Thursday, February 9, 2012

Intolerance of the lactose variety

I can't remember exactly when I discovered that I was lactose intolerant. I think it's about five or six years ago. It took a while to figure out because my symptoms--a bit of indigestion & gas--could be caused by a lot of things. I'm not super-sensitive; I can tolerate a little milk or butter, plus aged cheeses & yogurt because the bacteria eats a lot of the lactose. However, I avoided ice cream, cheesecake & all the really good stuff for a few years. Eventually, one hot summer day during a trip to the Okanagan, I caved & bought Lactaid so I could hit the Dairy Queen.
A few years of occasional lactase tablet usage later, I heard of people somehow developing the ability to digest dairy again during pregnancy. When I was about halfway along with Sprout, I risked the bellyache I might get & tried a bowl of ice cream without taking lactase. No reaction. I was free!

Evidence of my ice cream habit. Heh.
Nearly two years later, I gradually started to get more mild stomachaches, etc. Sigh. My lactose intolerance is back. I'd often wondered how long my little ice cream holiday would last. It's probably for the best though, as I've been enjoying the dairy more than I really should. I think the breastfeeding would still cancel out the extra calories, but the sugar & fat that go along with the ice cream in particular aren't very healthy.

I find it interesting that this seems not to be a really unusual experience to become 'tolerant' of milk again during pregnancy. From an evolutionary perspective, I suppose it makes sense: pregnant & breastfeeding women can sure use the extra source of nutrients that milk can provide. I wonder about the mechanics of it: what caused my body to change from being unable to produce sufficient lactase enzyme to digest milk? Was is hormonal like nearly everything in pregnancy seems to be? Would duration of breastfeeding have any impact on how long the 'tolerance' lasts?

Do you know anyone else who magically lost their lactose intolerance? Anybody out there found any research that can explain it?

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