If you thought you were the only one not feeling good after eating dairy products: you’re not alone. You could be having symptoms of lactose intolerance, which is very common. It’s thought to affect around 75% of the world’s population. People with lactose intolerance experience digestive problems when they eat dairy, which can have a negative effect on quality of life. Does this sound familiar? Read on to learn more about lactose intolerance.
What Is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose, the main carbohydrate in dairy products. It can cause various symptoms, including bloating, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. People with lactose intolerance don’t make enough of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest lactose. Lactose is a disaccharide, meaning that it consists of two sugars. It is made up of one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose.
The lactase enzyme is needed to break lactose down into glucose and galactose, which can then be absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy. Without sufficient lactase, lactose moves through your gut undigested and causes digestive symptoms. Lactose is also found in breast milk, and almost everyone is born with the ability to digest it., and it is very rare to see lactose intolerance in children under the age of five.
What Are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?
If not managed properly, lactose intolerance can cause severe digestive problems. The most common symptoms are the following:
- Abdominal cramps
- Some people also experience urgency to use the restroom, nausea, vomiting, pain in the lower stomach and occasionally constipation.
Diarrhea occurs due to undigested lactose in your small intestine, which causes water to move into your digestive tract. Once it reaches your colon, the lactose is fermented by the bacteria in your gut, forming short-chain fatty acids and gas. This causes the bloating, flatulence and pain. The severity of symptoms can vary, depending on how much lactose you can tolerate and how much you have eaten.
Which Foods Contain Lactose?
Lactose is found in dairy foods, as well as products that contain dairy. Don’t be confused if a product contains lactic acid, lactalbumin, lactate or casein. These ingredients aren’t lactose. All dairy foods contain lactose, but this doesn’t mean they are totally off limits for people with lactose intolerance. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of lactose. Some people can tolerate a small amount of milk in coffee, but not the amount you would get from a bowl of cereal.
Getting Calcium From a Non-Dairy Diet
Dairy foods are excellent sources of calcium, but eating dairy is not detrimental to staying healthy. It’s still possible to have a very healthy diet without dairy foods. You just need to include other foods that are high in calcium, and the recommended intake for calcium is 1,000 mg per day. Some good non-dairy sources of calcium include calcium-fortified foods, boned fish, high-calcium plant based foods and more. If you remove dairy from your diet, you need to replace it with suitable alternative sources of calcium.
There are several ways to reduce lactose intolerance, including enzyme supplements, lactose exposure and eating probiotics or prebiotics. Removing dairy from your diet can mean you miss out on important nutrients. However, it’s not always necessary to completely avoid dairy if you are lactose intolerant. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy. If you do need to remove dairy completely, it’s perfectly possible to have a healthy and balanced diet without it – just make sure to include other sources of calcium to get everything you need. If you feel as though you may have lactose intolerance, schedule an appointment or a Televisit with Triborough GI today.
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