Can I Drink Camel Milk if I'm Lactose Intolerant?

The answer might surprise you!

Imagine with me. It’s a hot summer day. Nothing would be more satisfying than an ice cream cone that you enjoy down to the last dripping mouthful. 

Except, if you are lactose intolerant, like 44% of Americans (1) and 75% of the world’s population. (2)

If you find yourself in this statistic, then this phantasy will provoke uncomfortable thoughts of ensuing bloating, cramps, embarrassing gas, and even diarrhea. 

Good news for you, friends! 

If that ice cream in your cone is made with our camel milk...  this phantasy could be a reality!

Why? 

Because our camel milk contains a low amount of lactose that is easily absorbed. (3)

boy holding a bottle of camel milk

Let's pop the top off of our camel milk bottles once more (like last time (link to post) when we looked at the fat content of camel milk) and take a look at another macronutrient in our camel milk-carbohydrates! 

Lactose is the main carbohydrate in all dairy products. 

In this article, we will:

  1. Explain the composition of a carbohydrate
  2. Discuss why this presents a problem for so many who struggle with lactose intolerance
  3. Define lactose intolerance
  4. Explain its causes (it's oh too familiar symptoms)
  5. Share how instead of avoiding dairy products, you can substitute your diet with our camel milk!

So, grab your spoon and let’s dive in. 

What is a Carbohydrate?

Remember that “metabolic mill” we discussed when we talked about how the fat we consume is broken down into fatty acids? 

Well, the carbohydrates we consume go through our body’s mill in a similar way, except that they are then essentially broken down into sugars which are then taken up into our bodies cells for energy. Like fat, our bodies need carbohydrates to function healthily. (4)

The Lowdown on Lactose

If we went back to high school chemistry 101, we could draw molecules to understand the forms that simple carbohydrates can be broken down into. They are called monosaccharides and disaccharides. 

Lactose is a disaccharide meaning it is made up of two molecules. And the two monosaccharides put together to form the disaccharide of lactose is glucose and galactose. 

Those are fun scientific names for what we common folk call “milk sugar”. 

Lactose is not bad. 

It just needs to be further broken down by the enzyme lactase in the small intestine so the sugar can then be absorbed into our bodies’ cells for energy.

{Comprehension check} LactOSE is the carbohydrate. LactASE is the enzyme that breaks down lactOSE into glucose and galactose, which can then be taken up into our cells for energy. 

Got it? Good.  

Lactose Intolerance Explained 

So here is where things can get interesting in our tummies. 

If our bodies do not have enough of the enzyme lactase, then the lactose will NOT be broken down in our small intestines, and the molecule will instead pass to our large intestines to have another shot at being broken down by the bacteria found there. 

Here is where things get stinky… literally. 

The bacterial digestion of lactose produces gases which lead to those lovely symptoms we mentioned above of bloating, cramps, embarrassing gas, and diarrhea. (5) 

funny camel on the farm in the USA

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

So, why do some people not have enough of the enzyme lactase? 

There seems to be 2 causes of why this may be the case...

  1. Some illnesses from a stomach bug to celiac disease can cause inflammation in the gut wall which can lead to a temporary decline in lactase production. (6)
  1. But, more commonly, lactase production naturally decreases as we age and certain populations seem to be more plagued by this condition than others. (7) 

Population studies looking at North American adults found that ~79% of Native Americans, 75% of blacks, 51% of Hispanics, and 21% of Caucasians struggle with digesting lactose. 

False: Avoiding Lactose means Avoiding Dairy

We have already discussed the symptoms of lactose intolerance being bloating, cramps, embarrassing gas, and diarrhea (just like the Pepto Bismol commercial). 

It used to be that the only option was to say goodbye to all things dairy, which you would assume would include our camel milk.

But not so fast there sparky!

You’ve heard the bad news, so now here’s the good news. 

mother researching camel milk benefits

True: People with Lactose Intolerance can Tolerate some Dairy

Healthline reports that, “All dairy foods contain lactose, but this doesn’t mean that they are totally off limits for people with lactose intolerance. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of lactose.” (8)

A recent meta-analysis shows that “almost all lactose intolerant people can tolerate 12 grams of lactose in one intake, and approximately 18 grams of lactose spread over the entire day.” (9)

glass of camel milk

This same study also notes that dairy products are essential for health due to their calcium content and the positive influence of probiotic bacteria (of which our camel milk is chock-full).

Some people find lactase enzyme supplements helpful, but it seems hit or miss for most. (10)

There is some on-going research into training your gut to produce more lactase by giving it more lactose. It points out the potentially poor effect of withholding lactose because then your body will never be spurred on to produce it. (11) 

Research also shows that probiotics have been shown to reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. (12) 

Bottom Line... Camel Milk Is Well-Tolerated by People who are Lactose Intolerant

In the above study, even if a person is diagnosed as “lactose intolerant”, they can usually still tolerate some amounts of lactose -specifically:

  • A person who is lactose intolerant can usually tolerate 12 grams of lactose in one intake, and approximately 18 grams of lactose spread over the entire day.

Well guess what, friends? 

No bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Let all the dairy lovers rejoice!

low lactose in camel milk infographic

And remember, a little bit of camel milk goes a long way... 

To get all the health benefits of camel milk, it is recommended that an adult drink 6-8 ounces per day.

For children, we would recommend starting with 3-4 ounces per day.

Lactose in Cow Milk vs. Camel Milk

One study followed 25 patients with a diagnosis of lactose intolerance and studied their consumption of one cup of both cow milk and camel milk

Out of the 25 patients who consumed camel milk, 23 of them had zero negative reactions (that’s 92% positive results)! And the other 2 patients only had a very mild reaction to camel milk.

So how did cow milk fare in this test? 

Most of the patients showed significant negative reactions when drinking even very low amounts of cow milk. (13)

cow milk give people who are lactose intolerant a negative reactions

All milks are not created equal! 

At Camel Culture, we are so proud to be representing the healthier dairy alternative!

Conclusion

The bottom line is this, my friends. 

Macronutrients are good. Carbohydrates are a Macronutrient. Our bodies need them to function healthily. 

Lactose is the main carbohydrate found in milk. 

44% of Americans are suffering from lactose intolerance. It is a result of our bodies not producing enough lactase, which is the enzyme that helps break down the lactose we consume. 

Not having enough lactase forces the gut bacteria in our large intestines to help break down the lactose, which results in, quite literally, a stinky situation -bloating, gas, or diarrhea. 

But camel milk is well-tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant! 

A full serving of camel milk contains only 11 grams of lactose, which falls way below the 18 grams of daily lactose they can tolerate. 

This fact has been confirmed by studies that compare cow milk to camel milk in lactose intolerant individuals… 

And camel milk wins every time!

Leave a Comment

Do you struggle with lactose intolerance? 

Do you miss dairy in your life? 

Would you be willing to give our camel milk a try? 


Sources: 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3140651/
  2. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Worldwide_prevalence_of_lactose_intolerance_in_recent_populations.jpg
  3. Al haj Omar A, Al Kanhal Hamad A. Compositional, technological and nutritional aspects of dromedary camel milk. International Dairy Journal. 2010;20:811–21. doi: 10.1016/j.idairyj.2010.04.003.
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23834088/
  5. https://med.libretexts.org/Courses/American_Public_University/APUS%3A_An_Introduction_to_Nutrition_(Byerley)/Text/03%3A_Carbohydrates/3.03%3A_Digestion_and_Absorption_of_Carbohydrates
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25072743/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3140651/
  8. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lactose-intolerance-101#TOC_TITLE_HDR_7
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26713460/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24967391/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26287234/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11157352/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20857626/
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2 comments

  • Yes! This is so simple and helpful! Very good article.

    Lisa
  • So, of the 75% of the world who are lactose-intolerant, 92% of them will have NO negative reaction to Camel milk, and the 8% will likely only have a mild reaction. That’s remarkable. Everyone needs to hear this! Such a helpful treatise on Lactose and its effects; thank you, Lauren.

    Dano

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