Got Milk? We Don’t

See how quickly lactose intolerance became a real problem.

By Melanie Prescott

As infants, the body uses the lactase enzyme to break down the lactose sugars found in milk and other dairy products. However, overtime, the body can lose the number of enzymes available to digest these sugars, which leads to lactose intolerance as we know it. But how many people are actually affected by such a deficiency? It’s more than you think.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website, about 95 percent of Asian Americans, 70 percent of African Americans and 53 percent of Mexican Americans all experience lactose intolerance. It’s more prevalent to develop lactose intolerance during adulthood, but thousands of infants develop the deficiency at birth and cannot break down the lactose found in breast milk or formula.

Through my own experience, I’ve learned to accept the deficiency and make a lifestyle choice. A nondairy lifestyle is not as dismal as it sounds. Like many others, I give myself a “cheese quota” every month to both reduce the symptoms and keep my sanity. Dairy products aren’t worth the suffering, but an occasional Domino’s pizza or pimento cheese spread doesn’t hurt. Making a choice to live a nondairy lifestyle is easier for those who live in a more developed area.

In Gainesville, many restaurants and grocery stores cater to people with lactose intolerance, partly because there is a growing vegan population as well. However, in an area like my hometown of Chipley, Florida, the options for dairy-free foods are more limited, which often leads to an increase in my symptoms.

With about 65 percent of the human population living with lactose intolerance, many people are choosing to take care of their bodies by living a nondairy lifestyle. Such a lifestyle may seem difficult at first, but the relief you feel instantly makes it all worth it. I’m lactose intolerant, and I only “got” almond milk. What about you?

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