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I am one of the population with lactose intolerance. In my case, I am relatively lucky. I am not totally intolerant and do not have a problem with milk in my tea or coffee or small amounts of cheese or a little cream on the Christmas Pud. However, I am a girl. Sometimes the only thng a girl wants or needs is a whole tub of Hagen-Daaz or Ben and Jerrys.
Anyone with any level of lactose intolerance will realise that this is not a costless choice.
Lactose intolerance means that you lack all or enough of the lactase enzyme to digest the sugars in milk products. This means that if you consume dairy products four - or more if you have a lazy digestive system - hours after consuming that tub of ice-cream you will get pain in the belly, gas and the lovely follow up of explosive trots and vomiting.
Okay, this does reduce the time the body has to aborsb the calories in the ice-cream and anything taken in after it, but it is massively unpleasant and can be highly inconvenient and the vomiting is not good for the teeth enamel. Plus, being stuck on the loo clutching a bucket does more than a bit offset the emotional boost of ice-cream.
This condition was something I had learned to live with by not eating ice-cream and sticking to small amounts of the hard cheese I prefer anyway and hitting Coca-Cola and not milkshakes when it was fast food time.
Then I realised my mum had the same problem, only much worse. She couldn't have any cream in anything, even the small amount sometimes found in soups. This is not surprising, as lactose intolerance can get worse with age or appear in those who did not previously have a problem. But the level of intolerance my mum was experiencing was restricting her diet, depleting her and restricting her social life, as she could not eat things she was offered and so she felt even worse.
So I went looking for a solution.
It was not hard. I googled the symptoms she and I had had the joy of. I found that the reason was almost certainly lactose intolerance rather than 'dairy allergy' and diverticulitis, which mum thought it was. Having a diagnosis which made sense to me, I did the next scientific thing. I experimented. One tub did result in the loo/bucket combo of joy.
I further experimented by hunting lacase pills, which google told me would help. I trawled Boots to no effect before trying Holland and Barrett. They sold lactase pills. I bought them. I bought a tub of my favourite Ben and Jerry's. I took the capsules and tucked in.
And had no nasty effects at all - other than retaining the calories. I bought some for mum. She had to go out and was presented with a cream bearing meal of mass destruction. Thought the pills would not work but tried them anyway and had the same result. Normality.
Since then, I have trawled Amazon for varying brands of lactase pills, caplets and tablets. I tend to prefer Quest's pills for its best cost/benefit balance, but those are not on Dooyoo.
These are. And I did follow the scientific approach of trying all the available competing products. These are the US market leader, though the only place to find them here seems to be on Amazon. As a result, they are stupidly expensive at £17.77 for sixty.
This is somewhat offset by the fact that they do seem to be a little stronger than competing brands, so you need to take less if you have a moderate problem. However, if you do end up with the chewable version, this advantage can be offset by the taste of the product, which is bleagh.
These are good. They are effective and easy to get hold of through Amazon. Take these and you and your elderly relative will experience the joys of diary eating again. Popped into the handbag and you will never be caught out again. For effectiveness, it would get five stars and you can recycle the cardboard box they come in.
But there are cheaper products out there which work just as well and which are not stupidly expensive. Go for Quest instead and you will get to eat the ice-cream yumminess without the icky taste of the lactase. As a result, of these factors, I am marking this product down to four stars.
I'm lactose intolerant. This means that my gut lacks an enzyme called lactase, a type of molecule which helps break down lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. If I eat anything with a significant amount of lactose such as milk or cheese, I get terrible tummy issues like cramps, diarrhoea and bloating. I'm not going to get *ill* as this is an intolerance, not an allergy, but I feel rough and the symptoms are, shall we say, quite antisocial!
Lactose intolerance is common, but the number of people afflicted varies between different ethnicities. A larger proportion of people with Chinese ancestry are affected than those of European heritage. This is thought to be because European people, who early on adopted dairy products as part of their agricultural diet, found it genetically beneficial to retain lactase from infancy. Humans are not actually supposed to be able to digest lactose after nursing, but it is of course helpful if you can digest cow milk if you're bringing up a lot of cows on your prehistoric farm!
Anyway, I'm one of the unlucky Caucasian minority who is afflicted. It's definitely become more of an issue as I've gotten older. In my teens I got a funny tummy if I ate lots of soft cheese or cream; now hard cheese and the small amount of milk I put on breakfast cereal is enough to give me a nasty bout of gastric misery.
Lactase replacement products are available in the UK: Holland & Barratt sell a lactase supplement but you have to take it 20 minutes before eating anything containing dairy. This is often impractical.
A friend in the USA came up with the solution. She gave me a box of Lactaid when I went to visit her.
Lactaid chewable tablets come in a large cardboard box which contains foil-sealed tablets, four or ten to a sheet.
Each tablet is around the size of a UK five pence piece. The tablets are chewable and come in various flavours. I prefer the vanilla. Unlike the Holland & Barratt supplements, Lactaids are chewed 'with the first bite of dairy'.
They taste nice and are easy to chew and swallow. The vanilla flavouring makes them very palatable.
It is not exaggerating to say Lactaid has given me a new lease of life. I'm able to eat pizza again! And have cow milk on my cereal! Lactose intolerance is a condition that's fairly easy to control when you're cooking for yourself; milk alternatives are available and there are lots of foods you can make that don't have cheese in. But when I'm on holiday, or eating out, lactose intolerance can be a nightmare. Not all hotels provide soya milk at breakfast; many restaurant meals are cheese based; and what about the 'hidden' dairy that you can accidentally eat after a well-meaning friend bakes you a delicious dessert?
I now always carry a few Lactaids in my handbag, and if there is any doubt I'm about to eat something with dairy in it, I chew a tablet.
I still can't digest anything with cream, or soft cheese, but Lactaid has made my lactose intolerance far, far more manageable.
PRODUCT AVAILABLILITY IN THE UK
This is the sticky issue. I stock up on my fairly regular trips to the US. But what if you don't have this option?
A quick Google search for 'Lactaid UK' does bring up several UK stockists. There are private companies that sell it, plus vendors on Amazon and even E-Bay, although their availability varies. I have no experience of using these companies so I would suggest careful research before using them.
Prices seem to be around £20 for 90 tablets, which is hideously expensive, but, then again, what price to eat pizza in comfort again?
Lactaid is a fantastic product. In the US it's as easy to buy as TicTacs or chewing gum - it's actually sold next to the counter in many grocery stores!
I wish it was more easily available in the UK. My final recommendation would be to buy some if you possibly can. I think it's the best product on the market.
For the Prevention of Gas Diarrhea and Bloating