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Lactose is a type of natural sugar that is found in milk and in products made from milk. Digesting it requires the presence of a specific enzyme known as lactase, which some people lack. This is referred to as being lactose intolerant, a condition that requires those afflicted to avoid most dairy products. Lactose-free frosting is made without using any lactose, to accommodate the dietary needs of such people.
A basic recipe for this topping is made of powdered sugar, water, and vanilla stirred together until they reach a smooth consistency and can be used as frosting. This type of recipe is sweet, but lacks some of the flavor that dairy products give to frosting and may be disappointing for some people. Another way to make lactose-free frosting is to use dairy-free substitutes for milk and butter. Using nut milks such as almond milk or cashew milk gives lactose-free frosting a unique flavor, or other milks such as soy or rice milk can be used. Coconut oil will substitute for butter, which is particularly good in certain types of lactose-free frosting but might be too strong if too much is used.
In some cases people who cannot consume regular cow’s milk may find that they don’t have any problems with other types of dairy products. Many people find goat’s milk to be more digestible, due to differences in the fats and proteins. Regular dairy products with added lactase can also be beneficial, and can either be purchased with the lactase already added or the enzyme can be purchased separately and then added to recipes such as lactose-free frosting.
Typically, babies are born with the ability to produce lactase and do not experience lactose intolerance, though sometimes premature babies can have this problem. The condition typically shows up when the children get older, as early as age two for African-American children, but not until after age five for most Caucasians. It is more common among Native Americans, Asians, and Africans than it is among those of northern or western European descent.
Tens of millions of adults have at least mild lactose intolerance, manifested by such symptoms as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and gas when dairy products are consumed. While the condition is not dangerous, it can be quite uncomfortable, especially if a person has a strong reaction to lactose. It is relatively common for people who were not previously lactose intolerant to develop difficulty digesting dairy due to intestinal surgery, infections, or other problems that affect the intestines.