Drinking milk has always been associated with having strong bones and teeth. In early 2000, my mom tried to include my milk consumption by giving me cereals drenched with milk. This particular meal always left me wanting more due to the sugary kick off the meal. The addition of milk also left a nice aftertaste in my mouth. However, along with age, I always listened to people around me saying that they could no longer enjoy milk as opposed to what they had always experienced during their childhood. Their stomach will start rumbling, and the urge to go to the toilet heightens after consuming milk. Thus, why is this happening specifically to adults? Can people with lactose intolerance drink milk? Continue reading to know more about this.
Lactose Intolerance in Malaysia
Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to digest lactose, a sugar primarily present in milk and dairy products. The enzyme lactase is used by the body to break down lactose. Due to insufficient lactase production in those with lactose intolerance, lactose remains in the digestive system, where bacteria digest it. The majority of Asians have been recorded to suffer from lactose intolerance. In recent studies, Malaysian children are suffering from lactose intolerance with 29.8% (1). Meanwhile, adults in Malaysia records a higher percentage of lactose intolerance, with 88% of Malays, 91% of Chinese, and 83% of Indians affected (2). This shows that as people age, adults lose the ability to digest lactose compared to when they were in childhood. This is normal. About two-thirds of the world's population has been genetically programmed to decrease lactase (enzyme to digest lactose) after moms started to introduce solid food to their children (3).
Type of Lactose Intolerance
1. Primary Lactase Intolerance
This type of lactose intolerance is the most common among all. With increasing age, lactase enzyme activity gradually decreases. The activity even declines to start from infancy, while the symptom could be observed in adolescence and early adulthood. Thus, it can be concluded that this is a type of lactose intolerance due to the normal result of ageing (4).
2. Secondary Lactase Intolerance
The second type of lactose intolerance occurs due to infectious or inflammatory diseases that could cause injury to internal mucosa. Some common causes that could lead to this second type are the intake of antibiotics, celiac disease, chemotherapy, and so much more (5).
3. Congenital Lactase Intolerance
The third type of lactose intolerance comes from congenital, which means that this condition is present from birth. Mothers could observe this condition as soon as newborns ingest milk for the first time (6).
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms could be observed from 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming milk.
Can Lactose Intolerant People Drink Milk
As for now, there has been no cure for lactose intolerance. However, the symptoms could be lessened and avoided if one takes care of their daily diet. One could start to eat lactose-free food. For example, substituting dairy products and cow-based milk into plant-based milk such as soybean and almond milk. So the answer is yes. Lactose intolerance, people can still enjoy milk as long as it is free and lactose and, better yet, a plant-based one.
Plant-based milk for Lactose Intolerance people
Plant-based milk is a better alternative for lactose intolerant people because this plant-based milk does not contain any lactose normally found in animal-based milk.
One of the plant-based milk that is suitable for lactose intolerant people is soybean milk. Soybeans, high in vitamins and minerals, lack cholesterol but contain important monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids like linoleic and linolenic acids. Products made from soy are abundant in bioactive substances, particularly isoflavones, which positively affect health and increase protection against deadly diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and much more. Soy milk includes a lot of nutritional compounds, is highly digestible, and is inexpensive without lactose or cholesterol (7).
Other than soy milk, another option that could be considered is milk from nuts such as walnuts, almonds and cashew. Almonds are the most common nut used to create nut milk. The first step in making almond milk was to heat almond powder in water to 90°C. The spinning technique of centrifugation is used to remove large particles. The texture and appearance of the almond fluid are homogeneous after homogenization, resembling those of cow's milk. Even though it resembles cow's milk, almond milk lacks lactose, making it suitable for lactose-intolerant people. Almonds provide many nutrients, including fibre, phytochemicals, vitamins, and vital fatty acids, besides having minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and zinc (8).
Written by: Alia Adrina Asri
Love Earth Nutritionist