Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is defined as a digestive disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose. Lactose is the main carbohydrate present in dairy products. Lactose intolerance can cause several symptoms, including diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal cramps. The enzyme lactase plays a major role in digesting lactose. Individuals with lactose intolerance don't make enough amount of the enzyme lactase.


Lactose is a disaccharide, meaning it consists of two sugar molecules. It is made up of one unit, each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose. Lactose cannot be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. It is needed to breakdown into simpler units. The lactase enzyme is essential to break lactose into glucose and galactose, which can be then absorbed into the bloodstream and utilized for energy. Without adequate lactase, lactose moves through the gut undigested and causes digestive problems. Breast milk also contains lactose, and almost everyone is born with the ability to digest lactose. Lactose intolerance in children below the age of five is very rare.


According to Healthline, about 75% of the world's population is lactose intolerant at present. Most individuals with lactose intolerance can manage the condition without giving up on all dairy products.



The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance generally start from 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking lactose-containing food products. Most common signs and symptoms include:


  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas


Causes of lactose intolerance

Primarily, there are two types of lactose intolerance, each having different causes.


1. Primary lactose intolerance: The most common lactose intolerance is the primary lactose intolerance. It is caused when an individual's ability to produce lactose falls gradually with growing age. Lactose in such individuals is poorly absorbed.


2. Secondary lactose intolerance: Secondary lactose intolerance occurs when the small intestine reduces the production of lactase after suffering an injury, disease, or surgery involving the small intestine. Some of the diseases associated with secondary lactose intolerance include intestinal infection, celiac disease, bacterial overgrowth, and Crohn's disease.


Avoiding lactose means avoiding dairy, which is a rich source of nutrients?


Dairy is the term given to describe milk and products made from milk. Dairy products have high nutritional value and important sources of protein, calcium, and vitamins like A, B12, and D. This nutrient combination is great for our bone's health. Adding dairy in the diet is linked to higher bone mineral density, which may help reduce the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis as people get older.
Dairy products are also known to be linked with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Unfortunately, people with lactose intolerance may need to cut back or remove dairy products from their diets, potentially skipping out some nutrients.


Which foods contain lactose?


Lactose is available in dairy foods and products that contain dairy.

  • Dairy foods that contain lactose:
  • Cow's milk (all types)
  • Goat's milk
  • Cheese (including hard and soft cheeses)
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt
  • Butter


Foods that sometimes contain lactose
Foods that have some sort of dairy used as an ingredient may also contain lactose, including:


  • Foods made with a milky sauce, like quiche
  • Biscuits and cookies
  • Chocolate and confectionary, like boiled sweets and candies
  • Breads and baked goods
  • Cakes
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Instant soups and sauces
  • Processed meats
  • Ready meals
  • Sauces and gravies
  • Potato chips, nuts, and flavored tortillas
  • Desserts and custards


Lifestyle and home remedies for lactose intolerance people


With some trial and error, people might be able to predict body's response to foods containing lactose and find out how much they can consume without discomfort. Some people have such severe lactose intolerance that they have to cut out all milk products and be cautious of non-dairy foods or medications containing lactose. People can follow some simple hacks if they are lactose intolerant.


1. Maintain good nutrition
Reducing dairy products doesn't mean people cannot get enough calcium. Calcium is also present in many other foods, such as:


  • Broccoli and leafy green vegetables
  • Calcium-fortified products, such as cereals and juices
  • Canned salmon or sardines
  • Milk substitutes (rice milk and soy milk)
  • Oranges
  • Almonds, Brazil nuts, and dried beans


Also, it is equally important to get enough vitamin D, which is typically supplied in fortified milk. Eggs and yogurt also contain vitamin D. Our body makes vitamin D when we spend time in the sun.
Even without avoiding dairy foods, though, many adults don't get enough vitamin D. In this case, talk to the doctor about taking vitamin D and calcium supplements to be sure. 


2. Limit dairy products
Many individuals with lactose intolerance can enjoy some milk products without getting symptoms. People might tolerate low-fat milk products, better than whole-milk products, such as skim milk. It also might be possible to increase tolerance to dairy products by gradually introducing them into their diet.


Ways to change the diet to minimize lactose intolerance symptoms include:


a) Choosing smaller portions of dairy- The lower the serving, the less likely it is to cause gastrointestinal problems.


b) Saving milk for mealtimes- Try to drink milk with other foods. Doing this will slow down the digestive process and may lessen symptoms of lactose intolerance.


c) Experimenting with a variety of dairy products- Not all dairy products contain the same amount of lactose. For example, hard cheese has small amounts of lactose and generally causes no symptoms. Ice cream and milk contain high lactose amounts, but the high-fat content in ice cream might allow people to eat it without symptoms. Lactose intolerance individuals might tolerate cultured milk products such as yogurt because the bacteria used in the culturing process produces the enzyme that breaks down lactose.


d) Buying lactose-reduced or lactose-free products- People can find such products at most supermarkets in the dairy section.



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