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Q And A Clearinghouse
4th Quarter, 1998

Updated December 29, 1998

This page answers the questions that arrived in the fourth quarter of 1998.

Send your questions to me, Steve Carper, at SteveCarper@CS.com.

Remember, I personally answer all questions that you send me, no matter what. The ones that are of sufficiently general interest get posted here, where I hope they can do the most good.

If you don't spot your question here, be sure to check my Q and A Quick Finder Index.


Q. What mutations if any cause lactose intolerance and what chromosome are they on?

    Sorry, you have it the wrong way around. No mutations cause LI. LI is the normal state of humanity. It is the ability to continue to produce the enzyme lactase all one's life that is the mutation. The gene is on chromosome 2.
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Q. Are there any food companies that manufacture foods only for lactose-intolerent people?

    There are a few, notably Lactaid, which manufactures a line of lactose-free or lactose-reduced products. However, there are far many more companies that produce a few lactose-free products as part of a larger line. For the most complete list of over a hundred products in many categories, you should look at my Product Clearinghouse section.
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Q.With the new Lactaid products do you know of any company that makes cheeses with Lactaid 100 milk. Do you know if you CAN make cheese with Lactaid 100 milk?

    To your first question: Nope, sorry. But there is lactose-free true cheese on the market. Go to my Lactose-Free Cheese page and read all about it.

    As far making it yourself: theoretically, you should be able to do absolutely anything with Lactaid 100 milk that you can do with regular milk. The only difference is that the Lactaid milk has had the lactose sugar broken down into glucose and galactose. All the proteins should be unchanged.

    Try it and let me know the result.

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Q. Is alactasia genetic and will it cause me any problems if I breast-feed a child in the future?

    First let me make sure that I understand the way in which you are using that unusual term "alactasia." This is not the same thing as lactose intolerance; it is the complete inability to produce the lactase enzyme.

    If this is the sense you are using, your first question is a difficult one. I would have to know exactly why you are alactasic to come up with a good answer to that question.

    A few people are indeed born without any ability to digest lactose from birth. You would certainly know if this is true for you, since you would never have been able to have milk in your life. This condition, known as congenital lactose intolerance, is genetic, in that it seems to run in families. Whether it is hereditary, that is, whether your children will necessarily have it, is far more uncertain. I just don't know the answer.

    On the other hand, there are many other defects of the intestines that can also produce this problem, ranging from short-bowel syndrome to other, even rarer, conditions. And there are other diseases and problems that can eliminate your lactase (this is known as secondary lactose intolerance iof it comes through disease or other non-genetic causes). Few of these problems are inheritable, but some are. I couldn't say without knowing the facts.

    Your other question is easier. None of these problems, as far as I know, should interfere with breastfeeding from your end. Whether your baby can drink the milk will depend on whether your condition is inherited. I have been in correspondence with one woman whose baby has congenital lactose intolerance. She has had some success in using lactase drops mixed in with the milk squeezed from her breast to predigest the lactose. It is not working well, but she is continuing to try.

    If you really are using alactasia to mean ordinary lactose intolerance, then everything becomes much easier. Your children may also have it or may not; it will depend on who the father is. But breastfeeding will be no problem.

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Q. I may need to soon begin taking a medicine that contains lactose. Would this be a problem for my son since it is dairy? Or maybe not because breast milk already has lactose?

    If your son can tolerate your breast milk, he should be able to tolerate anything you eat containing lactose. Lactose does not travel to breast milk in any case; it's only the milk proteins (which are not found in pills) that you have to worry about.

    And the amount of lactose in any given pill is so small that only a tiny few exceptionally sensitive people ever react. However, a lactase tablet will help even those.

    You can also look at my page on lactose in medicines for more info.

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Q. For several months I have been using a product bought in General Nutrition Stores called Natural Brand Milk Digestant. Each tablet contains: Lactase 25mg, Rennet 2mg. I have found this product to be far superior to Lactaid type Lactase pills. What is the relationship of 25mg lactase to FCC Lactase units? Is there any evidence why this product works better than Lactaid pills?

    If I remember correctly, there are 14 FCC units per milligram, so Milk Digestant has only 350 FCC units, or about 1/9 as much as the average in most lactase pills. As far as I know, no natural food-store brand of lactase has ever been used in a formal test published in a medical journal. I am a firm believer in the "if it works for you" school, however. I am constantly advising people not to give up on lactase just because one brand doesn't work. As long as you found one, enjoy!
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Q. is it true that some people who suffer from lactose intolerance actually lose this intolerance after a period of time? I read something where one sufferer went "lactose free" for about 14 months, and then tried milk products again--with no symptoms or complications! Myth or reality?

    Myth, myth, myth!

    There is absolutely no truth to the suggestion that LI lasts only a short length of time -- unless it is what is called Secondary lactose Intolerance, which is brought on by damage to the villi due to any number of causes -- diseases, drugs, surgery, alcoholism, and lots more. In the natural course of things most people gradually lose their ability to manufacture lactase and this loss is permanent over the long run (there may be some short term fluctuation that nobody has studied). Of course, many people don't have LI at all and just ascribe their digestive problems to milk, in which case the deleterious psychological effect of milk may disappear after a long absence from it. But that's it.

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