Monday, February 16, 2009

Bliss! Goodbye to "Lactose Intolerance" …

I love milk. Whether it's simple hot milk spiced with saffron, almonds and elaichi. Or a rich creamy basundi or kheer. And I've been deprived of it since I came to the US. In the US, what is sold in stores is something called pasteurized homogenized milk. It's milk made by Holstein cows who're fed corn and grains (not something cows digest naturally without antibiotics - you can read all about how animals are treated in this country under factory farming techniques by doing a Google search). The milk is then pasteurized and homogenized - homogenization involves pulverizing the cream on top under high pressure so that the fat molecules get suspended and uniformly distributed across the milk. Homogenization single-handedly destroys the taste of the milk, turning it from the delicious brew we enjoy in India to a yucky-tasting insipid and watery beverage. Apparently, there was massive negative reaction to homogenization when it was first introduced in the US, because the milk just tastes so obviously bad when it's homogenized. If only taste were my only problem with milk in America. For whatever reason, drinking milk here used to make me ill. One glass of milk and I'd run to the restroom with diarrhea. The symptom suggested 'lactose intolerance'. People with lactose intolerance have digestive systems that can't handle lactose which is found in ordinary milk. But to label someone like me, who has been drinking cow and buffalo milk since toddler age, 'lactose intolerant' seemed baffling and a bit unbelievable to me. Regardless, I stopped drinking milk with all the adverse consequences - I started falling sick more often, lost my digestive immunity and just had problems with food all round.

That is, until some American friends of mine suggested I try local dairy milk, made from cows that are grazed on grass and hay, the ruminants' natural food. This legendary milk was non-homogenized to boot. It came in glass milk bottles with the cream on top. And you returned the bottles to the store after use so they could be recycled. With memories of my beloved dairy farm milk floating in my mind, and with a twinkle of hope in my eye, I went to Whole Foods the very next day and got this all-natural organic cream-on-top, grass-grazed-cow milk produced by Straus' Family Creamery. And discovered heaven :). I swear by this milk. The milk is fresh, with natural cream on top (you can mix it in by shaking if you want, though I love scooping the cream out and topping my cereal with it - yummy!). I get the pasteurized version (for safety), but they also sell raw milk, the kind we get in India from farmers and that we heat to boiling almost immediately before refrigerating. And the most amazing thing of all - I can drink oodles of it without any digestive problems. I don't really know what it is about the milk. Is it the diet of the cows? Is it the non-homogenized nature of it? All I know is that I can drink milk again. And boy, has it restored my health! I'm glowing with health again. All my digestive problems have disappeared (well, skipping HFCS and partially-hydrogenated fats seemed to have helped as well). Woohoo! There's just nothing like being able to drink milk again!

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