More than 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from some range of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is not a milk allergy. It is when your body doesn’t have enough of the lactase enzyme to be able to digest the sugar from milk and other dairy products. This is not a serious condition, but it can be kind of annoying to deal with.
If you are lactose intolerant you will usually suffer from symptoms within thirty minutes to two hours after consumption of a milk product. Symptoms can include abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhea, or nausea. Symptoms can be mild to severe. How severe your symptoms are can be based on how much you have consumed, and how much lactase you have in your body. Symptoms usually resolve themselves after a bit of time when the milk has moved through your system.
You can sometimes diagnose if you have an intolerance by cutting out milk completely for a week or two to see if your symptoms go away. If this is inconclusive you can speak with your doctor and have a breath test or blood test done. If you have a younger child that is showing signs of lactose intolerance you can provide a stool sample if you don’t want them to go through having a blood test.
There are different reasons you can become lactose intolerant. Almost 65% of all adults have some form of lactose intolerance. This is because your lactase enzyme starts to decrease after you have turned two years old. This happens because your diet becomes more diverse so that the need for the lactase enzyme decreases and your body doesn’t produce more. Another cause could be an illness or injury. Illnesses that could lead to lactose intolerance are celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. If you have a surgery on your bowels, or intestines could lead to a disruption in the amount of lactase your body has. In very rare cases you could inherit lactose intolerance. This does not happen often but you can pass lactose intolerance from a parent down to your baby. If this is the case your baby will be intolerant to breast milk, regular cows milk, or even formula with lactose in it. Diarrhea will happen immediately upon consumption.
For some people they are still able to eat small amounts of milk or dairy products. The main thing is to make sure you don’t over consume. If you have symptoms that are too severe you may need to cut dairy and milk out of your diet completely. You can replace it with lactose free products. If you do you will want to be sure you have replacements for calcium, and vitamin D in your diet. You could suffer from deficiencies in these areas without milk in your diet. You can supplement getting these two nutrients by eating almonds, dried beans, tofu, collards, kale, soy milk, fatty fish, egg yolks, or beef liver.
The bad news about being lactose intolerant is that your body already decreases the amount of the lactase enzyme on it’s own after you turn two. The good news is you may be able to help your body increase the lactase enzyme back. You can do this by adding in dairy foods in moderation. You can also eat milk with a meal so that it is digested with other things, such as eating milk over cereal. There are also yogurts that contain lactase which will be easier to digest as well. If you really don’t want to cut out milk there are always over the counter digestive aids for you to take before you eat to help you. The main thing to remember is to slowly increase your amounts without overeating.
Lactose intolerance is very common with about three million cases each year reported in the United States. This intolerance can be managed but not cured completely. Learning how to manage your symptoms and how much milk you can tolerate is key to keeping symptoms at a minimum. If you have questions you can speak with your physician to make sure you are compensating for the nutrients you need from other foods when milk can’t be digested. There are so many lactose free choices anymore that there are even lactose free ice creams out there for lactose intolerant people.
Almost 65% of all adults have some form of lactose intolerance. Are you one of them? #HealthStatus
Adding a lactase supplement to your diet may help you enjoy the foods you love!