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Details on Dairy: Q&A on Lactose Intolerance

Monday, December 21, 2015 7:38 AM

From cheesecakes to mashed potatoes, pies and so much more, many of our favorite indulgences contain dairy. Since we were kids, we have been told that dairy is good for you and helps you grow. But what happens when your body cannot digest it?

The experts at NorthShore help us better understand the woes and benefits of dairy.

What are the benefits of having dairy in your diet?

Dairy has multiple benefits. Dairy is included in the Healing Foods Pyramid as part of a balanced, whole food, plant-based diet. Dairy foods are one of the richest sources of calcium, which is necessary to maintain healthy teeth and bones. Calcium may also be protective against colon and bladder cancers. Dairy is also fortified with Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – which may protect against multiple diseases by maintaining cell function.

Lactose provides growth and development for children, but does it do anything for adults?

Lactose is a carbohydrate that is broken down into simple sugars which are metabolized to serve as an energy source. However, if you are like the majority of the world population and unable to digest lactose, then this is a moot point.

Is there any truth or facts supporting that adults don't need to drink milk?

Adults do not need milk. Infants have the ability to produce lactase, which is a digestive enzyme that breaks down the mother’s milk into two simple sugars: galactose and glucose. As we reach adulthood, we lose the ability to produce lactase. In fact, much of the adult world—about 75% – is lactose intolerant; especially those of Asian, South American, African and Native American descent.

How can adults obtain calcium if they are lactose intolerance?
Calcium can be obtained through alternate foods. Some of these sources include:

  • Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Turnip greens
  • Molasses
  • Almonds

Are there any healthy diets that include beneficial dairy products?

There are dairy products that are (sparingly) included in the traditional Mediterranean diet. These are:

  • Organic dairy products are free of hormones.
  • Dairy foods from grass-fed animals are particularly high in Omega 3 fatty acid and conjugated linoleic acid.
  • Fermented/probiotic dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. This establishes healthy bacteria in the intestines which may be depleted by poor diet and medications such as antibiotics.

What are the predispositions for developing lactose intolerance?

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Crohn's disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Carcinoid syndrome
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
  • Parasites such as Giardiasis

If you think you have developed lactose intolerance, please consult your doctor. If not treated, lactose intolerance can damage the cells in the lining of the intestines.

Are you lactose intolerant? When did you know?