Do you know anyone who can’t consume milk or milk-based products? The condition is not uncommon and these people are classified as lactose intolerant.
Lactose is the main carbohydrate or sugar found in milk, and in varying quantities in dairy products made from milk including yoghurt, ice cream, soft cheeses and butter. Lactose (milk sugar) intolerance results from an inability to digest lactose in the small intestine.
Back in the cave-days, the only time a person would ever ingest lactose would be when they were infants getting milk from their mothers. During their adult lives milk was never consumed. Only with the invention of agriculture has milk become readily available to adults. Lactose is unique in that only in milk does it exist as a free form, unattached to other molecules.
What causes lactose intolerance?
Lactose is digested in the small intestine by an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme allows the body to break down the lactose into two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. These are quickly absorbed by the intestine and provide energy for the body. The level of the lactase enzyme varies between individuals, as does the severity of the symptoms caused by lactose intolerance.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
- Abdominal discomfort
- Abdominal cramps
Substitutes for lactose-containing foods
Lactose intolerance generally isn’t serious and can be controlled by some simple changes in your diet. The dietary changes for lactose intolerance should include the exclusion of those foods highest in lactose. There is now a wide range of fresh soy milks, yoghurts and ice creams which are lactose free and calcium enriched. Many dairy foods actually have little or no lactose so you can continue to enjoy them.
The power of soy protein
Soy-based products are on the rise for very healthy reasons. The humble soybean boasts some extraordinary benefits. Lactose-free, soy protein is a “complete protein” which contains all 9 essential amino acids in the right balance to meet your body’s needs. Soy protein is the only plant protein that is complete. This makes it a great substitute for many meats, allowing you to eliminate more saturated fat and cholesterol from your diet.
While soybeans have much to offer from a protein perspective, it is because they contain so many nutrients, such as isoflavones, that they are now the centre of so much attention. Soy protein enhances the body’s ability to retain and better absorb calcium into the bones. Soy isoflavones help by slowing bone loss and inhibiting bone breakdown.