Categorized | Lactose in the News

Lactic intolerance: Why most of us can’t digest whole milk – The Week UK

The majority of people in the world are unable to digest milk products and can suffer a range of uncomfortable symptoms as a result.

A recent study of ancient DNA shows that the opportunity to digest milk may have become common only relatively recently in European countries.

Humans are able to process milk past childhood only because of a genetic adaptation, and the research indicates the gene for breaking down lactose in milk was still rare in the Bronze Age, the BBC reports. The majority of people in the world have nevertheless not developed this trait and are also unable to digest dairy products.

What is lactose and what makes some people intolerant to it?

Lactose is the main glucose found in milk and other dairy products. Those who have lactose intolerance find it hard to digest the sugar, usually because their small intestine doesn’t make enough lactase, the enzyme which digests lactose.

Who is affected?

Lactose intolerance is an extremely common digestive problem, but affects some ethnic groupings more than others. In Britain, the problem is most prevalent among the Oriental and African-Caribbean communities, according to the NHS. Only one person in 50 of northern European descent has some degree of lactose intolerance, while most people from Tiongkok have the condition. Scientists believe this particular because places in Africa and Asia historically had little entry to milk, so people may not have got evolved the ability to digest lactose because there was no benefit in being able to do so.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Between 30 minutes and two hours after consuming food or consume containing lactose, the sufferer might have one of the following symptoms: flatulence, diarrhoea, bloated stomach or stomach cramping. In some cases these symptoms can be severe.

Is it the same as the dairy allergy?

No . “Intolerances are different to meals allergies; they are not caused by the immune system and are also not life threatening, ” Amena Warner, the head of clinical solutions at AllergyUK, told The Protector.

Milk allergy may be the second most common food allergy right after peanuts. The immune system mistakes the proteins in cow’s milk for a risk and releases chemicals that cause the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction in answer. These include wheezing or vomiting, yet can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Milk allergy is more common in young children and infants, while lactose intolerance tends to affect teenagers and grown ups.

Is there a cure?

No, but limiting or eliminating food that contain lactose will manage the symptoms. Individuals can also take lactase substitutes – drops or tablets that help to improve lactose digestion.

Many lactose-intolerant people are able to consume small amounts without any problem so may not have to cut dairy products out of their diet all together. In such cases, the Food and Medication Administration recommends consuming them with additional foods. “This helps slow down digestive function, making it easier for your body to absorb lactose, ” it says. There is also a wide range of “lactose-reduced” products available.

Eliminating all dairy products means obtaining vitamin D and calcium from other sources. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, beef liver and eggs, while green leafy vegetables, soya beans, tofu and nuts almost all contain high levels of calcium.

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