A few years ago, many people who asked for soy or almond milk in a restaurant were met with questioning eyes. If you replied to the waiters “I’m lactose intolerant”, many of them looked like a cow when there was thunder. Keyword “cow”: Almost everyone now knows what lactose intolerance means. Avoiding milk and dairy products has now even become a trend. Skeptical people, on the other hand, claim that only Asians are lactose intolerant or that lactose intolerance is even made up because we can all drink milk as babies.
In this article we would like to clear up the myths about lactose intolerance based on facts. With regard to the current level of scientific knowledge, we would like to shed light on the dilemma of dairy products:
Who can be lactose intolerant? What does that actually mean? And can lactose intolerance be cured? And if yes, how does it work?
You can find out this and more in this article.
What is lactose intolerance?
If a person suffers from lactose intolerance, they cannot digest the lactose from dairy products adequately or barely. This milk sugar in milk is called lactose. Lactose is found not only in cow's milk, but also in the milk of cows, sheep, goats and donkeys, as well as in a woman's breast milk.
If a person with lactose intolerance consumes a product that contains lactose, diarrhea, gas, bloating and stomach pain are often the result. Some people even vomit or are constipated.
Anyone who is lactose intolerant has difficulty digesting milk sugar (lactose) because they lack the enzyme “lactase” required for the digestive process or the body produces it in too small quantities.
Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose in the intestines. This is produced independently by our body. If a person consumes a certain amount of milk sugar, the lactase breaks down the lactose in the intestine.
However, if there is more lactose in the intestine than the available lactase can break down, then the remaining lactose is transported into the large intestine. There, the so-called fermentation process of lactose then causes gas formation and other breakdown products, which lead to the typical symptoms of lactose intolerance.
How can it come to that?
There are basically different types of lactose intolerance. In most cases, lactose intolerance is congenital, i.e. hereditary. Lactose intolerance can also be acquired and acquired unconsciously. This can happen through a balanced diet or illnesses – more on that in a moment.
If we look at the entire world population, lactose intolerance is relatively widespread - although less so in Europe.
Who is genetically predisposed?
In Europe, only 5 to 15% of adults are lactose intolerant. In Northern Europe this percentage is even lower. In East Asia and Africa, however, 65-90% of adults are lactose intolerant. In Switzerland, only one in five people is affected by lactose intolerance, while in Germany, for example, 15% of the population is lactose intolerant.
This astonishingly different distribution can be explained by evolution: Dairy farming has been practiced in Europe and especially in Northern Europe for many, many hundreds of years. The local population therefore had enough time to get used to digesting dairy products. In addition, people who could digest lactose well at the time probably had a higher survival rate compared to people who could not digest lactose well and had to resort to alternative, less available foods that often had less nutritional value. Those people who could digest lactose successfully reproduced and spread lactose intolerance across Europe.
Genetically or hereditarily predisposed are mainly people who come from Asia or Africa or who have roots in these regions of the world.
Now you may say that you are lactose intolerant, even though you have no roots in the “lactose intolerant” regions of our world. Maybe that's true and you are one of the few people in Europe who actually suffers from lactose intolerance.
However, it is more likely that you have acquired lactose intolerance unconsciously and unknowingly. And how does it work?
The acquired or acquired lactose intolerance
During infancy and childhood, our bodies are designed to digest lactose because it is contained in breast milk. For this reason, children under the age of five are rarely lactose intolerant.
However, it is completely normal that the enzyme activity of lactase decreases with adulthood. We eat solid food, have a more varied diet and are no longer dependent on breast milk, which is why our body has to produce less lactase.
Some people mistakenly refer to lactose intolerance as an allergy - but this is incorrect. Although it is possible to be allergic to cow's milk protein, this must be clearly distinguished from lactose intolerance.
For example, acquired lactose intolerance occurs when a person can basically digest lactose but abruptly stops consuming dairy products. Gradually, this person's body will limit its natural lactase production to such an extent that a sudden and unusual consumption of dairy products cannot be digested with sufficient lactase - this results in the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Another reason related to the cause already mentioned is damage to the intestinal flora. If our intestinal mucosa is damaged by a disease such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, the digestion of lactose can be disrupted - lactose intolerance is acquired.
Many people who avoid dairy products and do not consciously balance their intake of good intestinal bacteria unconsciously damage their intestinal flora, which in turn can result in acquired lactose intolerance.
Taking antibiotics also damages the intestinal flora and can lead to lactose intolerance.
Can this damage or acquisition of lactose intolerance be reversed?
Can you become lactose tolerant again?
The answer is “yes”.
If you are not one of the few people who actually suffer from lactose intolerance, then the cause of your lactose digestion problems may be due to damaged intestinal flora or an acquired withdrawal of lactase enzyme activity.
The path to lactose tolerance can be achieved through intestinal cleansing. Before you go down this route, you should check with a doctor to make sure you don't actually suffer from congenital lactose intolerance.
Colostrum, for example, can be used to regenerate the intestinal mucosa cells. Colostrum is the first substance released to the newborn after pregnancy by a female mammal. In liquid form, colostrum is produced by the mammary glands and contains concentrated and versatile ingredients in the form of antibodies, proteins, vitamins, amino acids, and much more
Colostrum is particularly suitable for people who are lactose intolerant, regardless of whether it is hereditary or acquired. Because: With a normal daily intake of high-quality, freeze-dried colostrum in an amount of approx. 1 gram per day, the lactose content is so low that no reaction can occur even with lactose intolerance.
If you want to clean up your intestines in order to become lactose tolerant again in the long term, then colostrum is a healthy and natural measure. Colostrum helps to cleanse the intestines and keep the intestinal microbiome healthy and active. Our Swiss Immune® 1 capsules with colostrum and probiotics strengthen the intestinal flora and support the intestinal microbiome. They contain the optimal combination of high-quality probiotic strains and Swiss colostrum.
The probiotic Bifidobacterium Bifidum, for example, helps maintain healthy intestinal flora and strengthens resistance. The intact state of the intestinal microbiome has a positive influence on digestion, metabolism, body weight, immune system, appetite and general well-being.
Once the intestines have been cleaned up and are back in balance, you can then slowly start to integrate dairy products into your everyday life again.
In the long term, digesting lactose should no longer be a problem.