I have recently discovered that I have a lactose intolerance, its self diagnosed but all the same I have many of the symptoms associated with an intolerance. A lactose intolerance is the inability to metabolize lactose, because of a lack of the required enzyme lactase in the digestive system. It has been estimated that approximately 75% of the population worldwide show some decrease in their ability to handle lactose during adulthood. People are often misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) without first ensuring that it is not a lactose intolerance. It is a very common condition but because some people only suffer with mild symptoms they can often go unnoticed. Below I have listed some of the more common symptoms:
- Bloated stomach
- Stomach pains
- Stomach rumbling
- Stomach cramps
As you can see the symptoms vary dramatically and if you are not being observant you could just assume that your stomach is upset for another reason. The interesting thing with a lactose intolerance is that it varies so much from person to person. Some people can have small amounts of milk, in their tea for example, and be fine, whilst others need to steer clear completely.
Another interesting fact is that not every product containing lactose will necessarily trigger symptoms in a lactose intolerant person. For example I am able to eat yoghurts and small amounts of cheese with no problems. Studies have shown that the active live bacterial cultures (also known as probiotics) found in yoghurts with help lactose digestion. Also cheese has very low levels of lactose so small amounts of it will not result in the same problems.
I decided that the best solution would be to eradicate cow’s milk from my diet completely, which left me with the dilemma of which dairy milk substitute to go for. The first substitute that came to mind was soya milk which is a beverage that is made from soya beans. The benefits of soy milk is that it contains the same amount of protein as cow’s milk yet it has only a little saturated fat and no cholesterol. The down side is that it has been suggested that soy milk can effect bone mineral density and sperm quality, and also be the root cause of some thyroid disorders. Although it should be noted that there has not been enough research carried out in order to make these claims facts. Soy milk is also an acquired taste which I could not get used to.
Goat’s milk is another alternative, it is a good source of calcium and can usually be consumed by those with a lactose intolerance with no problems as it does not go through the same process as cow’s milk and contains much lower levels of lactose. It is also a good source of protein. The downside to goat’s milk for me was the taste, it is much thicker and richer than cow’s milk and I could not get used to it.
The final milk that I tried and fortunately liked was rice milk. Rice milk is a kind of grain milk processed from rice. It is mostly made from brown rice and commonly unsweetened. Rice milk contains more carbohydrates than cow’s milk but has less protein and calcium and no cholesterol or lactose. Although rice milk does not contain the same vitamins or calcium as cow’s milk, popular brands, such as Rice Dream for example, are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B, and iron. Unlike other types of milk rice milk has no known side effects and it is what I now choose to use in place of cow’s milk.
I hope that reading this article has made you more aware of the different choices of dairy milk substitutes on the market, and also made you more observant if you suffer from any of the symptoms listed after you consume cow’s milk.