A Natural Approach To Health
Living With Lactose Intolerance
I had a question the other day about lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose (milk sugar).
It’s caused by a lack or deficiency of lactase, an enzyme made in your small intestine.
When a person with lactose intolerance consumes milk or other dairy products, some or all of the lactose remains undigested and ferments in your colon, giving you abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and gas.
Symptoms usually begin between 30 minutes and 2 hours after eating dairy foods.
The degree of lactose intolerance varies from person to person.
For most of the world’s adults, lactose intolerance is actually a normal condition.
Only Caucasians of northern European origin keep the ability to digest lactose after childhood.
In the U.S., an estimated 30-50 million people are lactose intolerant.
Lactase deficiency can also occur because of a gastrointestinal disorder, like celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, regional enteritis, or ulcerative colitis.
It can also develop on its own.
There’s no known way to prevent it.
Although far less common, lactose intolerance can occur in children.
In infants, lactose intolerance can occur after a severe bout of gastroenteritis, which damages the intestinal lining.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance in an infant can include foamy diarrhea with diaper rash, slow weight gain and development, and vomiting.
Lactose intolerance can cause discomfort and digestive disruption, but it’s not a serious threat and it can easily be managed through dietary changes.
To deal with lactose intolerance it’s beneficial to:
*Drink 6-8 cups of purified water daily.
*Avoid milk and all dairy products except yogurt. This is the most important dietary measure for anyone who’s intolerant to lactose. Use soymilk in place of milk, and soy cheese instead of dairy cheese.
*Include yogurt in your diet. Yogurt is the one dairy product good for people with lactose intolerance. The cultures present in yogurt digest the lactose it contains, so it’s no longer a problem. They also help in overall digestion. Be sure to eat only yogurt containing active live yogurt cultures.
*Be sure to eat plenty of foods high in calcium. Good choices include apricots, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, collard greens, dried figs, kale, calcium-fortified orange juice, rhubarb, salmon, sardines, spinach, tofu, and yogurt.
*Check with your pharmacist before taking any medications. Many pills are made using lactose as filler. Some birth control pills and stomach medications contain lactose.
*During an acute attack, don’t eat any solid food, but drink plenty of purified water and replace lost minerals.
*Read product labels carefully, and avoid any containing lactose or “milk solids.” Lactose is added to many different types of processed food, including breads, canned and powdered soups, cookies, pancake mixes, powdered drink mixes like flavored coffee, processed breakfast cereals, processed meats, and salad dressings.
*If you’re pregnant and have a family history of lactose intolerance, give serious thought to breast-feeding your baby. If it’s not possible, first see if your baby can tolerate regular formula. Then discuss with your pediatrician choosing a nondairy baby formula, like a soy-based product.
*There are several tests used to measure the absorption of lactose into your digestive system. The first test is known as the lactose tolerance test. The second is the hydrogen breath test. Young children and infants are tested by the stool acidity test, which measures the amount of acid in the stool.
*Lactose intolerance isn’t the same as milk allergy. Lactose intolerance specifically refers to a syndrome caused by the failure to digest milk sugar; a person with a milk allergy may be able to digest milk normally, but his or her immune system then has an allergic response to one or more of the milk’s components.
*Hard, aged cheeses, like Parmesan cheese, are relatively low in lactose, and may be easier to tolerate than other dairy products.
*Many people can’t tolerate much lactose at one sitting. Consuming small amounts of dairy products with meals may help improve the lactose tolerance level. Your large intestine becomes more accustomed to digesting the lactose when it’s introduced in small quantities on a regular basis.
*The symptoms of lactose intolerance are similar to those of celiac disease, and the 2 disorders may occur together.
*Lactose-free and lactose-reduced products are available in most supermarkets.
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