Thursday, September 22, 2011

At the supermarket, organic lactose-free milk prices are defying gravity

Lactose-free milk at Walmart in Teterboro (2016).


At $4.99 or more for a half-gallon of organic, lactose-free milk, avoiding cramps and gas from eating dairy is getting expensive.

This summer, I started buying conventional, lactose-free, 2%-milk at the expanded grocery section of the Target in Hackensack, where a half-gallon of the store brand cost as little as $2.89 in August.

I was at the ShopRite in Englewood to fill prescriptions on Tuesday, and saw organic, lactose-free milk for as much as $5.19 a half-gallon. Instead, I bought the non-organic store brand for $3.39.

Lactaid, one of the first widely available brands of lactose-free milk, explains on its Web site: 
"Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest a sugar called lactose that’s found mainly in milk and dairy products.
"Normally, the small intestine produces an enzyme called lactase , which breaks down lactose into two simple sugars, glucose and galactose, that can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
"People whose bodies don’t make enough lactase can’t fully digest lactose, causing mild to uncomfortable side effects.
"Some people have a higher chance of being lactose intolerant. These groups include Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and people of Jewish descent. It also affects adults more than children, since the body produces less lactase enzyme as people age."

Gas, cramping

Signs and symptoms are gas, cramping, bloating and diarrhea (sounds like my recent hospital stay, with constipation standing in for diarrhea).

Lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, also is available in a pill, which you can eat before or with such problem foods as cheese. I buy mine at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, but the warehouse store doesn't carry lactose-free milk.

Although Lactaid milk has been widely available for a decade or more, you never see lactose-free milk served at Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts or in restaurants, forcing you to carry lactase pills or drink coffee black, as I do when I'm not at home.

Some yogurt and yogurt products are said to be naturally lactose free, including a sliced yogurt cheese available at Trader Joe's with and without jalapeno peppers.

Doctors talk food

In all the years I've been going to Dr. Glenn Brauntuch, my general practitioner in Englewood, he's never asked me what I eat, commenting only when I started gaining weight and urging me to eat less.

"I love food," my 228 pounds protested last year.

"Just love it less," he replied.

I was a food writer and news copy editor for a daily newspaper until 2008, so any food talk usually involved restaurant recommendations or complaints.

A decade or more ago, Brauntuch detected my heart murmur -- the swooshing sound of blood passing through my aortic valve, which was calcified and wouldn't close completely.

Heart murmurs aren't related to diet, he said, so I didn't have to stop eating milk, yogurt and other dairy food.

Open-heart surgery

Last Friday, my sluggish valve was replaced during open-heart surgery at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. 

When I was discharged on Tuesday, I was given a sheet of paper from the hospital outlining what I should and should not eat -- the most comprehensive advice doctors have ever given me about food.

Foods to avoid include high-fat bakery goods, fried vegetables or those made with butter, cheese or cream sauce; fried fruit or fruit with butter or cream;  butter; whole milk and other dairy products; smoked meat or poultry; frankfurters, sausage, cold cuts and other cured meats; too many egg yolks and all canned beans.

Except for canned beans, I've avoided all of those foods for many years, preferring heart-healthy fresh fruit and vegetables; wild-caught, cold-water fish (salmon, sardines and so forth), and almonds.

In the past year, I've lost 30 pounds with a regimen of five weekly visits to the gym, weight training twice a week and virtually eliminating bread and pizza. And I was out of the hospital only four days after surgery.
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