previous posters have said, it really depends on your own body. The best route for me was experimenting with what worked and didn't and obviously staying close to home when you do experiment.

            Good luck

            1. The only way to really find out what your body can handle is to do a test on it at a time when it won't be a major inconvenience to suffer the symptoms afterwards... The only cheese I really have a problem with is mozarella, presumably because it's not aged, which makes Italian food problematic. I've never had a problem with yoghurt except those horrible 'fake' yoghurts that are just milk with vegetable gums instead of real culture. My biggest problem is milk/cream desserts (like custard and rice pudding) because I like the desserts too much and eat way more of them than my system can handle.

              1. Interesting topic . . . I was beginning to wonder if I was only allergic to milk fat, not actually lactose. But it seems, from these comments, that basic LI often "tolerates" yogurt . . .?

                I can enjoy: non-fat yogurt and non-fat milk, hard cheeses, cooked mozzarella, half and half or real milk in a cup of hot coffee, kefir . . .

                I do not enjoy: Ice cream, and especially the high-fat ice creams popular in New England . . .

                8 Replies
                1. re: zoe p.

                  It sounds like you have a problem with milk fat because a lot of low- and non-fat products are worse for people with LI than their high-fat alternatives. I've had my worst experiences with frozen custard (a kiddy cone made me have issues for a day) and a pizza with excessive amounts of cheese. I think I have problems with saturated fat as well as LI so I have to really watch what I eat.

                  1. re: queencru

                    I agree with queencru. While it is true that every LI is different, I find that the higher the fat content, the easier it is for me to digest the product. I am totally fine with whole milk, cheeses and full fat yogurts, but any low fat (and sweet tasting) milk will ruin me, as will any ice cream.

                    1. re: desylicious

                      "the higher the fat content, the easier it is for me to digest" - fascinating!! I definitely do not have the same problem . . . I think I'd better start talking to my doctor . . .

                      1. re: zoe p.

                        Zoe I'm in the same boat as you. For a lot of high fat dairy items I find that, unfortunately, my lactaid pills don't do anything for me.

                        1. re: Laura D.

                          Sometimes Irritable Bowel Syndrome's first sign is an intolerance for milk. I can't do more than a light amount of dairy anything but if it contains fats I might as well just cancel any plans for the rest of the day. In those cases, lactaid doesn't work for me either. Yogurt is ok for me, it helps my digestive system regulate itself but taking live-culture probiotics will do the trick too. Try what you like in small amounts but plan ahead.

                          1. re: TampaAurora

                            I'm trying the probiotic route now but unfortunately haven't seen any positive effects as of yet. Interestingly, while everyone else here seems to say they have no problem with yogurt, I seem to have the same issues with it that I do with any dairy (it's fat free yogurt but it is Stoneyfield Farms brand, meaning those additives that some people mention above that are typically found in fat free yogurts aren't in this kind). Perhaps my reaction is more psychological in nature than anything else!

                            1. re: Laura D.

                              You're not necessarily having a psychological reaction to yogurt -- I think it gets back to the different flora for different folks discussion above. Some yogurt most days has helped my lactose intolerance and I'm okay with moderate amounts of hard cheese and higher fat dairy products and a little milk in my coffee. I can't digest ice cream but that doesn't necessarily stop me. But my mom, also lactose intolerant, reports the worst reactions from yogurt. So go figure...

                              1. re: Dizzied

                                That's why I mentioned kefir above. Supposedly the flora in kefir has an easier time colonizing the gut that the flora in yogurt. It should be more popular-- it's a snap to make, at room temperature, with no special equipment. Doesn't make me sick at all. But some yogurt, oh my.

                                I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who sometimes just opts for eating stuff and getting sick! I always wonder how the folks who don't cheat do it.

                2. yogurt is ok, cheeses made out of goats' milk is ok. as far as i know, there's no special waiver for hard cheeses as opposed to soft. and then there's always lactaid, which seems to work well for my LI relatives.

                  (full disclosure, i'm not actually LI. i suspect it is partly a matter of acclimation, since i'm asian and my siblings and i can eat any / all the dairy we like without adverse consequence, though our parents can't.)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cimui

                    <<<cheeses made out of goats' milk is ok.>>>

                    If cheeses made out of cow's milk are not good, but goat milk cheeses are OK, this is more an indication of a milk allergy -- the smaller size of the casein molecule in goat cheese is the giveaway.

                    And, like you say, you're not lactose intolerant.

                    And heritage does play an important role: Asians, native Americans, and other cultures have a greater incidence of lactose intolerance and milk allergy. But it's important to know which you suffer from.

                    And, BTW, lactose intolerance can fade in and out, depending on how much lactase your gut produces.

                    ZoeP...IIRC, commercial ice cream has very little or no lactose -- it's removed in the manufacturing process because it makes ice cream gritty. My guess is the indigestion that occurs in that case is more fat- and sugar-related.