What is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder that has become very common in modern society. It is difficult to break down lactose it is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products. So What is the cause of
lactose intolerance? The small intestine cannot produce enough of an enzyme known as lactate. When there is a lack or not enough of it, lactose which is a sugar found in the products mentioned above will be undigested by the gut. This causes lactose to stay in the digestive system longer causing fermentation. As a result, gases are created that make unpleasant symptoms such as pain/cramps, bloating, and diarrhea.
It is estimated about 68% of the world population is affected by lactose malabsorption.
Is Lactose Intolerance permanent or Temporary?
The answer is it depends on the reason or the underlying cause of the deficiency of lactate in the body Is it sudden
or something that was happening over time?. There are four types of lactose intolerance
Primary Lactose Intolerance – Most common – It is caused by low production of lactate which might happen over time. The gut microbiome is disrupted by viruses, causing stomach flu, which can shut off the production of the lactase enzyme temporarily. Symptoms of lactose intolerance will be experienced as result. The use of antibiotics also causes temporary lactose intolerance.
Secondary Lactose Intolerance- This can occur due to having a chronic digestive illness such as Crohn’s disease, a Celiac disease that causes injury to the gastrointestinal system.
Congenital lactose intolerance – It is rare and mainly occurs in newborns, both parents have the genes, and therefore the infant inherits from both parents. They are unable to digest the breast milk because of intolerance, if not caught early it can be fatal for the newborn due to severe diarrhea and increased calcium.
Developmental lactose intolerance – This also affects infants and is mostly seen in premature babies. Because their digestive system isn’t fully developed yet, they start having gut distress. It is usually temporary.
What’s the difference between lactose intolerance and allergy to dairy?
Having an intolerance is not life-threatening, therefore people with lactose intolerance can get some symptoms that make them uncomfortable but they can still live. On the other hand, an allergic reaction is a matter of life and death so by all means anything with lactose has to be shunned by this individual.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance
Here are some common symptoms developed that might help identify you have a problem with lactose
- Bloating – As fermentation occurs in the gut due to bacteria feasting on the undigested lactose, gases are produced. These gases cause bloating which makes someone uncomfortable.
- Gas – This gas can cause pain if not released, it causes discomfort stomach, and to get relief comes out as wind for someone to feel comfortable.
- Diarrhea – Properly one of the worst symptoms to have which can be embarrassing is the urgency of running to the bathroom which might cause an accident if you can’t make it on time.
- Stomach pain – Extreme and uncomfortable pain in the gut is another symptom that can result from bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
- Low energy – This can result from constantly running to the bathroom, pain, and bloating, the intensity of it varies from one person to another.
Who is affected the most?
In the United States, the people who are more affected by this disorder are –
- Black origins
- Native Americans
- Asian American
People of European descent are least affected by lactose intolerance problems.
How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects lactose intolerance disorder based on the information given by you, then he or she might order
one or more tests to confirm it.
- Hydrogen breath test. By drinking a substance with a high level of lactose, the doctor measures how much hydrogen is in your breath, if there is too much of it that shows an inability to digest lactose
- Lactose tolerance test. Two hours After drinking a beverage containing high-level lactose a blood test is done to measure how much glucose is in the bloodstream. The higher blood glucose that is found in the blood the higher the indication of not digesting lactose.
Is there a cure for lactose intolerance?
There is no cure for this disorder but you can control the symptoms by watching what you eat. The best way is to keep a journal and record what you eat. Also, depending on the individual, some people may be able to tolerate a low lactose diet and others might need to avoid it completely. So replacing lactose foods with free lactose products can be a lifesaver.
What foods are lactose friendly?
Here are some lactose-free foods
- Almond, rice, oat, and hazelnut milk
- Soy yogurt and cheese
- Almond yogurt and cheese
- Coconut yogurt and cheese
- Any food with a sign that says lactose-free
Unfortunately avoiding food with lactose can come with its price, which is calcium deficiency. Coming with
an alternative for replacement is imperative as we know this mineral is important for healthy bones.
Foods to avoid that contain dairy products
- Milk – Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, buffalo milk
- Cheese – any soft cheese example, cream, cottage, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese
- Ice cream, frozen yogurt, and dairy-based sherbet
- Sour cream
- Whipped cream
How to identify lactose in food
Many prepared, prepacked foods contain lactose, it’s important to read the label so you can identify it
and to avoid any misery before consuming it unknowingly. Here are some foods that have hidden lactose in them.
- Chocolate and hot chocolate
- Bread and crackers- have whey that keeps the bread soft
- Instant potato mix or for that matter anything instant ex convenience meals
- Baking goods, for example, cakes, cooks – butter, milk are used to bake them
- Hot dogs and sausage
- Surprise! Salad dressings, yep! where do you think the yummy! and creamy texture comes from?
- Prescription medicine – According to Godairy free this mind-boggling 20% of prescriptions and about 6% of vitamins have lactose, so ask your pharmacist if you are someone struggling with lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance affects many people in the world nowadays. Some common symptoms are abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Which is annoying and makes someone uncomfortable and embarrassed.
By restricting lactose intake one can find out if they are intolerant to dairy products. Supplementing with lactase enzyme can help with digestion, and slowly reintroducing dairy products into your diet daily for the colon to adapt will manage symptoms and return to some normalcy in your life.
- Lactose Tolerance Tests: MedlinePlus Medical Test
- Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management (nih.gov)