A “Lactose intolerance” is a term full of hype with very little understanding as to what may be causing such an intolerance. Maybe it’s cool to say I’m lactose intolerant just like it’s cool to say I’m gluten intolerant because that’s what CNN decided to feature this week. What’s with all the not-asking-questions and just taking a diagnosis as fact? Why can’t we all enjoy a daily big-ass bowl of ice cream or even an occasional gallon challenge?
The body must produce the digestive enzyme Lactase in order to digest the milk sugar Lactose. This is an essential piece of the dairy sugar digestive process, BUT there are plenty of mishaps, obstacles, hurdles that can prevent the body from producing said enzyme. Ahem…
Heating/Pasteurization – Denatures the milk, which can cause issues when digesting “dead” nutrients (heat kills things, duh).
Additives – Carrageenan, lechitin, and gums can irritate the intestinal lining/mucosa layer, which can prevent the body from absorbing nutrients.
Allergens – A consumer can be allergic to the diet of the cow: grass for properly-raised cattle and grains, corn, soy, sawdust, or concrete for commercially-raised cattle. If a cow is eating sawdust I think there’s a bit more to worry about than an invidiual allergy to the stuff.
Gluten intolerance – Gluten can burn (create holes) through the mucosa layer, which lines the stomach and intestines. The protein can also flatten the Villi that line the small intestine due to irritation and inflammation, causing nutrient malabsorption (since the Villi literally grab and absorb food into the intestinal wall). The body can only do so much given the damage when digesting a digestive-enzyme specific food.
Intestinal bacteria imbalance (Dysbiosis) - A higher bad to good bacteria ratio can create bloating and inflammation (amongst other things). At this point, it’s tough to digest any food (not just dairy).
These are just a few perspectives. A Lactose Intolerance tends to be a symptom of a bigger cause. What’s that cause? That’s up to you to figure out.