Lactase for Lactose

*For my Writing for Interactive Media Class I picked Food Allergies as my topic. I’ll be re-posting my assignments here for your enjoyment. I’m not an expert, this is just me trying to learn more and share what I learn. Here’s some info on Lactose Intolerance*

Do you know someone who is lactose intolerant, but used to be just fine with dairy products? It’s seems weird that they suddenly can’t have dairy anymore, right? This has happened to a lot of people that I know. Some can get by with taking a lactaid pill before enjoying cheesy meals, some just suffer for a bit in pursuit of pizza, and some have to avoid it all together.

The symptoms are not fun, but rarely are they dire. Usually people feel bloated, have gas, get cramps, and experience nausea. Is it worth it for a little bit of ice cream? Depends on the ice cream!

There has to be a reason why this happens. This is different from a milk allergy since lactose is a type of sugar in milk, rather than the protein. Our intestines produce an enzyme called lactase to help us digest lactose. When there isn’t enough lactase being produced, people develop lactose intolerance.

There is a theory behind why adults stop producing lactase. As babies, we need lactase to digest milk. In the past, people would stop drinking as much milk as they grew up. In today’s American society, we are obsessed with dairy products. Cheese, milk, butter, ice cream, yogurt, and more are daily staples in an American diet. But our bodies didn’t evolve to process this much dairy, and sometimes that’s why so many people start losing the ability to easily digest lactose.

Babies are very rarely born with lactose intolerance because of the evolutionary need to survive on their mother’s milk. The age in which lactose intolerance starts can vary depending on race and circumstance. Caucasians tend to start developing the intolerance after age 5, whereas African Americans start as young as 2. Severe sicknesses can also cause lactose intolerance to develop earlier.

So how do you know if you’re lactose intolerant? Well, if your symptoms are severe then I hope you already know. If not, go eat a big bowl of ice cream and see how you feel after. It’s for science.