On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Difference in Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy

DEAR DR. BLONZ: My friend is lactose-intolerant, and I was wondering if her allergy to milk means that she should not have butter. -- S.T., Orlando, Florida

DEAR S.T.: An intolerance to lactose, a carbohydrate found in milk and milk products, is not the same as an allergy. A lactose intolerance typically occurs when the body does not produce sufficient amounts of the lactase enzyme needed to break apart the naturally occurring lactose as a prelude to absorption in the small intestine.

When a lactose-intolerant individual consumes more lactose than their body can digest, the lactose passes through the small intestine, into the large intestine. This is where the problems occur, including stomachaches, bloating, gas or diarrhea.

The human body can produce lactase during infancy, but then loses some or all of this ability at about age 5. People’s levels of lactase production-ability vary, and therefore, so do levels of lactose intolerance. Some with this condition have no problems with a half-glass of milk, or with cheese, but if they were to have an entire glass of milk -- especially on an empty stomach -- the symptoms would arise. Some are intolerant to the point that any level of intake causes problems. Lactose-intolerant individuals usually have no problem with butter as it contains little, if any, lactose.

A milk allergy, by contrast, occurs when there is a specific sensitivity to milk protein. This condition is one that should be confirmed through testing by an allergist. When an individual with a milk allergy gets a product that contains milk protein, they can -- depending on their level of sensitivity -- experience symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, asthma, rashes, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and headache, or even a life-threatening drop in blood pressure. These are reactions caused by the immune system reacting to a substance in the body. As butter contains a small amount of milk protein, it should be considered off-limits to an individual with a milk allergy, along with all other dairy products. Read more on milk allergies from the Food Allergy Research and Education site: b.link/milk75.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is there a health difference between steel-cut oatmeal and longer-cooking oatmeal? Does the preparation make a health difference, too? I prepare mine the smooth way by putting both oatmeal and water in at the same time, and then cooking. -- O.M., Healdsburg, California

DEAR O.M.: There is no health or nutrition composition difference between steel-cut and traditional long-cooking oatmeal. The same goes for quick-cook oats, which are nothing more than oat flakes pressed to be thinner to facilitate water penetration and reduce cooking time. The main difference is the cut of the oats and the speed in which they cook. One half-cup (40 grams) of the dry oats in any of those cuts will contains about 3 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber, and no sodium. Your method of preparation is fine.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.