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Lactose intolerance

Updated 21 September 2018

New products can help milk intolerance

There are currently a number of milk substitutes on the market which can make the life of lactose or milk intolerant people a lot easier.

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Intolerance or sensitivity to cow’s milk and foods made from cow’s milk, is relatively common. Many infants and adults either suffer from lactose intolerance or are sensitive to one or more proteins found in milk.

Previously nutritionists could only advise patients to carefully avoid all milk-containing foods, but recently a number of milk substitutes have appeared on the market which can make the life of lactose or milk intolerant people much easier.

There are two kind of milk substitutes available: lactose-reduced milk and soy milk.

Symptoms of lactose or milk intolerance

Individuals with lactose or milk intolerance may develop some, or all of the following symptoms:

Cramps, nausea, bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea. Infants and children will fail to thrive and be weak and irritable. If you develop such symptoms between 30 minutes and two hours after eating or drinking milk or foods that contain milk, then it may be a good idea to have your medical doctor test you for lactose and/or milk intolerance. Don’t make this diagnosis on your own, because these symptoms can also be associated with a variety of other conditions, some of which are serious and may need other kinds of medical treatment.

New products that can help

As mentioned above, the food industry has risen to the challenge of producing milk substitutes for the relatively large number of people living with lactose or milk intolerance. This is particularly helpful in South Africa where up to 95% of the adult black population suffer from lactose intolerance.

Lactose-reduced milk

Lactose-reduced milk, is cow’s milk which has had 95% of the lactose (milk sugar) removed, but still offers all the other benefits of standard cow’s milk, such as taste, nutrients (high-quality protein, B vitamins, minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium) and convenience.

The lactose-reduced milk can be used in tea and coffee, on cereals, in cooking and baking, or consumed as a beverage on its own.

Lactose-reduced milk has a slightly sweeter taste than standard milk and some people may at first find the sweeter taste rather strange. The reason for this, is that sucrose has been added in small quantities to the milk to replace the lactose sugar that has been removed. The advantage is that because sucrose is much sweeter than lactose, only 0,3 g sucrose needs to be added to replace 30 g of lactose per 100 ml of milk. The product may taste sweeter, but it contains much less sugar and the energy content is, therefore, reduced.

Please keep in mind that if you are sensitive or intolerant to the protein in milk, then you cannot use lactose-reduced milk without developing symptoms.

Soy milk

In contrast to lactose-reduced milk, milk made from soy beans is free of both lactose and milk proteins that may cause sensitivity or intolerance. It is sold in liquid and in powder form.

Soy milk can be used for cooking and baking, and in tea or coffee, or it can be consumed on its own. It is made of plant products and free of animal fats and proteins. Soy beans and products made of soy contain high levels of isoflavones, which may protect the body against various diseases and conditions, such as cancermenopausal symptomsosteoporosis, abnormal blood sugar levels in diabeteshigh cholesterol levels and heart disease.

Soy milk is, therefore, indicated for use by individuals with a proven milk protein allergy, patients with lactose intolerance, vegetarians, people who want to increase their intakes of isoflavones for protective purposes, and those who cannot use cow’s milk for personal or religious reasons.

Beware the double intolerance

Always keep in mind that some individuals who are allergic to cow’s milk may well also be allergic to soy protein. So if your symptoms don’t improve when you use soy milk instead of cow’s milk, then you may well be sensitive to both types of protein. This is a difficult situation, as you then have to avoid all foods that contain both milk and soya.

Read every label on every food product and cut out all foods that list ingredients such as: milk, whey, casein, milk solids, soya, textured vegetable protein, hydrolysed vegetable protein.

Also make sure that you take a good vitamin and mineral supplement that provides you with the necessary calcium and B vitamins which you would normally be getting from dairy or soy milk.