EAT SMART: Some people develop intolerance to certain foods. MALATHI MOHAN tells you why...

Did you know that tolerance in life does not deal only with religion, people, work and family?

It affects every thing in your life and food is not an exception. It is said that tastes differ and this is based on your likes and dislikes which you might have developed. However, I wish to bring to your notice, a couple of food ‘intolerances'

This deals with how you tolerate some foods, like milk and milk products and wheat and wheat products! The first one is called ‘lactose intolerance' and the second one is called ‘gluten intolerance'.

Lactose Intolerance

Do you like milk and does it agree with you? If you dislike it, you are basically milk intolerant and not necessarily lactose intolerant! While mentally you may not accept milk, and dislike it or perhaps even get nauseated by it, there are other reasons for your body for not accepting milk.

Some people, especially babies are supposed to have an allergy to milk. Physiologically, their bodies, reject milk. This is medically termed as ‘lactose intolerance'. This is generally noticed in babies and infants as their diet is mainly milk. Some adults also tend to be lactose intolerant.

Understanding it

It is the inability to digest and metabolise lactose, the milk sugar, due to a lack of the required enzyme lactase in the digestive system.

As the undigested lactose is passed on to the colon, or large intestine, the bacteria present there, feed on it, thereby causing fermentation. This in turn, produces gases which cause bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and flatulence.

Temporary lactose intolerance may be caused due to gastro-enteritis and during weaning when external milk products will be fed, which may not be acceptable for some infants.

In some infants, there may be a congenital lactase deficiency. Milk is avoided in such cases and fermented curds are better tolerated as the milk sugar will be converted to lactic acid during fermentation. This may be one reason why Ayurveda considers curds safe for therapeutic usage. Mothers should be tuned in on what causes discomfort for the baby. Doctors pounce on the excuse of lactose intolerance very easily and this leads to adjustment problems in feeding the infant. Proper tests will confirm or reject the diagnosis.

There are some commercial products, which are ‘lactase fortified' and are used instead of milk. These may be permitted with a doctor's prescription for temporary and chronic usage

Generally, for lactose intolerant babies, animal milk is avoided. Milk from vegetable sources, like soy milk, coconut milk and groundnut milk may be used instead. Actually, these are milky in appearance, and have matching protein and fat content. That's all.

They are just extracts from these seeds which are soaked in hot water for sometime and then ground, adding more warm water.

There is an anti-milk lobby which advocates cutting out all milk and milk products. Makes sense? Perhaps, but old habits are difficult to change. The use of milk, all over the world, is an integral part of all menus and diets and some dishes. Milk is one of the best sources of calcium and milk protein is also of the best quality. So, dropping milk totally may not be acceptable to many!

Gluten Intolerance

This deals with the wheat protein called gluten. People with gluten intolerance (celiac disease) are extremely sensitive to the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats. The condition involves an inappropriate immune system reaction to gluten that causes inflammation in the small intestine.

Symptoms can be similar as any damage to the intestines leads to indigestion, flatulence, stomach cramps and diarrhoea. But the most to be feared is the damage to the villi in the small intestines which help in the absorption of nutrients, to distribute to the rest of the body. Therefore, this mal-absorption leads to complications.

Just be aware of your body's choices which may be based on logical, illogical or physiological (in) tolerance!

The author is Dean, Academy of Fitness Management, FitnessOne.