During Dairy Month, Some Facts on Milk and Lactose Intolerance

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For 73 years, farming communities all over our country have recognized the dairy farmer during the month of June. Dairy month began back in 1937 when grocer organizations sponsored National Dairy Month, which became June Dairy Month in 1939. Fluid milk is used to manufacture cheese, yogurt, butter and ice cream as well as dry or condensed milk and whey products and powders.

There are about 60,000 dairy farms in the United States with 99 percent of them being family owned and operated or producer cooperative farms. According to the American Dairy Association, dairy is the number one agricultural business in nine states across our Nation. As demand for fluid milk continues to grow slowly, there may be a new reason to try dairy in celebration of Dairy Month.

I have previously shared that the members of my family are big milk drinkers and that there are a variety of reasons why milk plays an important role in a healthy diet. Some people select non-dairy plant-based options from rice or soy because of dairy intolerance issues. A recent study suggests that totally avoiding dairy may be unnecessary for everyone. The enzyme lactase in the gut breaks down the milk sugar known as lactose. When there isn't enough enzyme for the level of lactose ingested, bacteria in the gut feed on the milk sugar that remains which produces gas. This results in abdominal distention and increased flatulence to release the gas and for some people these symptoms cause undesirable responses and discomfort. The study questions if other factors could be involved for some people. Abdominal discomfort could be related to mysterious gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome or from simple over consumption for the enzyme available. When people experience gastrointestinal discomforts after consuming milk, they are quick to figure lactose intolerance is the problem and that totally eliminating milk is necessary. Instead of completely avoiding milk and dairy because of a few unpleasant episodes, it may be possible to evaluate if smaller portion sizes are tolerated which will provide much needed nutrients while limiting discomfort and negative body responses. One nutritional scientist from Purdue University suggests drinking a quarter cup serving of milk as a starting point to see how your body handles it and moving up from there while avoiding consumption of more than one cup at any one time. She found this practice allowed many people to find the right serving size that their body can tolerate.

I have family members that have lactose intolerance and experience almost immediate diarrhea after drinking and digesting milk. They use Lactaid products to help them meet their milk needs. I have another friend that found on her own that smaller serving sizes didn't cause abdominal discomfort and she only had trouble when she drank a large glass of milk at one time. The new Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 considers fat free or low-fat fluid milk and milk products a necessary nutrient-dense food choice in a healthy diet. Their evidence-based research found that our diets typically only provide 75 percent of the calcium and 42 percent of the vitamin D we need in 52 percent of the recommended milk intake and support the inclusion of milk for people of all ages. Since dairy is the number one source for the key nutrients calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in the American diet, perhaps June is the time to give a small serving of milk another try.

If you have trouble tolerating milk, at what age did you notice the problem? Have you ever considered or tried small serving sizes as an option?

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I find it funny that we are the ONLY animals that continue pushing milk consumption after weaning AND we use other animals for it!! This seems a bit off to me.

I am DEFINITELY lactose intolerant. Even cheese can affect me. I don't feel like I'm missing much. I can get plenty of the nutrients I need from other sources. Please don't put those of us with true intolerances and allergies down by calling them "perceived" and make it already harder than it is for acceptance. May I ask how much the dairy folks paid for this bit of advertising? This seems a bit more propaganda than true fact. Report
I've loved milk all my life and have never had a problem with it. On the other hand, my youngest started having problems with lactose intolerance when I was breast-feeding her - I had to reduce the amount of dairy products I was eating. After she started eating regular foods and milk, things seemed to be ok, but in recent years, she started complaining of severe stomach upset after drinking milk, especially at breakfast. I have switched her to Lactaid and the problems have subsided. Interestingly, she can eat cheese without much problem and I read an article that explained why (scientific stuff). She will only eat ice cream by the spoonful so as to avoid upset. I now understand why she never wanted ice cream when she was younger. Report
Six years ago at age 70, I started having frequent diarrhea after my usual one daily formed stool/day. I had been eating about 10 yogurts/week and some cheese and drank some milk. On the advice of my family doctor, I have just started eliminating dairy products to see if I improve. Report
I consider myself lactose intolerant...however I eat yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, ice cream. We recently started buying Soy milk, so I have a little of that, too. I can have a little milk without issue (like 1/2 a glass a month) but more is troublesome. The soy seems to be fine, although I am in such a habit of not using milk, that I have not increased my use with the soy. Report
I love milk! I drink it everyday at least 16 oz a day. It doesn't bother me...I drink organic or raw milk (yes much more expensive). I give it to my children, they love milk too. If you don't like milk don't drink it, please do not try to make those of us do who do feel guilty because of your personal beliefs.
Thanks! Report
Milk is intended only for the babies of which animal it came from. It is meant to promote rapid growth and weight gain. Dairy creates an acidic environment in the human body and in order to neutralize the acid it leeches the calcium (alkaline) from your bones. Do some research, I suggest reading The China Study. Milk does not do a body good and is not part of a healthy diet. Report
I don't know if it is lactose or not - I only know I cannot drink milk in any form, it always tastes sour to me and it does affect my stomach.

I can eat ice cream *yum* but it too affects my stomach.

I recently found I can use 1 tsp heavy cream in my coffee even though I cannot use milk or half & half.

I noticed my milk problem before the age of 12 and around the age of 14 I totally switched to water. Report
I find it odd that in an article that is trying to encourage someone to try ingesting milk despite lactose intolerance that there is no mention of dairy products. The process of making yogurt and cheese makes them easier to digest for people with low levels of lactase. Ice cream, though not diet friendly, is also easier to digest because of the high fat content.

Lactose Intolerance is very personalized with each person having very different levels of ability to digest milk. I wish doctors encouraged experimenting with dairy products more.

Did you know that if you stop drinking milk for long enough you'll lose the ability to digest it? Something to keep in mind before doinng something drastic. Report
Lactose intolerance... or what ever you want to call it when I drink milk, it tastes sour to me.. no matter how fresh it is.. (yes, I've tried it straight from a cow) I used to drink huge amounts. I no longer can. Milk tastes sour, ice cream gives me cramps, gas, sometimes vomiting... and then a day later.. the bathroom lets me know that I've had milk.... But, I do eat yogurt in small quantities. I eat small bits of cheese... but if I over do it... I'm sick. Not fun.

It's hard to understand why anyone would want to make others feel sick... all for the sake of milk! Report
Never had problems with milk until just recently, as in like the last three weeks... I was wondering this morning if lactose intolerant might have something to do with it. I am trying a smaller portion of milk tomorrow and I guess we will go from there! Report
The slightest amount of anything containing cow's milk makes me feel horrible. It's only cow's milk, though. I can eat as much goat or sheep cheese as I want and feel fine. It would be wonderful if goat and sheep dairy products were more ubiquitous in the US. Report
I agree with DISTIME...seems that some people are getting fired up and kind of taking an unfriendly tone over a personal food choice. Eat, drink and do what you like. I drink milk. I like it. If you dont like milk or have issues with the dairy industry, thats cool, but that doesnt negate my opinion that it is ok for me and anyone else to add milk to our morning coffee, free of shame! Report
I agree with Leonalioness. Milk is for baby cows. It is vitamin d fortified so NOT a good source of vitamin d. The clear containers which is what most people buy because they are cheaper contribute to vitamin loss, so again not healthy because the vitamins they fortified it with are disappearing as it sits. Plus, I am ALLERGIC, not 'lactose intolerant' so my body does not react well to it.
My sister is lactose intolerant and smaller servings aren't helpful to her, she pays for days if she has dairy. She does not 'imagine' her condition as this article purports. My mother finds milk tastes sour and doesn't drink it. We don't have weak bones, I get vitamin d from the sun and calcium from green vegetables. If you eat a healthy diet ie the rest of the food pyramid milk seems less necessary. I think the food pyramid needs a re-evaluation on how much dairy we really 'need' each day.
What did the dairy council give sparkpeople for this article? Report
For me it depends on the form of dairy.
I can handle any hard cheese with no problems. Soft cheeses, ice cream, and any liquid form of dairy and it's yucky feeling time.

I am confident the problem is not with the lactose, because I got the same reaction from lactose free products. Report
I noticed it when I was 19. I used to drink a SlimFast for breakfast every morning as that was all I had time for. After I was done I usually had horrible cramps and ended up running to the bathroom to...well...ya. Ice cream and pizza seem to be the biggest offenders. I tried giving Lactaid a try but with those two, it really didn't seem to matter if I took Lactaid or not. I think I can manage 1 glass of milk, but that's the limit. With cheese I'm ok with Mozarella. Report
Small serving sizes of dairy does not help at all. I still have the same symptoms as if I overindulged in my favorite dairy sweet like ice cream, milkshake, or even yogurt. I am affected no matter the size. Report
This article is so transparent. I completely agree with poster leonalioness. Report
I'm actually allergic to milk, and have been my whole life. When I was about 3 my pediatrician recommended trying goat milk so I've substituted that in for cow milk instead. Report
I have never had trouble with drinking milk, other than I can't stand the taste. So to get past this I put non caloric flavored syrups in my milk to change the taste. I now have milk with breakfast and dinner everyday. Report
My example may help some struggling with whether or not to consume milk & other dairy products. For compassionate reasons, I became vegetarian but kept eating eggs & dairy. I gained weight & my cholesterol went way up. I eliminated eggs & dairy over a year ago & am doing great. I've lost most of the weight I gained & my cholesterol went way down. I've learned to cook heathy dairy-free recipes including baked goods. I've even learned to make seitan from scratch using vital wheat gluten flour.

The milk industry is trying to compel us to use their products the same way the corn producers try to compel us to consume high fructose corn syrup. A plant-based diet, with simple foods that are minimally processed has been the solution for me. It also helped when I understood that typical American egg and milk production involves considerable cruelty to the chickens and cows. Then there are the hormones &/or antibiotics in their feed that we surely are better off without! I agree with those angry at Spark for "shilling" for agribusiness. We all deserve better! Report
I grew up on a farm where we had 3 "milk cows" so I have drank milk all my life. Report
I am LACTOSE INTOLERANT! It is a fact, not just my perception of a condition. I eat probiotics yogurt, and drink low-fat dairy. I cannot tolerate soy milk, and use rice milk sparingly. I am disappointed with the propaganda in this article.
Milk does a body good and have no problems tolerating, as I embrace it. My sister states she's lactose so I try and suggest other options to her. I'll address the smaller portions to her as well, however you may know, some people think they know what's best for them and refuse the advice from others! Report
I don't drink it as I did as a child, for the best I think as I am lactose intolerant. But I do get my dairy by eating greek yogurt. When I have cereal, milk is only enough to moisten. Also I take supplements to keep the bones strong. Report
Most dairy products do not agree with me, no matter how small a serving. I can handle greek yogurt, but not if "whey" is an ingredient.

And I can NOT have Lactaid. I throw up repeatedly for hours after I have taken it.

I see nothing wrong with getting my calcium and protein elsewhere. Report
Milk................ It does my body good!!! When I was growing up I hated milk, wouldn't drink it at all. Then in my adult life when i was pregnant with my daughter I craved it. I would drink 1/2 a gallon a day. After giving birth, milk had no appeal again. Wierd isn't it? Now that I am older and paramenopausal, I have that craving again, only not so much. I drink a cup of milk every morning and usually have some other dairy such as yogurt or cheese during the day. Love my milk! Report
This is a disgusting article. Way to shrill for the dairy industry, Spark.

They ADD vitamin D to milk, did you know that? Also, the protein in milk may make it hard to actually get much of the calcium benefit. Green leafies and other plant sources are better. And most dairy is family owned, says the dairy council? BS. I have friends who were dairy farmers and they farmed for a HUGE company and got screwed over all the time. It may be "family owned" in that the corporations own small family farms and the families work them, but it's not "family owned" in the sense we think of when we hear that term. Much dairy is factory farmed, highly confined and inhumane. And let's not get started on the veal connection to dairy - veal only exists due to dairy farming. Those male calves of dairy breeds are "useless" since they can't produce milk and won't get the size of beef cattle. So they are tortured into veal.

Milk is for baby cows. You don't NEED it (dairy free for 7 years and counting) and to tell people who get sick from dairy that they ought to be eating it anyway is despicable. Folks get sick because it's not a food we're supposed to be eating. There is a reason we're generally lactose intolerant after infancy. No other mammal drinks milk once it's weaned and NONE routinely drink the milk of another species.

I'm seriously, seriously disappointed in Spark right now.
I enjoy milk and dairy products, but have a few friends that cannot handle lactose at all. They have tried minimizing to even just a few sips of milk or 1/4 oz of cheese and still experience the unpleasant side-effects of intolerance. I'm glad that I can still enjoy dairy, and feel like if I were in their shoes I would be popping lactaid like crazy just to enjoy gouda and cottage cheese! Report
I too love milk & can drink it in small amounts & will continue to do so. Tanya, great article!!! Report
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I see this is another topic that raises ire of people. Just look at the previous comments made!!! I like milk and I will continue to drink it!! No matter what comments are made. This world is made up of different people and if I chose to drink milk its My Right. I find it odd that some people take a tone of "righteous indignation" for an issue that is personal.
Where I live (not USA) milk is pretty expensive so I drink it when I can afford it, if I can't then I would do without but that does not affect my enjoyment of it. I like it and I don't see anything wrong with milk.
People please play nice and tone it down, every one will have a different view. Report
I found alot of my stomach problems i'd had since a child disappeared once I eliminated milk and most dairy products, my body fells cleaner and i'm alot less miserable. I would have a yogurt in the am and milk with dinner, because thats what my Dr. told me i needed to do to lose weight. Once i told her i would get sick immediatley after eating yogurt, having cereal or a glass of milk, she pulled me from dairy all together. Within a week the stomach problems ceased and with in a month all my skin issues i had started to fade. (rosacea, excema and acne) Dairy like many other things is not for everyone, as eastercat said most people have some form of intolerance to it.
I have to admit that the phrase "perceived intolerance" bothered me. While it may be true that many people might not need to cut out dairy completely I don't see a problem as it is healthy to get the nutrients elesewhere. Aside from the many reasons not to inbibe animal products (ie if chosing a vegan lifestyle)...why would someone want to take the chance of feeling ill if they don't need to?

I have always been dairy sensitive and this got much worse while I was in university as I developed IBS. At this point in my life I need to treat my sensitivity to milk as an allergy even though it is not. For instance, if I order my soy latte and starbucks and they don't wipe down the milk steamer I get very ill within an hour of drinking my latte.

This is not a "perceived intolerance" and I can enjoy many dairy free dairy products that are plant based and am able to get my servings of dairy and calcium.

I also have friends who just feel a little sick or uncomfortable or bloated when they consume dairy products...and I just don't see why someone would want to sign up for that when there are suitable alternatives. Report
Thank you to all of the members who stood up for avoiding dairy! While I respect everyone's choices, please be aware that calcium, protein, etc. are available in many other foods that will carry additional health benefits (for eg. nuts and leafy greens have good fats and additional vitamins). Here is one source, http://www.ellenskitchen.com/faqs/c
, but Spark has articles and you will find a lot of information with a Google search. Since I eliminated dairy (and other animal products) I feel a lot better and finally lost some accumulated fat on my body (eg. my big butt is no more). If you find veganism too extreme, consider diversifying your diet anyway. Milk is not the only way to get your health requirements. Substituting other sources for calcium, vitamin D, protein, etc. every once in a while will have huge benefits for you, animals, and the environment. Report
I was over 50 when milk started to disagree with me. My doctor said it happens when some of us get older. But I can enjoy yogurt and cheeses in moderation. For everything else I love soy milk. I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Report
I don't have a problem with the lactose, my problem is with the fat in the milk. My body does not process it. When I was very young my mother put me on goat milk, I didn't drink any milk from the age of about 6 until I became an adult. With my first pregnancy I realized I needed the calcium, so I tried "regular milk" again...same effect I got really sick. I tried 2%, same thing, then I switched to 1% it got better, then I went to skim milk and presto no fat no sickness. Amazing how that worked. I drink my milk everyday now. Lesson learned- some times you really need to find what works for you! Yes, milk it does a body good!(when it's the right kind) Report
Our blogger said, "Since dairy is the number one source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in the American diet and almond, soy, and rice non-dairy options are highly processed, perhaps June is the time to give a small serving of milk another try."

I ask, "And cows milk is is not highly processed?" It's full of junk that I do not want in my body unless I put it there. If we were talking about the days of walking up to a cow, getting some milk and then walking away, this article would strike more of a true chord with me. We no longer live in those times in a majority of the US and therefore it reads like something a dairy lobbyist wrote.

Don't get me wrong, I love milk and dairy, but I've chosen not to drink cows milk (unless raw) for the reasons I've already stated AND b/c I don't like the way the cows are treated. I also believe that we are all connected and that the energy of the being that produces your food, as well as those who handle it afterward, becomes part of your food. ("New agey"- I know!) If the being is unhappy or raised in far less than ideal conditions, the quality of the item(s) they produce is reflected. I only ingest dairy in the form on the occasion ice cream cone and cheese. If I can get my hands on some raw cows milk, I'll drink that too. Otherwise almond milk and I get along just fine. It's the best I can do.

I do believe the blogger has some good points in the article, but she also seems to gloss over the other reasons (besides physiological intolerance) people may choose not to drink milk. At the end of the day, try news things & follow your own instincts about what you should put in your body. Report
Esme25 hits it on the head when it comes to my avoidance of milk. Also, when a large number of people are lactose intolerant (95 percent of Asian Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians), why do we continue to abuse these innocent animals?
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has an informational sheet to counteract this paid advertisement for the dairy industry. Read the sheet and the sources cited and make your own decision about the value of animal-derived dairy.
I LOVE MILK!!! Report
I drink milk--but not from mass-produced places like the ones ESME 25 describes; I've friends with a small farm and we share their bounty. (I'm picky about where I get all my food from--meat, veggies, even my soy milk, which I also enjoy--it's all got to come from sustainable practices and be in keeping with a harmonious way of living for all concerned). While I'm not 'intolerant,' dairy products do raise my mucus levels, and I deal with that because of osteoporosis issues in my family. There are other ways to get calcium? sure, but dairy is easiest, most natural (at least if you are of northern European extraction) and I like the stuff. Each person has a unique journey to make, and we can celebrate most of them. Report
I don't drink milk at all. ESME25 already said it best. What is baffling to me is that people are lactose intolerant and still try to consume dairy. Don't they realize that their bodies are trying to tell them something? Humans are the only animals that drink milk past infancy. It's so absurd to me that people would purposely consume a product knowing that it is going to make them sick. Report
Why I don't drink milk or consume dairy products:
Dairy cows are made pregnant yearly to ensure they produce adequate milk. In nature the calf would suckle for almost a year but nature, like the calf, is denied by the dairy industry. Some calves may be separated from their dams on the first day of life; others might remain for just a few days. But as the inevitable by-products of relentless milk production each will have to endure one of several possible fates. The least healthy calves will be sent to market to be slaughtered for pet food; to provide veal; or for rennet to be extracted from their stomachs for cheese-making. Some females will be reared on milk substitutes to become dairy herd replacements and begin, at 18-24 months of age, the cycle of continual pregnancies. Some will be sold at market at 1-2 weeks of age for rearing as beef in fattening pens and slaughtered after 11 months, often without sight of pasture.

Sounds like a great way to live, doesn't it? Not to mention that milk is full of antibiotics, hormones, blood, and pus.... Mmmmmm! Drink up!

Last year I toyed around with not eating dairy. In three months, without doing anything else, I lost 20 pounds and felt a million times better. Lighter, less bloated, no random stomach issues. I started eating it again last fall, put on 40 pounds, dealt with daily stomach issues. Not worth it. Not to mention the addicitive properties that are in dairy... giving up cheese was hard. I had dreams about cheese! Now? I don't miss it. I don't get cravings. I can look at ice cream and chocolate and pizza and walk away. NEVER would I have thought that would be even remotely possible, but honestly I just don't even care anymore because I'm not eating it. There are a million dairy alternatives that taste great, and the tradeoff for the higher price tag is feeling healthier. Each person has their own journey and what works for them. Thanks for the article, education is important! Self-discovery is even more important! Report
Good timing on this piece. I've been increasingly thinking I may be lactose intolerant and have been considering reducing or eliminating liquid milk from my diet (but continuing to eat yogurt and yes, ice cream). But I'm not sure the idea of smaller servings really works for me. I need a certain amount in my cereal or cappuccino to enjoy them. I look forward to seeing other comments. Report