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Why Some of Us Can’t Drink Milk — The Genetics of Lactose Intolerance

Milk, no surprise, is pretty nutritious. It contains proteins, carbohydrates, micronutrients, and plenty of calcium. But there are some of us who cannot drink milk without experiencing abdominal cramps, bloating, and diarrhea. In fact, 65 percent of the world’s adult population suffers from lactose intolerance or a reduced ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk. Like many other characteristics, lactose intolerance is hereditary in most cases, which means that we inherit the gene responsible for the condition from our parents.

In this article, we have discussed the connection of lactose intolerance and genetics, as well as have listed a few foods that you can use as a substitute for different dairy products.

The Genetics of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk and other dairy products. During digestion, this sugar is broken down with the help of an enzyme called lactase. The deficiency of this enzyme leads to lactose intolerance.

When we are infants, our body produces large amounts of milk, and as a result, we are able to digest milk. However, some of us become lactose intolerance after reaching the age of 5 years or during our teen years. This is due to variation found in the MCM6 gene that controls the production of lactase. There are two variants of the MCM6 gene:

  • TT Variant — Those with TT variant experience reduced lactase level during adulthood and therefore, cannot consume dairy products.
  • CC Variant — People with CC variant of MCM6 gene are known as lactose tolerant. They can digest milk and other dairy products very easily during adulthood as well.

How to Know If You Are Lactose Intolerant?

There are two ways to determine whether you are lactose tolerant or intolerant. These include:

  • Symptomatic Assessment — While lactose intolerance does not produce the same symptoms in everyone, there are a few characteristic symptoms that can help you determine if your body is producing insufficient amounts of lactase. These include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and cramping. These symptoms can appear within 30 minutes to 2 hours of consuming dairy products.
  • Genetic Testing — There are a number of genetic tests available that evaluate the pattern of DNA to determine whether or not a person is lactose intolerant. In addition to this, nutrigenomic testing, which helps people understand how genes affect the way their body respond to different foods, can also be used to diagnose lactose intolerance.

Being lactose intolerant does not mean that you can no longer enjoy chocolate or drink milk. All you need to do to avoid the inconvenient symptoms of lactose intolerance is swap dairy products with low-lactose options. Here are a few lactose-free foods that you can safely consume:

  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Goat cheese
  • Soy cheese pizza
  • Dark or semi-sweet chocolate

If you are interested in learning more about how your body responds to different foods and beverages, you can opt for nutrigenomic testing. To learn more about this technique, please call at 877 505 7374 or email at clientservices@pathway.com.