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Do You Know If You Are Lactose Intolerant?

Mar 1, 2008
The practice of giving cow's milk to our children and continuing to drink it through adulthood is taken so for granted in this country that many believe it's a universal concept. Not only that, but I'll bet there are a large number of folks who assume this has been going on since the days of Adam and Eve.

These ideas couldn't be further from the truth. Throughout history and cultures, human infants received their essential foods from their own mother's breast milk as does every other species of infant mammals. If a mother couldn't feed her own baby for some reason, the baby was taken to another mother, a "wet nurse," for feeding. Depending on the culture, the child was weaned sometime between the ages of two and four. That was the end of drinking milk.

North and South American Indians had no milk animals. The early American colonists had little use for milk. In fact, the first cattle weren't brought over until 1624, and they were raised mostly for hides and meat.

History has recorded that in 1793 a man named Underwood was the first to feed cow's milk to an infant. The very fact that someone made a record of this shows how rare and novel the idea was at the time. Since then, America and most of Europe has made the cow our foster mother and nurtured the practice of never weaning the baby.

This may be great for the dairy industry, but for the individual it's a major cause for many unexplained stomach aches. The words "lactose intolerant" are thrown around a lot these days, but people can have this problem and not know it. Sometimes it gets diagnosed as IBS(irritable bowel syndrome). The fact is, if you are over the age of four, chances are high you have some amount of intolerance.

Babies produce an enzyme called lactase, which is needed to digest lactose, or milk sugar, which is present in their mother's milk (cow's milk is loaded with it, too). After age four, the intestines usually slow down the production of lactase and for many people completely stop making the enzyme altogether, so they can no longer digest lactose. Without the enzyme, when milk enters the intestine, the lactose ferments. This causes bloating, cramps, gas and even diarrhea.

If you suffer any of these conditions after eating a grilled cheese sandwich or drinking a milkshake, you could be lacking the lactase enzyme and may want to exam your options. Lactase tablets are available if you want to continue your milk and milk products diet and there are dairy products made that are non-lactose. Then, of course, there's the choice I made. Soy milk is a great alternative. It's lactose-free and a good source of calcium.
About the Author
Dee Overly is an artist who discovered the health benefits of soy milk and now sells a
Soymilk Maker at www.SoymilkCrossroads.com.
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