Gorgonzola, taleggio, mozzarella, caciocavallo, Piedmontese toma, pecorino (sheep cheese), Grana Padano, Parmesan cheese…Italy’s traditional dairy products are famous worldwide! Unfortunately, though, not everyone can fully enjoy them because of their lactose intolerance, that is the difficulty to digest this sugar contained in milk.
Lactose intolerance is spread all over the world, particularly among peoples from Central/South Africa and the Far East. Its diffusion in Europe is not homogeneous: it involves less than 20% of Northern peoples and 40-70% of Central/Southern ones. Indeed, the disappearance of the lactase enzyme, active in digesting lactose, typically occurs in adulthood but does not affect everyone in the same way.
However, there is good news for those who suffer from lactose intolerance! In fact, many dairy products are naturally lactose-free (aged cheese like Pecorino, Grana, Parmesan cheese) as well as yoghurt and butter.
Read products’ labels carefully: lactose may be unexpectedly found in ready sauces, cured meats, canned food and even medicines!
We have mentioned sugar, but also proteins can trigger allergy to cow milk; it especially affects children (2-7%) but tends to disappear in adults, which thing sometimes causes confusion as in the latter case it is still referred to as “lactose intolerance”. Anyway, do not feel like social outcasts: once again, there are several alternative milk-free recipes, and in some countries, like China, traditional cuisines hardly include dairy products at all.