Lactose intolerance is a result of an enzyme deficiency.
Asians and Africans have the highest prevalence of lactase deficiency. The rates of lactose intolerance in those groups are in the range of 60 to 80%. These numbers aren’t surprising given that historically, Asians and Africans did not have dairy in their diets.
For Europeans, the rate of lactose intolerance is in the range of 5 to 17%. Again, this isn’t surprising because people from Europe have been keeping cattle and drinking milk for a very long time. 30 to 45% of North Americans are lactase deficient.
If you are lactose intolerant, eating dairy products results in symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. It means having to cut back on dairy or switching to another type of milk, such as the lactose-free version.
Not drinking milk may seem like a foreign idea, but that is the reality for huge numbers of people throughout the world. It’s primarily Westerners who drink so much milk.
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Lactose, or milk sugar, is made up of galactose and glucose bound together. The body has to split these two simple sugars apart when digesting milk. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lactose is called lactase. Once lactose is broken down, the galactose and glucose are used for energy.
If you are lactase deficient, you will likely notice massive bloating and diarrhea about two hours after ingesting dairy products. If you are bound and determined to keep drinking milk despite the symptoms, you can take exogenous lactase. If that doesn’t work, drop dairy from your diet and look for other sources of calcium.
One of my favorite calcium-rich foods is sardines. Sesame seeds and broccoli are also good sources of calcium.
As people get older, their levels of digestive enzymes drop. As a result, it’s possible to become less lactose tolerant with age.
You don’t have to drink cow’s milk to get enough calcium. The crazy thing is the countries with the highest milk consumption have the highest osteoporosis rates. And the countries with the lowest dairy consumption globally have got the lowest osteoporosis rates.