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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Poop and Circunstance


Dr. Lester CN Simon

With the advent of the School Meals Program and the approach of 25 years of independence, I got to thinking about what Antigua and Barbuda means to me. I was also prompted to reflect on whether my days in school prepared me to take on the world, or, I should say, to know if and when to take on the world, and to always strive to be an independent thinker. Independent thought can initially be frightening because it takes on a life of its own and it pulls you seemingly un-independently along its unseeing path. You have to be confident in the process of thinking and know when to stop. So why can’t I stop thinking about the Nonfat Dry Milk they used to serve us children in primary school, and all the big loads of stinking poops we used to let go after eating or drinking it?

The study of flatus is a worthy and noble vocation if for no other reason than it affords us the acquired ability to differentiate between an authentic poop and its covert, non-gaseous, occasional companion, the doo-doo. A comprehensive study can also inform us of the type of flatus that is forthcoming: Will it be loud and explosive or will it be soft and whistling or inaudible and malodorous? This is vital and enviable information that many highly respectable members of a congregation would swap their collection money for in church, on a beautiful Sunday morning. Sitting in the middle of the pew on the windward side of the aisle enjoying the effervescent, tropical breeze; the holy sacrament of communion is about to begin; the priest says, “This is my body and my…….”....oooops! Everyone looks at everyone else in their minds’ eyes and in that fleeting, deprecatory moment it seems that we all must have read the same flatus inspired script, Waiting To Inhale.

The New Scientist journal reported in 2001 that Dr. Michael Levitt, a gastroenterologist (who else?), had been studying flatus for over 30 years. He discovered that although some women tend to produce less flatulent emissions, there was no significant difference between males and females in the frequency of passing wind. He also analyzed and correctly identified the bouquet of gases in large numbers of poops and thus paved the way for a new type of purgative to clean the gut before performing surgical operations on the bowel. Previously, the purgatives that were used preoperatively enhanced the production of some gases that were combustible and hitherto there were cases of real fireworks and explosions during surgical operations on the bowel!

The drinking of milk or suckling by newborns is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. Lactose is the dominant carbohydrate in virtually all mammalian milk. It is digested in the intestines by an enzyme called lactase. Lactase, the enzyme, breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk. Many Black school children of the Nonfat Dry Milk era grew up to learn that we lacked the enzyme lactase and so we could not adequately digest lactose and hence we could not drink large volumes of milk. We came to understand the reason for passing all the milk inspired flatus and we were made to feel that we were abnormal; that lactose intolerance was a disease at worse or a disorder at best. After all, one must not go pooping, pooping all over the place after drinking a tall glass of milk. The effects of drinking milk must be seen, not heard.

Studies reported in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2000 by Dr. V S Tuula et al show that there is a reduction in lactase activity in the intestines soon after weaning in almost all animals and in many humans. Lactase deficiency is a normal physiological process. Remarkable! The prevalence of lactose intolerance is about 50% in South America, Africa, and Asia, reaching almost 100% in some Asians countries. In the United States, the prevalence of lactose intolerance is about 15% among whites, 53% among Mexican-Americans and 80% in the Black population. In Europe it ranges along a rising gradient from about 2% in northern areas like Scandinavia to about 70% in Sicily in the south. Did the Nonfat Dry milk school program extend throughout the entire world? Thankfully, Black people do not have a monopoly on passing flatus after copious milk ingestion. Black brothers and sisters arise. Wipe out those pooping lies!
History will “absorb” us. “Viva Poopa!”

Calcium has earned the title of “super nutrient”. It is an essential nutrient for critical biological functions. It can be obtained in high quantities from dairy foods, Chinese cabbage, Chinese mustard greens and bok choy, from calcium-fortified foods and beverages and supplements. The New Scientist reported in 2002 that scientific studies support the theory that all humans were once lactose intolerant, and that lactose tolerance evolved only after people domesticated animals and began drinking their milk. What do you think will happen if you give cow’s milk to an adult cow? Black populations like the Fulani of Western Africa that rely extensively on milk in their diet are highly tolerant to milk. Lactose intolerance is not a disease or a disorder. With varying degrees of intolerance, about two thirds of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant.

It only goes to show that when you are called abnormal and different, do not accept the label. Do the hard, investigative work to understand the world around you and how you fit into the wider picture, even if, with the appropriate silent apologies in church on Sunday, you have to study an irreverent but essential subject such as Farting on the Nonfat Dry Milk.

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