Friday, January 07, 2011

Definitions II - Allergy vs Lactose Intolerance

This is something that I learned more about as I started to make cheese. It is easy to misunderstand the difference, because most Dr.'s have problems understanding food allergies and sensitivities. There are different body systems that react when you are allergic vs. lactose intolerant. Often there are overlapping symptoms.

When I sold yogurt, I ended up running into people that also had issues with certain probiotics that were in the yogurt and wanted to know how long it cultured for (more lactic acid = less lactose). It was through a lot of those people that I started to gain a better understanding of these differences. For those with allergies, man this is a matter of life or death. It is important that you go beyond this blog and really learn more before you believe every marketing slant that people have for their products.

Lactose intolerance happens because the body is lacking an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme takes the milk sugar, lactose, and breaks it down into usable bits in the body. When you are lactose intolerant, you make gas. So, you feel bloated, burp, feel nauseous, may get diarrhea. It is more an uncomfortable relationship to milk.

For those that are lactose intolerant, they may be able to consume aged cheeses, yogurt, and lactic cheeses. To make lactic cheese and yogurt, cheese makers are using bacteria that love lactose to help with the coagulation process. They convert this lactose into lactic acid (and other flavor making by-products). There are not a lot of lactose molecules left in the process of making these products.

In longer aged cheeses, like cheddar(real ones, not industrial garbage), the bacteria are still working on the lactose in the cave (aging).

Make note of the age of the particular kind of cheese and sample only a small amount until you find your tolerance level.

An allergy to milk can be life threatening. In this case, your body has developed antibodies to some protein component of that milk. There are a lot of proteins associated milk. Breeds of animals and species of animals have different proteins and amounts of proteins in their milk. While it is highly unlikely that you can isolate the protein components that you have issues with, it may help you select another animal that you can tolerate.

As with intolerance, you can get abdominal issues, but generally, you see eczema or a skin reaction as well. More severe allergic reactions involve the respiratory system. This may start simple, like seasonal allergies, but can become life threatening to some people. The kicker with this is that sometimes symptoms start the next day, so it is hard to associate it with the drink of milk you had the day before.

For some people, they may not be able to consume cows milk, but they can consume goat or sheep milk. If you are having respiratory issues with cows milk, I would not even try goat or sheep milk unless the EpiPen and a Dr. are right there with you for 24-hours.

Some myths...
*If you are allergic to milk, being raw will not make it more tolerable.
*You will tolerate goat milk if you are allergic to cows milk, not lactose intolerant.
*Homogenization does things to milk, but it has nothing to do with lactose.
*Goat milk is not naturally homogenized, the fat just stays suspended longer. This, too has nothing to do with lactose and your ability to consume it if you are lactose intolerant.
*You may also be allergic to what the animal ate! If you are committed to drinking milk, work with Dr. on this, don't go it alone. Allergies are not something to play with. You can die.

I tried to make this simple. I hope this helps.

I also wanted to say, that there were times that I advised people interested in buying our products that it was ok that they cannot eat dairy. I was not going to hold it against them and they did not have to please to by buying my products.

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