Un­der­stand­ing lac­tose in­tol­er­ance

New Zealand’s favourite well­be­ing ex­pert an­swers read­ers’ ques­tions about their health.

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Ques­tion: If I’m lac­tose in­tol­er­ant, can I eat goat and sheep milk prod­ucts? Thanks, Su­sanne.

Lac­tose in­tol­er­ance is the in­abil­ity to digest a sugar called lac­tose that is found in milk and dairy prod­ucts. Nor­mally when a per­son eats some­thing con­tain­ing lac­tose, an en­zyme in the small in­tes­tine called lac­tase breaks down lac­tose into sim­pler sugar forms called glu­cose and galac­tose. Th­ese sim­ple sug­ars are then ab­sorbed into the blood­stream and turned into en­ergy – fuel for our bod­ies to use.

Peo­ple with lac­tose in­tol­er­ance do not pro­duce enough of the lac­tase en­zyme to break down lac­tose. In­stead, undi­gested lac­tose re­main in­tact in the gut and be­gins to fer­ment via bac­te­rial ac­tion on the sug­ars, caus­ing gas, bloat­ing, stom­ach cramps and di­ar­rhoea.

Sheep’s milk prod­ucts may be bet­ter tol­er­ated by those who are lac­tose in­tol­er­ant be­cause of a slightly higher fat con­tent – the higher the fat con­tent, the lower the lac­tose lev­els. For ex­am­ple, but­ter has vir­tu­ally no lac­tose while trim milk con­tains more lac­tose than full-fat milk. How­ever, there are a num­ber of prod­ucts that are lac­tose free or you can use a num­ber of de­li­cious prod­ucts that use co­conut milk as a base – as co­conut doesn’t con­tain lac­tose. De­pend­ing on your level of in­tol­er­ance, this may be a bet­ter op­tion.

Be aware that some peo­ple be­lieve they have lac­tose in­tol­er­ance when it may be one (or nu­mer­ous) of the pro­teins in the milk that the per­son can’t digest prop­erly. If it is the lat­ter sce­nario, then an in­di­vid­ual may ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter gut func­tion when no prod­ucts de­rived from an ud­der are con­sumed. An ex­pe­ri­enced health pro­fes­sional can guide you with this. Ques­tion: I’ve been read­ing a lot about the health ben­e­fits of turmeric. I like the taste of it so can you please ex­plain if it is ben­e­fi­cial and also howI can use it? Thank you, Vi­o­let.

Known for its bright or­ange colour and po­tent an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory ef­fects, turmeric has long been used in cook­ing and as herbal medicine. Cur­cumin, the pig­ment that gives turmeric its or­ange colour, is also the Email your ques­tions for Dr Libby to ask.dr­libby@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz. Please note, only a se­lec­tion of ques­tions can be an­swered.

chem­i­cal re­spon­si­ble for the an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory ef­fects.

Clin­i­cal stud­ies have shown turmeric to be ef­fec­tive in help­ing peo­ple with cys­tic fi­bro­sis, rheuma­toid arthri­tis and in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease. Cur­cumin is a nat­u­ral an­tiox­i­dant, mean­ing turmeric also helps pro­tect against free rad­i­cal dam­age and helps the liver do its crit­i­cal detox­i­fi­ca­tion work.

Try adding fresh or dried turmeric to juices, cur­ries, stir­fries or rice pi­laf, or mix up a warm­ing drink (bet­ter in win­ter) made from nut milk, cin­na­mon, turmeric and a dash of pure maple syrup.

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for direct, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. Her lat­est book,

is avail­able from all good bookstores and from dr­libby.com

Sheep’s milk prod­ucts may be bet­ter tol­er­ated by those who are lac­tose in­tol­er­ant.

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