Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lactose Intolerance

Did you know that 30-50 million Americans are lactose intolerant?

Around 80% of African Americans (some source say 70%)

80-100% of Amerian Indians

90-100% of Asian Amerians

The condition is less common among those of Northern European descent.

Everyone is born with the enzyme called lactase that helps to digest the milk sugar lactose. Thus, babies can drink breast milk. After age 2, lactase production decreases. (A natural state...) Northern Europeans and their descendants have adapted more to dairy food consumption than other groups.

Lactose intolerance usually results in gas, bloating, cramps, or diarrhea as the lactose simply doesn't get digested in the body.

I don't remember being lactose intolerant, but I remember my mom suffering from pains from it. So she would drink a glass only once in awhile.

The condition varies from person to person. One might be able to drink three glasses of milk w/o symptoms while another can only do one, etc.

Interestingly, aged cheeses like Cheddar/Swiss wouldn't pose a problem (for most folks) b/c it has little or no lactose. Also cultured yogurts are stomach friendly b/c the culturing (bacteria) restores enzymes, including lactase that was destroyed in pasteurization. Basically, fermentation makes dairy more friendly to those who can't support it.

So, as an African American, am I supposed to stop consuming dairy products?
Again, I don't remember being lactose intolerant...

Well, dietician Byers writes in Journal of the American College of Nutrition that "The ‘African-American diet’ is more likely to be low in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including calcium. African-Americans consume low amounts of dairy foods and do not meet recommended intakes of a variety of vitamins and minerals, including calcium."

Well, I understand why we're eating less dairy foods if many of us can't digest it! But, the fact that our diet is low in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including calcium IS a concern.
B/c for people who can't tolerate it, milk isn't the only calcium source. (Calcium is absorbed best with the presence of other vitamins, ie Vitamin D)

However, with the ads pushing milk drinking, and with the tendency to avoid veggies where exactly are we going to get these vitamins and minerals?? Hmm...

According to Sally Fallon, only in the West is milk consumed in an unfermented state. Before industrialization, traditional societies would consume yogurts, cheese, curds and whey. The tall, Massai tribesmen of Africa have milk as their principal food-always in a soured or cultured form.
Remember, with fermentation there is no lactose intolerance problem.

And today, in Europe and Asia, friendly bacteria-containing foods (called probiotics) in yogurts and drinks, etc are more popular than in the US, where supplements are consumed frequently.

So do you have a "condition" if you're lactose intolerant? Why, if afterall, lactase decreases naturally for most? A problem does exist if you have no good sources of calcium and other vitaminerals. And it's good to remember that the degree of intolerance varies from person to person (if at all for you).

And so the questions persist: How to improve the African American diet? How to improve my diet? Can we start eating something green? And how can I make cultured yogurt taste good? ('cuz with a name like that....!)

G-d bless!

(If you can get organic dairy products, it's always best...)

Check it out:
Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

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