The reason why some of us can’t drink milk 15



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We have all grown up hearing the importance of getting the daily requirement of calcium. It promotes good bone health, which you need as a child and also as you get older. But why do some of us experience bloating and indigestion? Do you have problems digesting milk?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose – the sugar found in milk – due to a deficiency of the enzyme lactase needed for digestion. As a result people often experience discomfort from mild intolerance, to abdominal pain, nausea, cramps and diarrhoea. Knowing this people have learned to adjust their diet and complement their calcium intake with supplements or other calcium-rich foods. More recently, there even seems to be an increasing trend of dairy-free products on the market. Have you noticed the rising number of dairy-free, soy, almond options at your local cafe?

Though this may seem like just another trend, maybe we shouldn’t so quickly dismiss this digestive problem. Historically, certain countries don’t actually consum much diary. In fact, in some Asian countries, 90 per cent of the population is lactose intolerant. So why is that Europeans can drink milk but Asian’s can’t? Have some of us developed an allergy to it or are we simply just prone to poor digestion of certain foods?

Researchers recently found evidence from DNA dating back to the Bronze Age to explain why this has happened. Apparently during this era, from approximately 3000 to 1000 BC, there was mass migration to Europe that caused a change in peoples genomes.

The Yamnaya people, sheepherders from western Russia, moved into Europe and brought with them the genetic disposition to digest cows’ milk.

Before their arrival there was only a 10 per cent tolerance of lactose in the region, the scientists found by studying the ancient DNA, and natural selection helped pass on the new gene. How cool is that?

Continued DNA sequencing is helping to provide a more accurate answer to our human development. So if you’re one of many who have suffered a lifelong intolerance to dairy, blame your non-Russian ancestors!

Tell us, do you have trouble digesting diary? When did you develop this intolerance? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I wonder is that why some are allergic to gluten..same reason? I think our ancient past has much to do with who we are today, we are just not aware of it

  2. Maybe it’s because cows milk is a food intended by mother nature for calves, the babies of cows. Maybe it was never intended for human consumption?

    1 REPLY
    • Exactly right Carol. I grew up on a dairy farm, so I drank milk with no trouble, except that I saw the babies being taken from their mothers at 12 hours old, bewildered and terrified, and listened to the mothers crying and bellowing all night for their little ones. I’m not allergic to lactose, but I don’t touch the stuff because I’m allergic to cruelty.

  3. I remember as a kid glass bottled milk with cream on top (not pasteurised and not in plastic) being delivered by horse and cart. Never heard of anyone having problems with milk. Look at what is fed to many of the cows today – grain (GMO and or sprayed with chemicals). Drink raw milk and you have ALL the bacteria for the gut to digest milk. Pasteurising it kills most of the bacteria and changes the composition of the milk.

  4. My DNA is dairy farmers,sheep ,cattle,growing all vet’s….most have all lived long lives.from drinking,and eating these great foods.(No poison’s)just horse,cow and sheep manure********back in the soil.potatoes took a lot out of the when they came out of the ground my Dad dug in lime and rested the soil for the winter…..

  5. Took calcium tablets r or years don’t believe all you read l have got osteoporosis arthritis in both knees and just had my second knee cleaned out and l can’t walk trying now to stretch my tendons at the back of my knee ouch

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