People with no food allergies tend to forget how challenging life can be for others who must watch what they eat and drink or suffer the consequences – which may be life-threatening. But being sensitive to milk and other dairy products is the leading allergy among young children, affecting one to two kids out of every hundred.
Can you imagine how frustrating it is for a child not to be able to enjoy mother’s milk?
Many people who aren’t actually allergic to milk do have a condition called lactose intolerance, caused when the digestive system loses its ability to produce lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose. Lactase is secreted in the small intestine.
Undigested lactose remains in the intestines and produces water retention. At some point, the large lactose molecules break down in the colon.
Certain people are known to be more likely to have dairy sensitivities, especially those with:
- Asian, African or Native American heritage
- Intestinal injury because of surgery, exposure to radiation or illness
Digesting dairy products without lactase can produce gastric distress with symptoms of lactose intolerance such as:
- Digestive discomfort
- Intestinal cramping
- Loose stools
Signs of lactose intolerance begin between 30 minutes and two hours from the time of consumption.
You can test yourself for lactose intolerance by going on an elimination diet. Here’s how it works: Simply avoid all foods containing dairy for five days.
If your digestive ailments get better or go away entirely, you may well be lactose intolerant. The solution is to continue shunning dairy foods or try an enzyme replacement product that aids lactose digestion by providing supplemental lactase.
If, however, uncomfortable digestive problems continue without consuming any dairy products, it is advisable to visit a healthcare professional to rule out a more serious medical condition. There are two tests – hydrogen breath and lactose tolerance – to measure and diagnosis lactose intolerance.
Note that children suspected of being lactose intolerant should not be put on an elimination diet. Instead, consult with a healthcare professional to get an official diagnosis and proper treatment for your child.
Fortunately, many tasty and healthy dietary alternatives to dairy foods are readily available for everyone seeking to restrict or eliminate their dairy consumption.
Did you know that oat milk has an average of 5 grams of fat and is a great dairy-free swap for baked goods and cereals?
It’s true. Joining almond and soy milk as dairy alternatives are a wide assortment of milks made from nuts, rice, oats – and even hemp.
Many healthy plant-based milks can be made at home with ease. As an extra bonus, you control the flavor and texture when you DIY (Do It Yourself).
A helpful guide on Milk Alternative Options compares and contrasts eight options. Following are four of them:
- Almond milk dominates the non-dairy milk market, racking up 4 percent of total annual milk sales. Low-calorie water-based 2-percent-almond milk is high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. One cup of commercial almond milk has 30 calories, 1 gram of protein, and 2.5 grams of fat.
- Cashew milk has a texture much like that of cow’s milk and is a ready cooking substitute. Home-made cashew milk is higher in healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, and calories than the store-bought versions which contain 38 calories (on average), 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 1–2 grams of carbohydrates.
- Coconut milk is relatively high in calories and fat for nut milk but is very low in carbs with no protein. A type of saturated fat that makes up 90 percent of the caloric content of coconut milk is an appetite suppressant called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which is an effective aid in weight loss and improves cognition. One cup of commercial coconut milk provides 45 calories, 4 grams of fat, zero protein, and a trace amount of carbs.
- Hemp milk comes from the stalks of marijuana plants and has virtually no mind-altering psychoactive THC. Compared to other commercial plant-based milks, hemp milk has more healthy fat and protein while being low in carbs and high in fatty acids and calcium. One cup of hemp milk has an average of 70 calories, 3 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat and less than 1 gram of carbs.
Whether you’re vegan, lactose sensitive or on a weight-loss regime, alternatives to dairy milk may make good sense for you.
With the wide variety available from grocery shelves or the comfort of your own home, why not give lactose reduction a try? Who knows? You might just like it.