The impaired ability to digest lactose is called lactose intolerance. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and dairy products. Digestion breaks lactose down into two simple sugars called lactase, which is an enzyme found in the small intestine. If there is an insufficient production of this enzyme, lactose won’t be digested properly. This leads to abnormalities anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours after consuming milk or dairy products.
Lactose intolerance levels differ from person to person. Generally, those affected have the ability to digest lactose at birth, but lose this capability between the ages of 3 and 20. The inability to digest lactose is very common, affecting up to 70 percent of world’s population. African American, Asian and Native American adults produce little or no lactase at all.
Is prevention possible?
This is determined by the type of lactose intolerance in question. An affected person naturally loses the ability to create the enzyme lactase, once they are past the early stages of childhood. There is a myth that the continued consumption of food with lactose will support the ability to digest lactose. There is also the possibility that a baby can be born with a genetic disposition towards lactose intolerance. This would inherently limit the child's ability to break down lactose.
The type of lactose intolerance commonly seen in children is caused by food allergies, gastroenteritis, and food intolerance.
Don't Ignore it
Lactose intolerance is not a debilitating condition. If you are lactose intolerant, symptoms will manifest every time you consume milk and other dairy products that contain lactose. The quantity consumed will determine the amount of discomfort you will experience.
- Cut down on the quantity of dairy products consumed in your diet albeit cream, cheese, milk, butter or ice cream
- Most people affected have low quantities of lactose in their bodies, and they can accommodate more dairy without showing symptoms. Lactose is also better consumed if taken with a meal. Lactose-reduced milk and ice cream offer alternatives to other dairy products.
- Swallow lactase tablets or use lactase drops or capsules before a meal. Lactase contained in over-the-counter supplements will split the large portions of lactose contained in dairy products.
- Yogurt with live cultures can be implemented, which enables the bacteria to consume the remnant lactose.
- Use soy milk (liquid extracted from soybeans). The milk from soybeans can be used on cereal, given to babies, or used for baking. Almond and coconut milk products are lactose-free.
- Ensure that your diet contains enough vitamin D and calcium. Good choices for these vitamins include amaranth, broccoli, calcium-fortified orange juice and legumes. Calcium or Vitamin D supplements may also be advised by your physician.
- Keep in mind that lactose is contained in a variety of foods, including baked products like cookies, bread, pancake mix, cake, and powdered drinks like flavored coffees or cocoa. It can also be found in factory produced meats like frankfurters and powdered or canned soups.
- Products low in lactose include aged cheeses like cheddar and parmesan.
- Most prescriptions given by physicians have lactose as an additive.
Calling the Doctor
If discomfort in your stomach does not subside after self-treatment, then you should visit your doctor immediately.