Is lactose intolerance forever?
I'm pretty sure I've always been lactose intolerant, I just chose to share my selective hearing with anybody that told me so. It may have been the fact that my ears itch when I eat ice cream, or the fact that I can't keep the warm milk from running through my bowels, but the idea of giving up a food for the rest of my life has never seemed like an alternative.
What I'm going to share with you, may make some of your stomachs gurgle, but the fact is, you don't need to give up dairy forever if you have lactose intolerance.
I know it sounds like I've gone mad, but think about it... you want to believe me right?
You want to be that normal mom that grabs a latte with the girls, or doesn't pose 30 questions at the dinner party to see if they really did add butter or sour cream into the meal. Well, congrats, it's possible!
Lactose intolerance is more like a lactose malabsorption scale that all of us share a unique position on. If you have other underlying issues in your gut, such as celiac, gluten sensitivity, infections, inflammation, IBS, or intestinal permeability, then sorry but your malabsorption is pretty far on the intolerable side. You're gonna wanna work on that leaky gut first.
However, if you simply find yourself running to the bathroom a hot second after you drink milk, with no other systemic symptoms, there is still hope. You see, how much lactose you ingest is what determines how intolerant you are. Most people do just fine with minimal amounts under about 12grams in a serving. Especially if the lactose sugar is already broken down by bacteria as in yogurt or kefir.
In fact, if you continue to take the same 1/4 cup portion of yogurt or milk daily, (yes, your gas and bloating may get worse) but, within 7-10 days your intestinal micro biome will adapt and the activity needed to break down that lactose will increase.
In other words, if you are committed and ready to marry dairy, in sickness and in health, then eating it straight for 2 weeks with or without a lactase tablet, can bring back your tolerance. For those of us that like eating cheese at dinner parties, this is super exciting news!
Most of us were not born with a lactose intolerance. In the last 40 years there has been less than 50 cases world wide of very sick babies that could not digest lactose, many of them in Finland due to a genetic inheritance. My point is, most babies in the world can digest lactose in breastmilk perfectly, but we lose the capability as we age. Asians lose up to 90% of their capacity to digest lactose within a few years of weaning and Jewish decent lose up to 70% of their capacity.
Northern European caucasians however, can hold onto their lactose tolerance for up to 20 years. Remember how I told you if you were to drink milk every day you would soon adapt to digesting lactose. It turns out the Northern Europeans have natural selection of lactase persistent genes thanks to the fact that they started dairy farming roughly 10,000 years ago and had daily exposure.
So what does that mean if you are lactose intolerant?
It means you have a choice. If you are not suffering from other GI troubles I mentioned earlier, then you can decide whether or not to reintroduce dairy products back into your life. The good news is, that ingesting lactose with intolerance, is not harmful to the gut.
Of course there may be many reasons why you don't want to reintroduce gas, bloating, or diarrhea, which may very well occur in that first week of adapting your intestine. But no damage is done to the gut if you go slow and consistent with a high quality dairy product. Most people will do fine on 1/4 cup yogurt, 1 Tbsp butter, or 1/4 cup raw milk on an empty stomach or small bits of dairy in a well balanced meal.
You will need to stay consistent with your dairy for 2 weeks before your body adapts to lactose absorption, so make sure you are ready to marry dairy. And please notice if you are still having symptoms of gas, bloating, and racing through the bowels after 2 weeks trial. Rapid bowel movements means malabsorption; this could cause deficiencies in essential vitamins and other problems. If you are still suffering after 2 weeks, chances are you are not just lactose intolerant, but you are having secondary lactose intolerance from a different gut issue.
Get thee to a practitioner and heal your intestines. You will see drastic improvements in your health and you may get to celebrate with an ice cream milkshake.