Lactose Intolerance: An Overview

Accepting that these are very rough, wildly variable numbers, here are some sample lactose levels in common dairy foods (from that same Wikipedia entry):

Dairy product Lactose Content
Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 240 mL 5 g
Milk, reduced fat, 240 mL 11 g
Swiss cheese, 28 g 1 g
Ice cream, 120 mL 6 g
Cottage cheese, 120 mL 2–3 g

Here’s the deal:  Lactose is in dairy LIQUID.  Butter has nearly no lactose, skim milk has a ton (because, by volume, it’s ALL liquid.)  Make sense?  Whole milk has less lactose per cup than 2%, and 2% has less than non-fat.  (Does anyone know the difference between “skim” and “non-fat” milk?  Besides price?  Because I don’t.)

Lactose-intolerance is the absence of lactase enzymes in the small intestine.  Lactose is a disaccharide (made of two sugars, galactose and glucose.)  Put on your thinking caps and read this:

Disaccharides cannot be absorbed through the wall of the small intestine into the bloodstream, so in the absence of lactaselactose present in ingested dairy products remains uncleaved and passes intact into the colon. The operonsof enteric bacteria quickly switch over to lactose metabolism, and the resulting in-vivo fermentation produces copious amounts of gas (a mixture of hydrogencarbon dioxide, and methane). This, in turn, may cause a range of abdominal symptoms, including stomach crampsbloating, and flatulence. In addition, as with other unabsorbed sugars (such as sorbitolmannitol, and xylitol), the presence of lactose and its fermentation products raises the osmotic pressure of the colon contents.”

Nice, right?  Lactose can’t be processed, so can’t continue the normal path.  It shoots into the colon where it doesn’t belong, and creates “copious amount of gas.”  There are a few methods of testing for the lactose intolerance- the one used most commonly for infants, apparently, is stool acidity.  If you’ve had (or have) a lactose intolerant baby, you KNOW.  A blistered bottom is a very good indicator of stool acidity, and heart wrenching to try and help your baby with.  If I am 15 minutes late in noticing a dirty diaper, Mimi WILL have a diaper rash that will last for days.  If I miss 2, she will blister.

Very frequent bowel movements is another indicator.  See above for why this is VERY frustrating.  Frequent wakings at night (as in, wailing every 2 hours) is another of our indicators that the lactase has let us down again.

OK, so here’s what this means for us: I am going to start experimenting on my daughter.  Wow, that sounds rotten, but I promise it will be bad for me too if I mess up.

Things we will be trying:

1) Hard cheese.  Tillamook has a “Vintage White Special Reserve Cheddar” that is aged for TWO YEARS.  It has almost no lactose.  The last time I gave Mimi a slice of cheddar (9 month cheddar) she was sick a few hours later.  I’ll give her a slice of the vintage white and watch for a day.

2) Yogurt.  I had declared yogurt a failure, but I did it wrong.  I make yogurt at home with 2% milk and powdered skim milk added as a thickener.  I basically added powdered lactose.  Yay me!  I don’t think the “live cultures” could convert all the sugars I had put in.  SO, I am going to make whole milk yogurt (less lactose, and she needs the fat for neural development) and I am not going to add powdered milk.  When it has set, I will strain it so it’s “Greek style.”  The more liquid I can drain out, the less lactose it will have.  It will be nice and thick, and nothing but milk and cultures.  After it’s drained I can season it to be palatable, because we like our yogurt sweetened.

3)  If these don’t work, I will purchase “lactose free” milk at the grocery store and try her on that- I don’t believe she has a milk protein allergy, because she doesn’t show any of the listed symptoms.  But if she can’t eat the cheese or the yogurt, then I’m not going to rule it out.

If the first two things work (hard cheese and strained yogurt) then we will work on learning her “lactose daily limit.”  Obviously she’s getting lactose from nursing, so the question is how much more than she handle?

**Update: I gave her a slice of cheese Thursday for lunch.  I’m still watching.

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Lactose Intolerance in our house

Lactose intolerance is something I never though about until my second baby.  She screamed…oh, for the first 8 weeks of her life, it seemed.  She had horrible reflux pains, and could only sleep sitting up, in my lap.  If she needed to sleep, I was in a chair.  My mother took to calling her “Screamin’ Mimi”   because once she got going, she couldn’t be consoled.

At 8 weeks, my grandpa sent me home with an extra carton of soy milk he had in the fridge- I’m never one to say no to groceries, and drank it with my next meal…and that was the day Mimi stopped screaming.  Oooooh boy, did I feel like a bad mom.  All this time my milk habit had been causing my newborn PAIN!  At that point she was able to sleep propped up in her carseat, and I was able to sleep in my bed.  On my back.  (Or on my stomach, if I wanted to!  After being pregnant, doesn’t that feel like such a decadent thing? 🙂  At 12 weeks she graduated to laying down in her crib for sleeping.

I kept all dairy out of my diet until she was 8 months old- I cautiously re-introduced it, and she seemed fine.  When we started solids, I discovered she was NOT OK eating it, though.  We had a lot of trial and error as I tried a “give her a little bit to build up immunity” approach, followed by a “cease and desist all dairy!” order.

I’ve noticed she’s OK with baked goods, and that seems to be a similar story based on the many anecdotal accounts I’ve seen.  One friend postulated it had to do with an interaction between the grain and dairy?  Perhaps there was a missing enzyme that the grain was lending?

At this point we have Mimi off all dairy, still.  She’s nearly 18 months old, and still nursing.  This confuses me though- mama milk is apparently high in lactose, so what gives?  Perhaps cow and goat milk just put her daily quota over the top?  (That’s a very good article to click over to, if you’re interested in lactose intolerance in infants.)

After reading this entry in Wikipedia (gadzooks- did I just assume I can make a medical decision based on a Wikipedia entry?) I’m going to try a few things with Mimi.

I just realized how long this is getting- man, I can get wordy when I get going!  Tomorrow I’ll fill you all in on what I’ve found in my research.  Here’s something to give you hope: “Sour cream and ice cream, like yogurt, if made the traditional way, may be tolerable.”

How was your day?

Sometimes I have to laugh when someone says “I don’t know how you do all these things!” because there’s always someone else wondering when I’m going to pick up the pace 🙂  And I feel so VERY LAZY most days.

I guess I better get used to my kitchen looking like this!

It is the most used room in our house, by far, and it’s almost never clean during daylight hours!

I’m not even sure what my point is right now.  Today Ernie got up at 6 and put in a movie for herself, and the baby and I got up at 7.  We nursed and breakfasted, showered,  and I made soy milk.  The mom in charge of teaching our co-op preschool today called at 8- her daughter had pink eye, and one of the other girls was sick.  School was cancelled?  I called up the two other healthy families and offered to host a VERY low-key preschool day if their girls wanted to get out of the house- school was cancelled last week due to illness as well, so all the healthy girls were getting a little antsy to see their friends again!

We had a great school day, and everyone was gone by 12:30.  We read stories and acted them out, had a snack, and the girls played dress up.  My kids went down for quiet time/naps, and I took care of budgeting/blog reading/e-mails for an hour until the baby woke up.  She and I went downstairs to play with beads and look through old photos, and Ernie joined us around 3:30.  We played for a bit, and I got ready to teach my afternoon piano lessons.  Lessons finished at 5:15, I warmed up some pinto beans from the freezer and made a batch of cornbread and we ate around 5:45, and then got cleaned up and chatted with Dad after he got home from work.  The kids got ready for bed at 7, and I went running with a friend at 7:45.  And now here I am, wondering why my kitchen isn’t clean 🙂  I think I better get showered and get off this couch, because tomorrow is going to be a busy day too!  (And can someone run to the store for me?  ‘kay, thanks 🙂

Spring is Coming!

(Lungwort, or Pulmonaria)

The bulbs, the mint, the forsythia, the lungwort…everything is saying that Spring is coming!  It seems a bit early this year, but we’re still getting night temps in the 30’s- I watch the ground thaw, like a tide coming towards the house, as the sun moves higher every morning.  By noon everything is frost-free, and by 2 the kids are outside in the yards drinking it all in.  My baby, especially, is crazy for the sun- she’ll come up to me with her boots and thick coat, pleading with her enormous eyes for me to PLEASE dress her and send her outside!  I’m glad we have a gated deck, so I can send her out and keep an eye on her.  (Unfortunately she and her sister love to play with spray  bottles, and the big girl’s favorite game is “Give the baby a shower.”  Mimi comes in soaked- I had to chastise this morning, when the chill hadn’t worked it’s way out yet and Ernie was dousing her sister.)

Some sweet friends have been mailing me more seeds- I have butternut squash and sugar pumpkin from a fellow Freecycler- I sent her away with all my seeds from the last two years, and she mailed me some saved seeds from her favorite squashes.  What a sweetheart!  A good friend just south of us has an amazing urban garden every year, and she has been VERY generous in her gifts.  She sent peppers and brussels sprouts seeds, to round out the garden.  My leeks are still growing in the windowsill, and it’s time to get a bunch of other stuff started!  I hope everything goes well this year, and I don’t kill it all!

On Parenting and Teaching

I was going to start out by saying that I’m not a parenting expert.  But you know what?  I think that I am.  I’m not ready to go around and dispense advice to anyone, but I don’t think there’s anyone on this earth that knows my children better than I do.

I know what motivates them.  I know what they’ll ask me for before they walk in the room.  I know what they’ll do when they see a certain toy.  I know what they’ll say when I announce that it’s dinner time.

I know that learning is almost a spiritual experience for Ernie.  Nothing makes her heart sing more than learning a new…truth.  Some fact or rule that is indisputable.  I explained the points of the compass to her last week and you could see the joy.  She had to give me a hug, AND kisses.  She’s memorized them, by the way- she can point North, South, East, and West from anywhere we’re standing, almost every time.  She knows which roads run East and West, or North and South.

My husband and I talk every night about our girls- what they did that day, what our goals are for them, if our current approach is working, alternate ways we could approach something, etc.  I think home schooling is going to be just fine for us!

I really am so excited.  We’ve decided to go ahead and start in the Fall, and do Kindergarten at home.  Ernie is excited- she nearly cried for joy when I told her she could have her own desk and special pencils and books.  I’m working on our curriculum now, researching options that are available to us and local home school groups.

If you have any curriculum suggestions, I’m all ears!

Stocking the Pantry

I’ve mentioned before our monthly grocery bills are ridiculously low.   We get our protein from grains and beans, we don’t eat fancy dishes (it’s pretty hot stuff if I serve more than one side dish with dinner), and I buy in bulk.  Oh yeah, and I make most everything it seems.  The food is good, hot, and there’s lots of it.  I try to buy produce in season too- it tastes better, and is loads cheaper.  If something is on a ridiculous sale, I buy 10 times as much as we need and freeze or can most of it.  We have a garden, but I’d be lying if I said it made a huge difference in our grocery budget last year.  We did get a lot of tomatillo salsa out of it though, and enough jam to last for the year, plus enough of both to give away as Christmas presents.

The credit card we use rewards back a certain percentage of all purchases, and we get a check (only good at Costco) once a year from them.  The reward only accrues on money paid back in the same month as the purchase, which we ALWAYS do.  Always, always- we’ve never had a credit card balance carry over.  If it was a temptation, we wouldn’t use it.  The check came a few weeks ago, and I took inventory of our pantry.  Lots to buy!  Here’s what I got with our check:

  • 4 gallons white vinegar
  • 25 lb. white all-purpose flour
  • 10 lb. chocolate chips
  • 6 lb. brown sugar
  • calcium chews (for the toddler…sigh, I don’t like supplementing, but it’s just in case)
  • Children’s Tylenol
  • 10 lb. egg noodles
  • 5 lb. salmon fillets (this is new for us- it turns out my kids LOVE fish, so I splurged on an $18 bag of frozen fillets)
  • 10 lb. baking soda
  • 3 double-packs of tortillas (I can’t figure out how to make these myself- mine are too puffy)
  • 10 lbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 large loaves Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese (another splurge- it’s a favorite local dairy.  I keep cheaper shredded cheese in the freezer)
  • 10 lb. Crisco
  • 5 lb. quinoa
  • 2 gallons milk
  • 4 gallons vegetable oil
  • tortilla chips (guilty splurge- my oven baked ones just aren’t the same!  These are so good with homemade hummus, or sprinkled over chicken salsa  soup)

With $1.80 tax, the total came to $180.46, and the clerk handed me $5.35 change from our yearly check.  I tried to buy enough to everything to get our basement storage back to up “last for a year” quantities- a lot of things needed topping off.  Some things, like flour, I don’t keep a year’s supply of- I have lots of wheat, if we needed to use it, and I keep 100 pounds of white flour on hand.  It’s nice to have, but we don’t NEED it.

The Sunday Visitor

Sunday was a LONG day for our family- I accompanied my little brother and his friend while they sang a duet for their church service.  His meeting was at 11:30, which meant that my whole family came to listen to him sing, so we could leave straight after his service to go to our own.  The kids are still sick so I kept them out of their primary classes- they came to my women’s meeting.  Remarkably, they didn’t mind one bit: one of the gals brought cupcakes for everyone (we’re a small congregation, perhaps 15 women on a good day) and my friend blithely handed each of my daughters a chocolate bakery cupcake while I was playing the opening song on the piano, and then leading the women in a practice hymn.  When I came down from the pulpit, Ernie (my four-year-old) was using her fingers to pick every last crumb from her cupcake wrapper.  I silently took the wrapper and pointed to her skirt, and she started hoovering up those crumbs as well.  Better they be in her mouth than on the chapel floor!

Mimi, the toddler, was no where to be found…and neither was my friend, Miryam.  “Donde va Miryam?” I asked Hermano Mayorga (probably in completely nonsensical Spanish-  we’re attending a spanish-speaking congregation right now, and the last time I spoke Spanish was the year I took it in high school.)  She had taken my daughter to the bathroom, where Mimi emerged from dripping water from her chin.  “Chocolate….chocolate, chocolate!” my friend exclaimed while waving her hand energetically around her own face.  Miryam’s English skills are on par with my Spanish skills- our conversations are hilarious, you should hear them.  I understood her point though, and thanked her profusely for cleaning my chocolate-loving baby (while silently hoping, for once, that those cupcakes had hydrogenated-fat-filled frosting, and NOT dairy based.)

We arrived home from church, the kids sugar-filled and sorely missing their naps.  Daddy wrestled them into tired and happy giggles (with a few unhappy shrieks, because…they ARE kids) while I warmed up the curry base I had made the day before and started bread dough rising to make naan- we had a special Sunday dinner, with lots of our favorites!  The curry simmering on the stove, and the bread rising under the stove light, I came to play with the girls.  I lay on my back and bench-pressed Mimi when I saw something huge swoop into our tree.  I’ve never seen a bald eagle so close!  He came twice- I snapped away with my camera and muttered under my breath, wondering why I hadn’t taken the time to practice before hand…because obviously I should have known that our national bird was going to land in my backyard one day and I’d need to rush to my bedroom to unpack the camera, change the lens to the telephoto, run outside in my slippers, and breathlessly snap 30 or so pictures before he flew away.  I think this shot turned out OK- I wonder what he was looking for?  The bunnies who eat our lawn?  The cats who prowl around the neighborhood through their network of fence-holes?  The squirrels who have made my back deck into a highway?  Maybe he was just hiding below the tree cover from the crows?  Whatever it was, he took off a second time and didn’t come back.

Dinner was good, and we had a nice Valentine’s Day.  I hope you did too!