Affecting approximately 65% of all adults in the world, lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerance. To evade gastrointestinal complications that often result from consumption of milk products, the majority of individuals decide to remove all dairy products from their diet.
The question remains; can lactose intolerance be cured in adults?
Is it possible to cure lactose intolerance?
Certain individuals are unable to digest dairy products due to the insufficient amount of lactase in their body. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, found in dairy products, into simple sugars that can be readily absorbed in the body.
However, in some individuals, the production of lactase continues well into adulthood. This phenomenon, also known as Lactase persistence, has its origin in ancestry and race. Certain herdsmen in the past were able to digest milk products; this ability could have developed as a response to consumption of animal milk. Large segments of the population in India, Africa, Arabia and northern Europe can continue to digest dairy products in adulthood. Currently, the adult population that sustains complete lactase functioning since childhood is only 40%. The remaining 60% of the people find digestion of milk products very difficult because of the lack of lactase.
Medical evaluation does not diagnose lactose intolerance accurately; most of the time adults confuse their gastrointestinal problems as indications of their inability to digest milk products. The majority of adults who think they have lactose intolerance are in fact suffering from other gastrointestinal conditions like IBS, SIBO, or celiac condition and cutting dairy may not be beneficial. A lot of people also keep off diary for no apparent reason. According to studies, lactose intolerant individuals can take medium quantities of dairy products and up to one cup of milk without showing any symptoms or mild symptoms.
Importance of diary
There are instances where cultures from the past that did not consume dairy products and had no issues with their health. It is, however, thought that some ethnicities adapted physically to their diet which had little calcium and that some traditional foods from animals had high calcium. These foods are not liked by the current population like bones, heads of fish and skin. The reason they survived without diary is that the foods they ate provided the required calcium.
Dairy products provide calcium, vitamin D, protein and sixteen other vital nutrients to the body and help to reduce the risk to certain diseases. Removing dairy products completely from the diet may lead to severe deficiencies in the body.
Treatment of lactose intolerance using probiotics
Probiotic bacteria may be taken as supplements to reduce lactose intolerance. These bacteria can produce lactase enzyme on their own, which is then used for the digestion of lactose found in dairy products. Some of the probiotic bacteria that have been found to be useful in controlling the symptoms of lactose intolerance are lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and streptococci.
Probiotic bacteria are strains of good bacteria that can aid in digestive processes. Prebiotics are bacteria that nourish the probiotics; in other words, prebiotics are necessary for optimum growth and propagation of probiotic bacteria. It is, therefore, essential to introduce both prebiotics and probiotics to your diet for effective results. Prebiotic bacteria are found in foods like garlic, leek, and artichoke.
When the probiotic bacteria grow and propagate in the intestine; they start producing optimum quantities of lactase enzyme, which aids the digestion of lactose in dairy products. With the introduction of probiotics into your diet, you may feel that your symptoms are subsiding with time.
Yogurt contains live bacteria that aid in the digestion of lactose present in dairy products. Consuming small quantities of yogurt introduces the beneficial strains of bacteria to your intestine.
Certain fermented food articles can help in the production of good bacteria in the intestine. Foods like fermented cabbage can be included in the diet to encourage the growth and production of beneficial strains of bacteria. These bacteria aid digestion of lactose and may be helpful in relieving symptoms.
Supplements of the enzyme can be taken as medication to aid digestion of dairy products. However, it is not advisable in the long run as individuals tend to develop immunity from such pills. Further, when the body receives lactase externally, it may stop producing the small quantities of the enzyme that it had been producing previously.
Most people do not develop any symptoms by eating smaller portions of dairy products or alternatively their body may tolerate certain kinds of dairy products. Foods containing a low level of lactose are also well tolerated in some individuals. Sheep or goat milk have a lower concentration of lactose and can be used as substitutes. The best method to know the type of dairy product that suits you and your digestive system is just by experimenting with them personally.
Certain non-dairy products can provide adequate levels of calcium to the body, these may be included in the diet.
Symptoms can be controlled by giving up by dairy products completely; these dairy products can be substituted by alternatives that have lower quantities of lactose or are lactose-free like soy milk, ghee, or coconut milk.
If your symptoms are severe it may be necessary to cut on all dairy products for some time. You should be cautious about any food that you are consuming; read the ingredients on packagings, carefully, before buying. Certain prescription drugs may contain lactose, they should be avoided. Breakfast cereals, biscuits, cookies, instant potatoes and salad dressing contain lactose; all such items should be avoided.
Apple cider vinegar
It has been observed by several patients that taking apple cider vinegar with water every day may alleviate the symptoms.
There is no known cure for lactose intolerance. However, the symptoms can be managed and controlled by dietary regulations. Accurate diagnosis of symptoms is imperative from the view that it can save you from complications arising out of other diseases of the small intestine. You must seek the counsel of your doctor before proceeding with any course of treatment.