Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You Are What You Eat - But You Have to Know What That Is

Suffice it to say that I'm a believer in western medicine, sometimes called allopathic medicine. Alternative medicine or complementary medicine is not my thing. I mean, I continually complain that the formal studies carried out by researchers and published in top medical journals are insufficient to give proper answers too much of the time. Imagine my feelings on types of medicines that don't do studies at all but rely on anecdotes.

So I am disposed not to believe in ayurvedic medicine, a 5000-year-old Indian discipline. (Pronounced eye-your-vay-dic, the word comes from the Sanskrit for "pure knowledge of life.")

And an article by Katie Leslie, Ayurveda: The ancient art of 'you are what you eat' at the Frederick News-Post online site just reinforced my unease with these practitioners.

Leslie tells the story of a woman who had ayurvedic medicine recommended to her by her massage therapist. [Insert your own sarcastic remark here.] I am removing all names except for the ayurvedic practitioners.

Both she and her son ... have a history of stomach problems, specifically lactose intolerance. They struggled to find foods that didn't make them feel ill, she said.

They went to see [Dr. Douglas Beech, a chiropractor and ayurvedic practitioner] and his mentor, Vaidya R.K. Mishra in December. Mishra is an ayurvedic dermatologist and researcher. He said his family has practiced ayurveda for thousands of years. (Vaidya is a Sanskrit word given to ayurvedic physicians.)

"Both my son and I were very skeptical about it because it's very foreign to us, with the Indian terms," [she] said. "At first I thought it was very strange, but I feel so much better."

[She] said that in a little more than a month, she's seen dramatic improvements in her health. Her once oft-grumbling stomach is now calm. Best of all, the formerly lactose-intolerant [mother and son] can digest milk with no problem.

And how did Beech accomplish this miracle?
In addition to changing her diet to follow ayurvedic principles, Beech advised her to prepare milk by mixing it with equal parts water, then boil it with cinnamon, clove, cardamom and ginger. The resulting liquid is lighter and more readily digestible, he said.

Uh huh. And it also contains half as much lactose per ounce.

Think about it. Lactose intolerance is a continuum, not an on or off proposition. Most LI sufferers still manufacture some lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose. So they only feel symptoms if they go over the threshold of what the lactase can digest. If you cut the lactose you are consuming in half... Yes, you may feel as if your LI has been cured but you're really just controlling your diet to reduce symptoms. That's something you can do without paying an ayurvedic practitioner.

The mother summed up her experience with these words:
"It just makes sense. It can seem really complicated, but you don't have to know it all. Just take what you need."

The same lesson applies to allopathic medicine. You don't have to know it all. A few basics will suffice. Amazing how much sense actual knowledge about the body can provide.

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It's Dangerous to Read the News

Look, I have sympathy for newspaper reporters. Every day they're sent out to cover a story on a subject they know absolutely nothing about. Then they have to come back to the paper and write about the subject in a concise and comprehensive way under an impossible deadline.

No wonder so many reporters aren't good at their jobs.

But, you know, you really should be required to read the beginning of your own story before writing the ending.

Case in point. Health & Fitness editor Amy Bertrand of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Her January 29, 2007 column, Lactose intolerance is a matter of degree dealt with common LI questions:

If someone is lactose-intolerant, can they consume food that is baked or cooked with milk? Is buttermilk under the same category?

She talked to Jennifer Moffett, a dietitian with Christian Northeast Hospital to get an answer.

I can picture how the conversation went. Moffett talked to her for 45 minutes about every aspect of LI. Then Bertrand boiled it down to two sentences, missing the point in the process.
"There are a lot of different tolerance levels among different people... A lot of times people can tolerate yogurt or cheese baked in a product, but some people are ultrasensitive and can't even tolerate margarine"

Well, most LI people can tolerate cheese and yogurt without it being cooked. That's because cooking doesn't affect the lactose content of any dairy product. A high-lactose food will remain high-lactose after cooking. A low-lactose food will be low-lactose even if cooked.

But that's not what got me steamed.

Early in the article she writes this completely correct paragraph:
Lactose intolerance is the inability to make the enzyme lactase in the small intestine. Lactase helps your body digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and milk products.

And then she pulls out this doozy:
Most people can treat lactose intolerance with lactate tablets and other products.

Lactase tablets. Not lactate, a completely different chemical. Lactase. As in the sentences you wrote 100 words earlier.

Sigh. My life is hard.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

No-Milk List's Tenth Anniversary

The NO-MILK (Casein/Lactose/Milk-Free) List is a creature from the early days of the Internet. Before there was much to the World Wide Web, people communicated via email topic groups. Think of them much like Yahoo or Google Groups today, but ones done entirely through one's email program.

Ten years ago, yesterday, Don Wiss, creator of the links webpage - The No Milk Page:
Lactose Maldigestion/Milk Allergy/Casein Intolerance
, created an equivalent No-Milk list for those who wanted personal chat and experiences on avoiding milk.

I joined as soon as I heard about it, which was within days of its creation. It's waxed and waned over the ten years, with people joining and leaving and topics depending on who was active at any given time.

I have a lengthy description of how to use the list on my web site on the No-Milk List page, which I am giving myself permission to quote from.

If you are looking for people to talk to about living a nondairy life, you should take a look at the NO-MILK (Casein/Lactose/Milk-Free) List.

Messages can be posted to everyone on the list to ask for help or supply answers to others. Archived resources, on parve foods or nondairy recipes, for example, are also available at

I should warn you that Lactose Intolerance is not really the major topic on the list. Most postings are from parents of severely allergic children, whose concerns are somewhat different from our own. They must rigorously avoid foods with even the slightest hint of a dairy product, something I do not recommend for the vast majority of people with LI.

However, I learn things from the postings all the time, so why not check it out for a while in any case?

To subscribe, send an email to:

with these words in the body of the e-mail:
SUB NO-MILK YourFirstName YourLastName

When you subscribe you will get all the instructions for the list so you can configure it to your own interests. However, I find it easier to receive each day's posting in a single e-mail. To do this, include SET NO-MILK DIGEST in your e-mail to the list. If you want individual e-mails use SET NO-MILK MAIL instead.

Give it a try. Questions and comments are always welcome.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Take Your Vitamins

Who needs supplements of vitamins and minerals?

Family practitioner Dr. Deirdra Greathouse, with Provena Saint Joseph's Medical Group of New Lenox, said she only really recommends vitamins to three groups of her patients: those who are vegans, those who are lactose-intolerant, and women of child-bearing years.

That comes from an article at

Greathouse continues:
It's hard for vegans to get all the vitamins they need without eating animal products, she said, and lactose-intolerant people sometimes don't get enough calcium.

Chart from

Women who might get pregnant must have folic acid in their systems before they actually conceive, or their babies might have a higher risk for birth defects.

But for her other patients, Greathouse said she recommends eating a varied and balanced diet that will naturally provide the nutrients our bodies need.

"Studies have shown that taking a daily multi-vitamin doesn't have any major benefits," she said. "Vitamins alone do not insure health."


Women who don't get enough calcium in their diets, she said, should take calcium supplements. The mineral protects us from bone loss and fractures. From about age 25 to 50, women need 1,000 mg calcium per day. Post-menopausal women over the age of 50 need at least 1,500 mg calcium a day, she said.

A sidebar lists some reccomendations and warnings:
• Calcium. Post-menopausal women need more, and most multi-vitamins don't contain enough. Take calcium supplements that are not part of multi-vitamins so you make sure you get enough.

• Chromium, selenium, and zinc are often missing from multi-vitamins.

• Vitamin K. Many multi-vitamins have little or no vitamin K, but research suggests vitamin K may reduce the risk of hip fracture. It does interfere with blood thinners, though, so ask your doctor.

Make Sure You Don't Get Too Much:

• Vitamin A acetate or palmitate (retinal). Too much can raise the risk of hip fractures.

• Vitamin E. Several trials have found that the risk of dying rose steadily as the vitamin E dose increased from 100 I.U. to 2,000 I.U a day.

• Iron. The highest safe level is 45 mg from food and supplements combined.

• Zinc. You need only 8 mg for women or 11 mg for men. Too much can make it hard to absorb or retain copper. It can also impair the immune system.

Source: Nutrition Action Healthletter, March 2006

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Rubbish" Says Dr. Miriam

The kerfluffle started by Allergy UK's moronic poll alleging to prove that one-third of the total British population has food intolerances and allergies continues to roil nicely.

You can check back to my first post, How Sick Are You, Brits?, which said:

A new report from Allergy UK has found that 45 percent of common health complaints in Britain are directly caused by food intolerance.

and the first response, Brit Docs: It's All In Your Minds, which reported that:
"True food allergy is comparatively rare, affecting perhaps 8 per cent of children and 4 per cent of adults," [Food Intolerance Network co-founder Dr Howard Dengate] told FoodNavigator last year.

Today the doughty Dr. Miriam weighs in, sounding like a scolding nursery school teacher in an article in The Mirror:

I've never heard such rubbish. And this particular rubbish is masquerading as "science" in a survey published a couple of days ago by Allergy UK, a medical charity.

The report feeds into the current fashion for food intolerance. And it's dangerous because someone suspecting they have an intolerance will feel free to go on an exclusion diet, omitting important, nutritious foods without prior diagnosis and without supervision.

As you might suspect there's a commercial agenda.

There are a number of commercially available tests for food intolerance that their manufacturers claim will make the diagnosis for you. They're suspect, unreliable and scientifically unproven. The commonest intolerance - lactose (milk) - is due to a shortage of the enzyme lactase, needed to absorb lactose.


Let's keep a sense of proportion here. With food intolerance you can usually get away with simply cutting down on the offending food.

And resist celebs who endorse wheat-free or milk-free diets.

Well, go, Dr. Miriam, whoever you are.

I could just wish you had stopped while you were ahead.

Unfortunately, you messed up with this little gem:
[I]f babies aren't given milk after weaning, their intestines think lactase is no longer needed and intolerance is the result.

Bzzz. Wrong.

Lactase production is shut down when and if the gene sends out the signal to shut it down. Whether you have or don't have milk makes no difference at all. You may lose the good bacteria in the colon that helps digest lactose if you avoid milk, but those are quickly regained either by eating yogurt or taking probiotics.

But the rest is good stuff. Allergies are serious. Intolerances are less so. But most Brits don't have either problem when it comes to dairy products. You also have a greater range of alternative products than you used to, as shown on my U.K. and European Lactose News page on my website. Milk is not a big deal. Neither is avoiding milk. Just stop being frightened of you food.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lactose Intolerance Support Group

Support groups for people with lactose intolerance are quite rare. I haven't heard of more than a couple over the years.

But one's forming in Greenville, SC, according to an article by Mike Foley online at

Because lactose intolerance is so prevalent, a lactose-intolerance support group is forming locally. Organizers include Dr. Michael Kelly of Gastroenterology Associates; Karen Schwartz, a registered dietitian with Bon Secours St. Francis Health System; Whole Foods; and several national suppliers of alternative dairy products such as goat's milk and soy milk.

The first meeting is Jan. 30, from 7-8:30 p.m. at St. Francis Women's and Children's Hospital on Commonwealth Drive on Greenville's Eastside, in Classroom 201.

To register or for more information, call: (864) 268-1363. Space is limited to 25 people.

Know of groups in other cities? Let me know and I'll post them here.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Brit Docs: It's All In Your Minds

Yesterday I posted a report, How Sick Are You, Brits?, about a disturbing poll conducted by Allergy UK. In a survey of 5,200 people the group found that 59 per cent of the people responding reported regarding themselves as having a food intolerance and 41 per cent considered that they had classical food allergy.

Not surprisingly, the doctors have struck back, claiming that people are at the very least confused.

An article, UK survey targets food allergy awareness at the site, quotes Food Intolerance Network co-founder Dr Howard Dengate.

"True food allergy is comparatively rare, affecting perhaps 8 per cent of children and 4 per cent of adults," he told FoodNavigator last year.

"It is a quick immune system-mediated reaction to the proteins in a few foods such as milk or nuts and can be confirmed by a laboratory test.

"Food intolerance, on the other hand, is common, reactions are a dose-related and typically delayed response to artificial or natural chemicals in foods, and many foods may be involved with a bewildering range of symptoms. As there are no scientifically proven laboratory tests, diagnosis is through the use of an elimination diet with challenges."

The article continues:
Many scientists will refute the findings as having any scientific basis. The figure of 41 per cent of respondents considering themselves to exhibit 'classic' food allergy symptoms is far higher than the figure of four per cent given by Dengate, and will fuel the opinion that consumers largely 'imagine' food allergies.

All this shows the importance of monitoring your food and your symptoms on a regular basis.

True intolerances or allergies aren't something that happens just once in a while, unless you're lactose intolerant and that's the only time you ever have large quantities of dairy products. Most people should see a correlation between having dairy - or other allergens - and having symptoms.

There are hundreds of foods that can cause simple diarrhea or other intestinal or stomach complaints. Poorly washed or inadequately refrigerated foods account for hundreds of thousands or millions of cases of mild food poisoning each year as well.

Medications, sugar substitutes, alcohol, and other non-food substances that you put into your mouth can also cause symptoms.

Figuring out after the fact which single ingredient caused a symptom is often impossible. But the reverse isn't true. If you suspect a single food, like dairy, to be the culprit, you can remove it from your diet and see if the symptoms go away. If they do, see your doctor. If not, try another cause.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

How Sick Are You, Brits?

No wonder you lost your empire, Britannia. Your people are too feeble to get about in their daily lives.

Or at least that's the impression I get from this article on

A new report from Allergy UK has found that 45 percent of common health complaints in Britain are directly caused by food intolerance.

Allergy UK exec Muriel Simmons revealed her medical charity's findings on the widespread prevalence of food intolerance and called for assistance from Britain's National Health Service and grand practitioners, the Independent said.

"Around 20 million people are suffering from symptoms that impact on their daily lives and yet they are not able to get help from the NHS," Simmons said. "We want to see more dietary advice being available and more training given to GPs so that they can recognize that food could be the trigger for some of the symptoms that they are seeing on a daily basis."

The most common instances of food intolerance are related to milk and its contained sugar, known as lactose, along with gluten and wheat.

20 million people is a full third of the population, man, woman, child, and royal. They all have symptoms that impact their daily lives? Time to dismantle the NHS and start over. Or is the real issue all those homeopathic "remedies" that you not merely allow but officially push?

Get a grip, Britain. Lactose intolerance is not hampering the daily lives of one-third of your population and neither is gluten intolerance, a problem way down in the single digit percentages.

Any Brits out there want to defend their country from this report?

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lactase Drops

For reasons that passeth understanding, U.S. consumers cannot purchase lactase drops any longer.

The drops are still available in Canada and those in the U.S. can easily purchase them by mail.

I've had instructions for doing so on my website for several years on my Lactase Drops page.

Gelda Scientific has long gone out of its way to make sure that U.S. consumers can get the drops from them. Here's what their Lacteeze drops page has to say:

By using the Lacteeze Enzyme Drops as directed the lactose intolerant person can drink milk or other fluid milk products without suffering from gas, bloating or diarrhea.

Lacteeze Lactase drops are very convenient to use. Just add 5 drops to 1 litre or 1 quart of milk or other fluid milk products, mix and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This will convert 70-80% of the lactose in the dairy product. If symptoms of lactose intolerance persist, refrigerate for additional 24 hrs (total of 48 hours) or increase the dose to 8-10 drops. This will convert at least 90% of the lactose. To convert lactose in breast milk add 2 drops per 100 ml of breast milk and store in fridge for 12 hours. If symptoms still persist please consult your doctor.

May be used to reduce lactose in fresh milk, reconstituted milk, canned condensed milk, creams, chocolate milk and any other fluid milk products.

Product Shelf Life: Shelf life of the product is 12-15 months at room temperature from the date of manufacturing. If the product is kept refrigerated upon receipt you can extend the shelf life by additional 6 months.

I received an email today from Arvind Gelda reminding me that I had let my webpage get out of date by not updating the prices. To see their current pricing go to the Gelda order page.

Or you can e-mail or use older technologies to call or write Arvind Gelda or Yuklin Gelda at:

Gelda Scientific
6320 Northwest Dr.
Mississauga, ON L4V 1J7
FAX 905-673-8114

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Milk: Some Impartial Facts

You don't have to believe me when I tell you that you can and should drink milk if you want to and can get around the symptoms, no matter what the milk crazies say.

But why not believe British medical writer Vivienne Parry, who is far away from the controversies that despoil the debate in the U.S.

In an article, It's udder confusion, on the prestigious, she says:

So should you aim for the milk moustache or never touch the stuff again? The way to find out is to speak only to those with no direct links with commercial organisations promoting any sort of milk, milk alternatives or therapies. So that’s what I’ve done.

First, let's go to the stuff we care about.
Dr George Lewith, who leads the Complementary Medicine Research Unit at Southampton University, is clear. “A few people have a bad time because of intolerance, but for most, it is safe and good nutrition.”


True allergies are a different matter. “Milk allergy prevalence is highest in infancy, at about 5 per cent,” says Professor John Warner, of Imperial College and a specialist in paediatric allergy. “But most of these infants get better spontaneously.” He says that parents who substitute with goat milk are giving something equally allergenic because the same allergens are present. Soya milk, he says, causes even more allergies.

That last sentence may need some explanation. Only about one-quarter of those with milk allergies also have soy allergies, from what I've read, but it may be true that overall more people have soy allergies than milk allergies.

Now, for milk's nutritional benefits:
Let’s start with the facts. The calcium content of milk is its big nutritional plus point.


Ah yes, say the milk detractors, but there are lots of other dietary sources of calcium; dark-green veg, seeds and bread (which is fortified with calcium), for instance. True, but milk’s calcium is much more easily absorbed by the body. “You’d have to eat 16 portions of spinach to get as much calcium as your body gets from a 240ml glass of milk,” says Joanne Lunn, of the British Nutrition Foundation. Try persuading your truculent teen to eat 16 portions of spinach.

The joy of milk for parents is that it’s surreptitious nutrition, a food that smuggles in protein and lots of B vitamins as well as calcium; for junior, usually in bowls of cereal (a double whammy since most cereals are calcium fortified).

Parry also takes a whack at the persistent urban legend that milk creates excessive mucus production:
Then there’s that phlegmy feeling you can get in your mouth from drinking milk. “That’s due to milk’s fat content,” says Collins. It has led many, especially those with asthma, to cut out milk in the belief that it creates mucus. But in an intriguing piece of research carried out by the University of Adelaide, milk drinking was shown not to be associated with increased mucus production in 60 brave volunteers deliberately infected with colds.

Her final comments could have been written by me. Naturally, I like this woman.
Here’s the advice. If you like milk, drink it, but not too much of it (because too much of anything isn’t good) and choose skimmed or semi-skimmed. Get your kids to drink more. If you prefer the taste of organic, fine. If milk upsets you, avoid it. Simple really.

Simple indeed.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jane Clarke's Dodgy Lactose Advice

Jane Clarke is blurbed as one of the foremost nutritionists in the U.K. This worries me. (I can't find any record of her formal qualifications in a Google search. If anybody knows please write in.)

Anyway, she appears to have a column in the Daily Mail newspaper, a paper that's been so heavily pushing her Vitality Diet that I wonder if they have a financial interest.

Her January 17, 2007 column had this startling exchange:


I am severely lactose intolerant and can never find a suitable diet that contains no milk, butter, cheese, or yoghurt. Any ideas please, as I need to lose 2 stone. I also take low dose antidepressant to help with IBS – and this has piled on my weight!

Jane says:

First, discuss your weight gain with your doctor, as there may be another drug that would give you the support you need, one that doesn’t have such a dramatic weight-gaining effect – it's worth asking. Remember that weight gain can only come from eating more than your body is able to burn up during exercise, etc – some antidepressants can enhance your hunger, in which case you have to pull back from the eating-until-you’re-full scenario, as you will over-eat if you’re not careful.

Some drugs can make you crave sweet foods more, in which case you could try either sniffing vanilla essence or sprinkling some cinnamon on a cappuccino or cereal – both are traditional remedies for helping us get over sweet cravings.

You could substitute soya, rice or oat milk (and use dairy-free margarine instead of butter, etc.) in many of my suggestions, along with soya yoghurt – although some of the soya yoghurts can be very high in sugar, which doesn’t go hand-in-hand with weight loss.

I would suggest that first you keep a food diary (see answer 8 above as to how to do this), as it can be a good first step to seeing exactly how much you’re eating and when. You'll see that many of my good healthy eating tips in the Vitality Plan can be incorporated into your life – such as drinking plenty of water and eating slowly.

Aromatherapy? No understanding that soy, rice, and oat milks vary as much in fat content as dairy foods? Nothing about lactose-free fat-free milk? Has she ever studied the subject at all?

I think you deserve better. Try to find a nutritionist who's heard of lactose intolerance and developed some eating plans accordingly instead pulling one out of her ... assorted bag of cheap tricks.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Colic from Dairy Allergies?

I wrote in my book, Milk Is Not for Every Body: Living with Lactose Intolerance, that colic was not caused by lactose intolerance.

Still true.

However, a press release ["ARA Content provides free, high quality feature articles to reporters, editors and print publishers. These features are copyright free and in a variety of categories coordinated to fit the editorial calendars of a typical newspaper."] disguised as a news story on quotes a doctor as saying that dairy allergies may be a cause.

"The medical community defines 'colic' as anytime a baby cries inconsolably for hours at a time for a minimum of three weeks," explains Dr. Steven Yannicelli, director of science and education for Nutricia North America. "A colicky baby will usually draw up her legs and appear restless and agitated. She is inconsolable, even though she isn't tired, hungry, hot, cold or upset for some other obvious reason."

Colic affects both boys and girls and usually begins when a baby is between three and six weeks old. Treatment of colic is specific to the cause, which may include overfeeding or emotional distress.

According to Dr. Yannicelli, colic can also be the result of a variety of allergic or gastrointestinal conditions. One possible cause is a milk protein allergy. Babies with this allergy cannot process the complex protein chains in milk-based baby formula and may be allergic to soy, too. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies with a milk protein allergy should not be given soy-based formula either.

Babies with a milk protein allergy may also experience one or more other symptoms, such as diarrhea, vomiting, gas, skin rash, wheezing, low or no weight gain, or an overall failure to thrive.

Interesting, if true. Unfortunately, we're still at the stage of "some doctors believe..." rather than having hard data on this, as this page from states:
Colic is believed by some doctors to be another symptom of milk allergy. Colic is a condition in which an infant has frequent, long bouts of unexplained crying. But the connection between colic and milk allergy is uncertain. In fact, most babies with colic are not allergic to milk. But in a small percentage of cases, symptoms improve or even disappear when cow's milk is removed from a colicky baby's diet. If your doctor decides that your colicky child may benefit from switching formulas, you can be confident that your baby will still be getting proper nutrition from non-milk formulas. However, you should not remove cow's milk from your baby's diet - or your own diet if you're breastfeeding - unless your doctor has confirmed that the child does actually have a milk allergy.

And it's hard to know in which babies the cause is true a milk protein allergy and not something else.

Agostino Nocerino, MD, PhD, Chief of Pediatric Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Udine, Italy, and Stefano Guandalini, MD, Director, University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program, Section Chief of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital, write on
Studies including a selected population of infants report percentages of responses to the elimination diet to be as high as 89%. One blind study showed that 18% of infants with colic improved with soy formula, while 0% improved in another blind study. Moreover, in most of the responsive infants, the duration of the effect is not sustained, in spite of an ongoing elimination diet. In any case, true food protein intolerance can only be demonstrated in a small subgroup of infants with colic.

So the best that can be said is that if you can't find another cause for your baby's colic, consider the removal of milk from the diet. It may work, but it's not a cure-all.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A naive domestic Burgundy without any breeding. [contains dairy]

Labels on commercial food products in the U.S. now have to state in plain language whether potential allergens like dairy, egg, or wheat are contained in the ingredients. This is mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Beer, wine, and liquor don't have to reveal their ingredients at all. Or much of anything else about them. For most of us most of the time, this is no big deal. Who thinks about alcoholic beverages containing dairy?

But they do. Milk stouts are made from lactose, as I wrote about in Lactose in Beer. And cream liquors, like Bailey's Irish Cream, Prestige Rom Cream Liqueur Essence, Amarula Cream Liqueur, and Danny DeVito's favorite, Gioia Luisa Cream Lemoncello, to name a few, all contain real cream.

Dairy can also be hidden in the manufacture of products, although it may or may not remain in the final product.

The problem for those of us with lactose intolerance, or dairy allergies, or vegans, or those keeping kosher, is that the FDA has no jurisdiction over wine or beer labeling. Who does? The fairly obscure Tax and Trade Bureau of the Alcohol and Tobacco unit under the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

So obscure is this arm of the government that when on July 26, 2006, they proposed a rule to require the same kind of allergen notification on beer, wine, and spirits, that few people outside the industry noticed.

The proposed rules aren't even all that easy to find from the site. However, I persevered and located a .pdf file here.

I've extracted from the bureaucratese the sections of most interest to those with dairy concerns:

* * * * *
(d) If a major food allergen as defined in § 4.32a is used in the production of a wine, there shall be included on a label affixed to the container a statement as required by that section.
* * * * *
3. Section 4.32a is revised to read as follows:
§ 4.32a Major food allergens.
(a) Definitions. For purposes of this section the following terms have the meanings indicated.
(1) Major food allergen. Major food allergen means any of the following:
(i) Milk, egg, fish (for example, bass, flounder, or cod), Crustacean shellfish (for example, crab, lobster, or shrimp), tree nuts (for example, almonds, pecans, or walnuts), wheat, peanuts, and soybeans; or
(ii) A food ingredient that contains protein derived from a food specified in paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section,

(b) Labeling requirements. All major food allergens (defined in paragraph (a)(1) of this section) used in the production of a wine, including major food allergens used as fining or processing agents, must be declared on a label affixed to the container, except when subject to an approved petition for exemption described in § 4.32b. The major food allergens declaration must consist of the word ‘‘Contains’’ followed by a colon and the name of the food source source from which each major food allergen is derived (for example, ‘‘Contains: egg’’).

Similar rules are given for malt beverages [beer] and distilled spirits [liquor].

The comment period on the proposed rule has expired, but you can read the comments here.

The alcohol industry is against this, of course, because it provides yet another excuse for people to reject their products. A story by Nina M. Lentini from MediaPost's Marketing Daily sums up the opposition:
The San Francisco-based Wine Institute says ingredients such as egg whites, a milk protein called casein, and isinglass, a substance derived from fish guts, are often used to clarify the wine before bottling. These agents bond with yeast, bacteria and excess tannins, creating a larger molecule that sinks to the bottom of the barrel, leaving clear wine above. The agents are filtered out before bottling.

Gladys Horiuchi, communications manager at the Wine Institute, said wheat-based glues are sometimes used in sealing barrels. "Sometimes when they wash them out, wheat can get left behind." She also said there is "no definitive test" available to ascertain the presence of eggs, milk, wheat or fish in wine.

Russell Robbins, manager of the U.S. operations of Laffort Oenologie, a French wine supply company, told the Wine Institute that "there are no known instances of persons with fish allergies having any reaction to wine treated with isinglass, including winemakers that have known sensitivities to fish."

Some groups, like the Wine Institute, are asking the government to delay implementing the proposed rule until scientific testing improves. Others would like to see a global approach that is consistent.

Federal officials are looking to finalize a ruling by the end of the year.

For now, consumers should use the clues given in product names to stay away from dairy-containing alcoholic drinks. By next year, with any luck, a better system will be in place.

You can also write to your Representative or Senator and ask that they put pressure on the Tax and Trade Bureau so that this regulation doesn't get conveniently lost.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Soy Milk for Dairy Free Yorkshire Pudding

I'm always baffled about how substitutes work in recipes, and let's face it, most people - even cooks - haven't tried most substitutes in most recipes so they won't know either.

Gholam Rahman's food column at takes a stab at an unusual recipe request. I think she comes through okay, but I thought I'd repeat it here to see what people think.

Question: My niece is allergic to dairy products. Can I make Yorkshire pudding without milk, substituting maybe chicken broth? Thanks for your help. — Ann G., via e-mail

Answer: Originating in the Yorkshire region in the north of England, the pudding was originally made in the fat drippings from a roast beef and then served with gravy as part of the roast beef dinner. Mostly crust, it is raised by steam and eggs in a very hot oven, much like its American cousin, the popover.

Although milk plays a part in the puffing up of the batter, I don't think its role is critical. But there are better choices than chicken broth. I don't know if lactose intolerance is the cause of your niece's problem with dairy. If so, you can most likely use lactose-free milk, of which some brands are 100 percent free of lactose. These are real milk and will act just like milk although they are fat-free. You will have enough fat anyway in a Yorkshire pudding recipe. Otherwise, soy milk should also work in your recipe. Check with her doctor first, though.

When you tinker with a recipe, it is a good idea to follow the rest of the instructions carefully. Measure the ingredients accurately; preheat the oven to the desired degree, hot in this case and generally 425°; beat the batter smoothly and allow it to rest for a while, beating again to take any lumps out; and don't open the oven in the middle of baking or they likely will fall.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Nanotech Bandaids

I'm an sf writer, so it's rare that in the real world I run across something that sounds as if it came directly from the pages of a story, but this bit of nanotechnology - discovered by accident - is so nifty in its simplicity and usefulness that it just stunned me.

From MIT's Technology Review magazine:

In 2001, Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, PhD '03, a research scientist in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, was doing surgical research on hamster brains. He and his colleagues were using a liquid made of protein fragments known as peptides to encourage the regeneration of neural tissue, a prospective treatment for stroke.


Through a string of experiments at the University of Hong Kong, he discovered that when the liquid is applied to a surgical wound in a mouse or hamster, the peptides self-assemble into a nanoscale barrier that seals the wound. Once the wound heals, the nontoxic gel is broken down into molecules that cells use for tissue repair, Ellis-Behnke explains.

The researchers (including Kwok-Fai So, PhD '77, head of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Hong Kong) published the results in October 2006 in the journal Nanomedicine, noting that this was the first time nanotechnology had been used to halt bleeding in damaged blood vessels without clotting. "We have found a way to stop bleeding in less than 15 seconds that could revolutionize bleeding control," Ellis-Behnke says.

A zingier article is up at the Discover magazine website:
Researchers have stumbled upon a clear liquid that, in tests conducted so far, stops bleeding in about 15 seconds, faster and with fewer complications than other methods available today.

The researchers, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Hong Kong, have found a liquid that, according to one of the researchers, MIT's Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, can be applied "wherever there's an injury or a cut, and it ... stops bleeding right away without clotting."

Another member of the research team, Gerald Schneider, also of MIT, says its easy to administer and that, "You could put it in a tube and squeeze it out like toothpaste."

Ellis-Behnke adds when you wipe away the liquid, bleeding resumes, but if you reapply the liquid it stops.

The gel uses amino acids, the body's building blocks, to create nano-scale fibers that Ellis-Behnke says, "May be self assembling into a nano-patch." He describes the effect as similar to hair clogging a drain.

Very, very cool.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Keeping Intestines Fit from the Inside Out

Jessica Peralta of the McClatchy Newspapers gives a solid list of tips for people with digestive difficulties in an article titled Stomach this Health and beauty advice for that troublesome gut. Well, to be honest, it's a somewhat overgeneralized list with something for almost every kind of intestinal ache from whatever source. But most of the tips are good advice for most everyone, so I'm reprinting a few here:

• Avoid a diet high in fat, caffeine and alcohol if you're having digestive problems -- these elements can trigger problems like abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. Dairy triggers diarrhea if you're lactose-intolerant.

• Drink plenty of water and practice regular physical activity to keep the gastrointestinal tract moving.

• Eat smaller and more frequent meals. Large meals cause regurgitation (aka heartburn) because of increased pressure in the stomach.

• Get 25-35 grams of fiber into your diet daily.

• Eat lean proteins throughout your day's meals to help control hunger. Nonfat string cheese, tofu, edamame, hardboiled eggs and shrimp cocktail are convenient protein snacks.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Are We Not Lactards? No, We Are Human Beings

The American Dialect Society does an annual Word of the Year competition, to recognize coinages and new usages.

They're way out on the cutting edge most years, finding words that few of us have ever encountered in real life. As you can read in the press release for this year (a .pdf file), the Word of the Year is something I, at least, have never encountered.

In its 17th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “plutoed” as the word of the year, in a run-off against climate canary. To pluto is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet.

Yeah, that's going to catch on real quick. Astronomical puns are a big part of my life.

Wait, it gets worse. Their winner for most creative? Lactard.

Lactard? Yes, lactard. A person who is lactose intolerant. Oooh, pretty.

Um, note to the morons at the ADS: lactard is an insult. Check out one of the definitions at Urban Dictionary.
A derogatory term for one who is lactose intolerant combining the word retard with 'lactose'.

Person 1: "Uh, why is that girl drinking soymilk?"
Person 2: "Because she's a LACTARD".
Person 1: "HA HA!"

Ha and ha.

Here's a clue, folks. Anything that starts with the word "retard" isn't bestowing a benediction.

Not that it really matters much. Lactard is only slightly more likely to make it into the dictionary than "plutoed."

But if you think I don't have a sense of self-deprecating humor, why don't you try wearing the t-shirt. Sold by Kristen of Kristen's Lactose Intolerant Website, the page offers shirts, aprons, mugs, caps, and stickers, all proudly bearing "lactard."

To be honest, I thought her site was defunct since it hasn't been updated apparently in years, but the lactard goods page, hosted elsewhere, seems to be alive.

Lift your head high and proclaim to the world that you're a lactard.

Just don't let me catch you doing so.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fermentation Technique May Cut Whey Allergies

Allergies are sparking some of the most interesting and creative food research. The need and desire to reduce allergic reactions, especially in children, has inspired a variety of techniques. Some promising - Desensitizing Food Allergies Possible in New Study - and some far more distant at best - Cure for Allergies? Don't Hold Your Breath.

The latest news is somewhere in between: extremely promising but probably nothing that will appear in your local supermarket anytime soon. Think of it as a well-hit double as opposed to swinging for the fences at the home run of eliminating allergies.

The study appeared in the journal Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, Volume 7, Issue 3 , Pages 233-238. "Screening for lactic acid bacteria with potential to reduce antigenic response of beta-lactoglobulin in bovine skim milk and sweet whey," by N. Kleber, U. Weyrich, and J. Hinrichs.

I'm taking the news from an article posted at

Fermentation of dairy with a mix of lactic acid bacteria and a Streptococcus strain could selectively reduce the protein responsible for cows milk allergy, researchers have reported.

Researchers at Germany's University of Hohenheim have reported that fermentation of skim milk and sweet whey with a one-to-one mixture of the bacteria could reduce the quantity of beta-lactoglobulin, the main allergen in cows milk, by as much as 90 per cent.

The research may also have implications for the wider food industry since whey and whey-derived ingredients are extensively used in a range of food products.


"In more than 80 per cent of all cases, the whey protein beta-lactoglobulin (beta-lg) is the main elicitor of milk allergies for children and infants. Beta-lg is the major whey protein in milk and milk products and it is of particular interest because it is the sole whey protein fraction present in cow's milk which is not in human milk," explained lead author Nicole Kleber.


However, the researchers stressed that only the antigenicity of beta-lg was tested while the actual allergenicity was not.

Yep, you guessed it. More studies will be needed to test whether allergic reactions in people are truly reduced or whether this is just a lab-only success.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cyndi Lauper Sings: "Lactose Intolerant"

I was over at YouTube and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder what would happen if I plugged "lactose" into their search engine.

Result? 89 hits.

I haven't watched all of them, but I can't resist sharing this clip right away. It's Cyndi Lauper on Letterman, Sept. 15th, 1995. You know, back when he was actually funny.

I'll keep checking to see if any others are as good. If you know of any, let me know.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Stop Smoking. Now.

Calvin Trillan has been publishing wonderful wry, witty pieces on all subjects, especially about food, for over 30 years. His new book, About Alice, is a tribute to his late wife, earlier immortalized in books such as Travels with Alice.

The review by Peter Stevenson in the January 14, 2007 New York Times Book Review [subscribers get copies early], has these lines:

In 1976 Alice -- who's never smoked but grew up with a chain-smoking mother and cigar-smoking father -- coughed up a spot of blood. Ten days later she had a lobe of her left left removed. A doctor told Trillan there was a 10 percent chance she'd survive beyond a year or two.

She did survive. But she died in 2001 waiting for a heart transplant, her heart having been weakened by radiation during her battle with the cancer.

What more does it take? Even if there weren't mountains of evidence that second had smoke were deadly, shouldn't the tiniest possibility that it might kill your children be enough to get you to quit?

Stop smoking. Now. For everybody's sake.

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New Source of Stem Calls? A Good Thing?

Over at they report that:

Scientists has reported the discovery of a new source of human stem cells that have the capability to develop into many different types of cells, including muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells.

These stem cells, found in amniotic fluid, could one day lead to a readily available supply of stem cells that don't come with the ethical problems surrounding embryonic stem cells.

Are the people who have been screaming that all the benefits ever needed can be garnered from adult stem cells going to badmouth this discovery too?

Just wondering.

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FTC Attacks Diet Pill Makers

What a great week it's been for the forces of rationality. The same day that the BBC published a stinging article on idiot celebrity pronouncements on health, Celebrities Attack Science, the FTC did some attacking of its own.

Science Daily has the text of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) press release, which starts with these wonderful words:

The FTC has filed complaints in four separate cases alleging that weight-loss and weight-control claims were not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Marketers of the four products --Xenadrine EFX, CortiSlim, TrimSpa, and One-A-Day WeightSmart -- have settled with the FTC, surrendered cash and other assets worth at least $25 million, and agreed to limit their future advertising claims.

FTC Chairman Deborah Majoras said that "The marketers are required to back up the claims with the science, and if they can’t do that, they can’t make the claim." Unfortunately, the pills themselves won't be banned or taken off the market, but at least the worst of the deceptive ads will have to change.

And in a "they're all crooks" sidenote, remember that no diet pill is worth a damn., from Charlotte, NC, has a quote from Tom Bartholomy of their local Better Business Bureau.
"The top three [consumer complaints] that we are seeing right now with the most inquiries and most complaints about are things relative to hoodia, ephedra, and anatrim."

How awful are they?
Hoodia Miracle Diet gets a grade of "unsatisfactory" from the BBB - and PureHoodia, Inc. gets an "F" - which means the BBB "questions the company's reliability" and that "especially serious allegations" are on file.

Diet and exercise will help you lose weight. Forget the "magic pill." The magic they work best is cleaning out your wallet, not your system.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Whole-Milk Drinkers Gain Less Weight

Only a few days after I pounded the idiocy of a quote from Heather Mills ex-McCartney that "those children who drink the most milk gain the most weight," I find a medical study that comes to a very different conclusion. Irony abounds.

The study, from the December 2006 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and reported by Reuters, doesn't so much refute Mills' comment as add another dimension to the overall subject: the relationship between milk-drinking and weight gain.

The findings are based on data from 19,352 women ages 40 to 55 who were surveyed about their diets, weight and other health factors at the study's outset and again 9 years later.

Women who said they had whole milk or cheese at least once a day throughout the study period were less likely to report a significant weight gain -- defined as 2 pounds or more per year.

Even though this was a very large longitudinal study, the factors involved are so complex that the rest of the article is a series of caveats, sort of like a two-headed cow.

For one thing, only whole milk, and not low-fat milk, seemed to offer protection against weight gain. For another, the benefit was seen only among women who were normal-weight at the start of the study.

It's always possible that the associations between dairy intake and weight gain do not reflect a direct action of dairy foods at all, according to Dr. Magdalena Rosell, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the study's lead author.

Eating habits can be seen as a marker of overall lifestyle, and women who favored whole milk might have had other habits that aided their weight control, Rosell told Reuters Health.

It's also possible that women who had already been gaining weight opted to drink low-fat milk -- making the milk a "marker," but not a cause, of weight gain, according to Rosell.

And not even Dr. Rosell thinks that women should go back to drinking whole milk:
At this point, there's no reason, Rosell said, for people to eschew the general advice to choose low-fat dairy products, which are lower in artery-clogging saturated fats.

Not the neat, clear-cut results one would hope for, are they? As I've said many times before, and unfortunately will have to say many times again, teasing out the influences that any one food or nutrient play in our overall eating habits is next to impossible, even for the best-run studies. No one study should ever be the cause of your changing your life habits. And never get your medical news from a newspaper headline.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Soy Milk to Lower Cholesterol?

General Mills, the food giant, and Medialink, a PR service, are joining together to push the idea of substituting soy milk for cow's milk. The goal is to lower cholesterol, since plant sources of protein typically contain less fat than animal sources.

The logic is somewhat dubious, since skim milk has gained popularly as whole milk sales have plummeted, and most soy milks are not fat free. Still, those of us with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies would do well to avoid large quantities of liquid milk. While traveling over the last week (that's why no entries - I couldn't make a connection through my in-law's computers) I had a peppermint hot chocolate with soy milk at a Starbucks. Very good.

There's a propaganda video, excuse me, a promotional video at The video features representatives from 8th Continent Soymilk, not the most objective of sources. I also had trouble with the audio for unexplained reasons.

The 8th Continent website does give a long list of useful tips for substituting soymilk for cow's milk.

8th Continent Original Soymilk

    Replace dairy milk for:

    • Scratch or biscuit mix biscuits

    • Potato casseroles

    • Corn bread recipes or mix

    • Mashed potatoes-instant or homemade

    • Cream sauces and soups

    • Condensed soups (tomato is especially tasty!)

    • Macaroni and cheese (mixes or from scratch)

    • Scrambled eggs or baked egg dish

    • Creamy salad dressings or dips

8th Continent Vanilla Soymilk

    Replace dairy milk or water for:

    • French toast

    • Pancakes and waffles

    • Shortcake biscuits (think summertime strawberry shortcake!)

    • Chai, lattes and other milk-based coffee drinks

    • Homemade muffins, scones and other quick breads

    • Convenience baking mixes - cheesecakes, cookies, bars, muffins ...

    • Homemade cookies, bars, quick breads and cakes

A word of warning they won't give you: not all soy milk is alike. There are dozens of soy milk types, varieties, and brands, all different. You can find low fat and high fat, low calcium and high calcium, sweetened and unsweetened, and every other possible distinction. You need to find the soy milk that is best for you, with the right health benefits and the right taste.

One more warning: There are anti-soy nuts, just as there are anti-milk nuts. No good evidence exists yet to show that soy is dangerous to the average person, although some people can have soy allergies in addition to or instead of milk allergies. Enjoy your soy, and don't worry.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Celebrities Attack Science!

But the BBC counterattacks with sense!

Look, I have nothing against celebrities speaking out on any subject they wish, including politics, religion, and social issues. Yeah, their words get more coverage than the rest of us but that's your fault, you, and you, and you, and all of you out there whose fawning obsession with celebrities make them so quotable.

One big exception. We're all hurt when celebs speak out on medicine, or what they think might be medicine. You don't get to have equal opinions on medical subjects with, you know, actual doctors and other experts.

The BBC took some actual quotes from some British celebrities and paired them with responses from experts. One is of course on milk, the bane of every science idiot.


"...every day there's a new report warning that obesity levels in children are out of control... The fact that those children who drink the most milk gain the most weight should cause alarm bells to be ringing everywhere. It isn't and milk is still being pushed as essential for children."

Dr Philip Coan, physiologist, University of Cambridge: "It is not true to say that children who gain the most weight are doing so because of milk consumption.

"A US study looked at milk consumption in two to five-year-olds over a three-year period.

"It found no link between increases in child weight and increases in drink consumption.

"In relation to milk, child weight was not linked to whether the children drank full-fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk."

Kids who have dairy allergies shouldn't drink milk, true. But other children, including those who are lactose intolerant, will find that milk is a good source of nutrients in a tasty package. Milk is something you can get most kids to drink. And it's far, far better for them than soda. Better than juices. Better than beer. (What? Who's claiming otherwise? A PETA campaign did once. It didn't last long.)

Kids, drink your milk. And ignore the nice lady who does such good work against landmines but doesn't know what she's talking about here.

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