The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that as many as 2 out of 3 adults, or 65 percent of the population, experiences some level of lactose intolerance.
Furthermore, this rate tends to be highest in those with East Asian family lines, afflicting as many as nine out of ten people in areas of that descent.
Lactose intolerance is also more prevalent in those with blood lines that are West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, or Italian says the USLM, while being lowest in people from Northern European areas, affecting only five percent of those populations. They’re also lower in other areas where the individuals have “a long history of dependence on unfermented milk products as an important food source.”
But what exactly is lactose intolerance and why is it more prevalent in some demographics than in others? Let’s look at these questions (and answers) now.
What is lactose intolerance?
The USLM explains that lactose occurs when the body is unable to effectively process or digest lactose, “a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.” This intolerance can occur in varying degrees, with some people unable to consume milk, yet are still able to eat other dairy products (such as yogurt and cheese) as these contain lower levels of lactose due to the way they are processed. What causes this intolerance?
The USLM says that lactose intolerance is a genetic issue. When the intolerance occurs in infants—a condition referred to as congenital lactase deficiency—it is a result of a mutated LCT gene, the gene responsible for creating the enzyme that helps the body effectively digest lactose. When the intolerance occurs in adulthood, it is due to decreased LCT gene activity, or expression, that has evolved over time.
Regardless of whether the lactose intolerance occurs in infancy or adulthood, it often results in major gastrointestinal issues or distress for the individual with the genetic intolerance if they consume the lactose sugar. Some of the most common effects are those related to severe diarrhea, bloating, and gas.
While one option is to quit consuming milk altogether, another alternative, and one that enables those with lactose intolerance to continue to enjoy milk with their meals, on their cereal, or in their recipes, involves milk of a different kind. It is milk that, instead of coming from a cow, comes from a goat.
Goat’s milk for lactose intolerance relief
According to Woolwich Dairy, a Canadian company which sources goat milk from more than 200 farms, raw, unfortified goat milk “naturally contains lesser lactose levels” than the lactose levels typically seen in 2% milk obtained from cows. Thus, as long as this amount is lower than that which can be tolerated by the individual’s system, goat milk becomes a viable alternative for these persons suffering from lactose intolerance.
The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) adds that, while this lower lactose level has been found repeatedly, questions remain as to the “magnitude of the difference” between goat milk and milk from a cow. This is due primarily to the analysis methods used in research studies and whether they look at the non-hydrated form of lactose or mono-hydrated form, each of which provides different results.
Additional goat milk benefits
Goat milk offers additional benefits for its consumers as well. For instance, Woolwich Dairy reports that it is higher in protein and lower in sugar. Goat milk also has higher levels of certain vitamins, such as vitamin C and B6, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
UC Davis agrees and states that goat milk also has more vitamin A, nicotinic acid, riboflavin, and choline than milk that is obtained from cows. This can help the body receive the recommended levels of these individual nutrients.
Where to get goat milk
Fortunately for individuals suffering from lactose intolerance, goat milk is relatively easy to find as it is available in most large retail stores like Walmart and Target. You can also buy powdered goat milk online via ecommerce sites like Amazon.
Some local dairy farms supply fresh goat milk for retail consumption. Agrilicious is a website that can also help connect you with a local goat milk supplier near you. Simply enter your zip code in the search bar and it will tell you if there is a goat milk farm in your area.
If there is, you can click on the farm itself and learn its address and phone number, as well as its farming practices (such as whether it is organic or hydroponic).