Like sixty million other Americans, I am lactose intolerant. I have not been this way all my life, but only began having trouble with dairy products sometime in the year 2000. This is often the case however according to Michael Hirt of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Tenet Tarzana Regional Medical Center in California.
As you get older, depending on your culture and race and genetics, the ability to digest milk sugar wanes. At some point certain individuals can't digest lactose sufficiently to avoid having the laxative effect once they cross their own personal threshold. Some people can have a glass of milk but not two. Others can have yogurt but not ice cream. It depends on the individual. But a lot of Asians and people of African descent are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is common, and the food pyramid that tells you to consume three or four servings a day of dairy is clearly not speaking to everyone. You can tolerate and digest lactose, but it's important to make sure you aren't allergic or intolerant to other proteins in dairy.1Interestingly enough, ninety percent of Asian-Americans, eighty percent of African-Americans and fifty-three percent of Mexican-Americans are lactose intolerant. Ernie and I had a nice conversation about this phenomenon when he was in town last June.
I am one of the fortunate sufferers to only have adverse effects when I consume certain levels of certain things. A glass of milk is bad, but pizza is just fine. A cheeseburger is fine, but a grilled cheese sandwich is murder. It is for this reason I continually remain extremely cautious about consuming foods that could even remotely have the chance of making me feel the way I do if I ingest enough lactose. I do not get nauseous or have diarrhea. In fact, I wish I would. Instead my stomach cramps to the point where it basically reduces me to a fetal position on the floor, tears running down my face. Pussy you may say, but these pains have been described by some as comparable to those experienced during childbirth. Oh, and if I do get to that point it lasts for a good three hours.
Thus, as one who very much enjoys a glass of milk (skim, thank you) during a home-cooked meal or for that matter any meal I consume at home by myself, I was delighted to try Lactaid Dietary Supplements. This product is a pill form of the lactase enzyme, missing from those with lactose intolerance. Unfortunately while the effects were lessened, I still experienced major discomfort subsequent to consuming dairy products even with the Lactaid pill.
It was after then I reluctantly tried the Lactaid Milk product and am I glad I did. I am able to drink as much of this stuff as I want without any worry of lactose stomach hell. I will note for anyone looking to try this product, Lactaid Milk is sweeter than normal milk. After drinking it a few times, though, I stopped noticing and today I have no idea how different or not normal milk tastes. An amusing aside is the fact that due to the ultra-pasteurisation process Lactaid Milk undergoes, the expiration date printed on the carton is often an entire month away from the date of purchase! Never have I tried to keep it around that long though because I just enjoy it way too much.
With the success that Lactaid Milk has been over the past year or so that I have been drinking it, I decided to try something new I recently found: lactose-free cheese. Borden Dairy's Lactose Free Singles are a wonderful alternative and taste just like your normal, run of the mill cheese singles. I have made several grilled cheese sandwiches with these and have been so thrilled with the results that I am going to get more of them tomorrow whilst shopping.
Finally, my latest dairy craving came tonight in the form of chocolate ice cream. Minutes after having a singular half-spoonful taste of Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream, I was braving the 45°F temperatures and making a run to the store. I ended up purchasing the first lactose free ice cream I found: Tofutti Chocolate Supreme ice cream. At first I was a bit disappointed with this product as it seemed to have an unusual aftertaste, but as I consumed more and more I could no longer really tell the difference. No Häagen-Dazs for sure, but certainly a viable alternative especially for someone like myself who will enjoy ice cream no sooner than every six months. I also came to the conclusion that I craved the texture of ice cream just as much if not slightly more than the taste and with Tofutti the texture was right on. They have a large selection of products, one of which I just submitted my address to receive a coupon for, and I am planning on trying many of them.
1 Morgan, John, 04 April 2003, "Star of 'V.I.P.' busts lactose intolerance," USA Today