ChrisatBedfordCheese / February 9, 2012, 8pm

Recently, as I was polishing off my sixth Krunchy-covered Klondike Bar and watching a little show called “Toddlers & Tiaras,” I lovingly glanced down at the milky white sandwich that I was holding between two sticky paws that had attracted a blend of cat hair, lint, and Wheat Thins crumbs, and thought “I think I’m going to throw up.”

It had been decided. I was CLEARLY lactose intolerant. I shoved my last cow’s milk based treat down my throat and tried to enjoy my final moments as one of the blissfully easy breezy lactose tolerant. I quickly jumped to and in a flash was at my third most visited website (after this and this one), the all knowing WebMD. Many a late night had been dedicated to researching grave medical disorders that I was positive I had contracted while hustling cheese on the streets of Williamsburg. Face Blindness. Moebius Syndrome. Progeria. Gout. Irritability.  This began my grand journey into the world of dairy intolerance, and the subject of this week’s blog post!

(In case you are wondering, honey boo boo child, after careful study, I have self-diagnosed myself as NOT being lactose intolerant.  After downing an entire 2L bottle of Cherry Coke Zero and eating some Wintergreen lifesavers I spent the rest of the night reorganizing the cupboards in my kitchen and burping…)

For someone who has made a career out of surrounding himself with dairy products, I come into contact with several upon dozens of people who couldn’t possibly touch the stuff due to their EXTREME intolerance to cheese.  ”Man all this looks SOOOOO good!  If only I wasn’t lactose intolerant.  I’m just getting this for a little intimate dinner party I’m having, so it’s not even for me…” Winky face.

The culprit. Lactose. And the title of this informative blog post! I mean. I can't tell you anything about what this means. Except it looks like a tramp stamp that some Google nerd would get on spring break. In chemistry I pretty much learned how to nap with my eyes wide open while also nodding affirmatively at 45 second intervals...

Well guess what.  I’m here to tell you that at long last, despite your “lactose intolerance,” it may be possible to enjoy cheese.  Oh yes.  CHEESE.  Not milk.  Not Go-Gurt.  Not root beer floats topped with a delicious mound of whipped cream.  But cheese.  Cheese is a different story.

So for starters, what does it even mean to be lactose intolerant?  Well.  This week I am getting all scientific on y’all and I’m gonna lay it down for you.  Ok.  So it turns out that milk is FULL of sugars.  One of these sugars, lactose, is broken down by an enzyme called lactase, which lives in a small condo in the small intestines, which then converts the sugar into energy.

Yeah! Lactase is all about grit, glamour, and THE EDGE. Right there in your lower intestine, right on the Williamsburg waterfront...

Unfortunately, for those who call themselves “lactose intolerant” and claim that a mere morsel of cheese could never pass their dainty lips, you probably lack the amount of the lactase enzyme (or you just don’t have ANY) in your lower intestine to digest the sugars found in milk. As a result, you feel like crap because there is all this stuff in your digestive tract that you can’t digest. And you might actually start crappin’. It’s a definite possibility.  So I’m very sorry – we will never share a cool glass of buttermilk on a warm May morning before we go gather wildflowers in the meadow.  BUT I HAVE A SURPRISE TO TELL YOU!

OK.  Put down your taquitos, take a seat, and listen to this.  During the cheese making process, the majority of lactose which is found in milk is expelled in the form of whey.  As a result, a young cheese often carries less than 10% the amount of lactose found in whole milk.  AND the amount of lactose diminishes the longer you age a cheese – so you got your Emmenthal, you got your Cheddar, and you got your pecorinos.  All up for grabs in the world of the lactose intolerant!  Even if you have zero lactase in yer gut, you should be able to enjoy the world of cheese (in moderation.)  So get out there and start cubing up all the cheese you can find, grab a toothpick, and go to town.  But – a word of warning.  Many of the cryo-vac cheeses you buy in the supermarket which are labeled “Aged,” are in fact factory produced and aren’t actually aged ATALL.  The flavor is a chemical product, meaning that these cheeses might still contain traces of lactose, which will cause unfortunate borborygmus.

Literal wall of lies.

Now, some people might say that cow’s milk is the harshest on the stomach of those who are lactose intolerant. This is actually true, and this is due to the way fat in the milk is dispersed. Cow’s milk is not a naturally homogenized dairy product, meaning the fat can separate from the milk and form cream. This large fat protein is extra hard for those with weak lactase enzymes to break down. But, in other milks, the fat is naturally homogenized. Meaning, the proteins are smaller, and easier to break down. So, if you want to stay extra safe, try noshing on some aged goat cheese. For example, Caprotto – a lemony, salty, nutty treat from Italy. Or perhaps, Evalon – a sweet, creamy raw milk round from Wisconsin. You couldn’t possibly go wrong.

So let’s fast forward. Say you listened to my Bailey’s fueled rant about lactose. Say you went out and ate a whole bunch of aged cheese, laughing to the heavens with glee and delight, only to spend the rest of the night wrapped around a toilet. Well first off. I’m sorry. I warned you. But I also tricked you into eating cheese. So. Blog – 1. Blog reader – 0. But. Sorry. And, is it possible that you have a DAIRY ALLERGY?

I tried to come up with a picture of a cow vs. goat. vs. sheep, but they all turned out to be creepy cartoons. This is the best I could come up with. Look at that frown!

Different from being lactose intolerant, a DAIRY ALLERGY is an actual genetic disorder in your immune system, in which your body identifies the milk protein casein as an attack on your bod-day. As a result, your immune system goes into overdrive and does anything it can to get the protein out of your body, often causing EXTREME RESULTS. Which are terrible, but I’m sure you can all imagine what would happen. Like….extreme nose hair growth. Or. Terrible mackerel halitosis. All possible. There are lots of different caseins, and they vary from species to species, which explains why somoene might be able to eat sheep’s milk cheese but barfs a little at the mere thought of a small taster of cow’s milk cheese.

So if you are pukin’ at the slightest taste of dairy, it’s probably a milk allergy. Not lactose intolerant. So git it right. And again….I’m sorry.

Well, there you have it! Your highly educational blog for the bi-week! I hope you go forth and correctly identify your dairy concerns from here on out. See you next time!

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