Lactose intolerance is caused by an enzyme defect that is either innate or acquired. To break down lactose, the body requires lactase, an enzyme that healthy infants and young children generally produce in sufficient quantity, although production does decline as we grow older. If insufficient enzyme is available, the milk sugar molecules are not broken down before they enter the colon where they ferment, producing typical symptoms such as bloating and diarrhoea, chronic fatigue, IBS, head and body aches and sleep disorders.
Once a patient has been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, they will have to reduce or avoid milk sugar – depending on the intensity of their intolerance.
Even people who do not suffer from lactose intolerance should avoid cow’s milk and opt instead for milk from sheep or goats: as well as containing less lactose, it also contains significantly less casein, a protein that, like gluten in wheat, causes villus atrophy. Even better than milk are dairy products such as yoghurts, curd cheeses or cheese, i.e. ‘predigested’ milk that places less strain on the intestines.