Living with Lactose Intolerance

As a child, lactose intolerance was my introduction to the itchy, gurgle-y, and ache-y world of dietary allergies. I remember it vividly. It was a grade school play date that promised, among other things, Play-Doh, cookies, and milk. But there was no milk. Amy was lactose intolerant rendering her family milk-less, and a pre-pubescent me imagining a world without pizza, a world without cereal, and a world without ice cream. Oh, the humanity!

I’m older now, and though I still love ice cream, I’ve stopped bemoaning the lives of the lactose intolerant. It’s not that bad, honestly. There are plenty of delicious, lactose-free alternatives to popular foodstuffs and plenty of treatment options too. Today on Healthversed, we’re going to dunk our proverbial cookies in to some lactose-free milk and hopefully learn a little along the way. Let’s go!

What is lactose?

Lactose is a natural sugar found in dairy products. It’s concentration within the particular product can vary quite dramatically. For example, milk, by weight, can contain as much as 8% or as little as 2%. It all depends.

A long, long time ago, “milk sugar” was even extracted and used to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Thankfully the pharmaceutical community has made significant headway since the 1600s. As such, you no longer have to soak your ache-y arthritic hip in a bathtub full of milk. The miracles of modern science.

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What is lactose intolerance?

If you’re anything like me, then you’ll agree that the world really could use a little more tolerance. Unfortunately for some, the biological make-up of their bodies says otherwise.

For starters, lactose intolerance isn’t an allergy. It’s an inability to fully digest milk sugar. Instead of being processed through the digestive system, the lactose moves through the large intestine causing a laundry list of uncomfortable symptoms. It’s more common in Native Americans and people of Asian, African, and South American descent, and it’s most likely hereditary.

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