Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the most common food intolerance. Almost 70% of the world’s population has it. Lactase, the enzyme that is responsible for the digestion of lactose (a type of sugar from milk and dairy products) is missing or is deficient; therefore, lactose won’t be absorbed or used by our body and will lead to unpleasant symptoms, such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and sometimes nausea or even vomiting. These symptoms improve when the diet is changed (milk and dairy products are cut off or eaten in small amounts). Some people may need to avoid lactose altogether, but most of them can enjoy small quantities of dairy products without developing symptoms. Never forget that behind these digestive symptoms other medical disorders may hide.

Lactose is present in:

– milk and all milk products (manufacturers may add milk and milk products in processed foods);
– powdered milk;
– bread, baked products;
– biscuits, cookies, doughnuts, pancakes, waffles, pastries, mixes to make them;
– breakfast cereals, breakfast drinks;
– instant soups, instant potatoes;
– chips and other processed snacks;
– bacon, sausage, lunch meats, hot dogs;
– salad dressings;
– margarine;
– chocolate and ice cream;
– nondairy whipped toppings, coffee creamers;
– protein powders and bars;
– pasta and processed pizza.

It is very important to read very carefully the ingredients on food’s label and search for hidden lactose. If you see words as: milk, lactose, milk-byproducts, nonfat dry milk powder, dry milk solids, milk proteins, cream, curds, whey, then you should avoid those foods.

Milk and diary products are rich in calcium and most people with lactose intolerance are worried that their daily intake of it won’t be enough. However, calcium is found in other foods as well:

– calcium-fortified products: bread, juices, mineral water;
– milk substitutes: soy, rice, almond, hemp, oat, coconut, hazelnut, peanut milk;
– tofu;
– broccoli, spinach, pinto beans, parsley, cress, lettuce, cauliflower;
– rhubarb, oranges, apples;
– yeast;
– dried plums and other dried fruits;
– canned sardines, tuna and salmon (including bones), oysters, clams, mussels, shrimps;
– eggs.

Vitamin D is another important mineral that helps the body to absorb and use calcium. We are able to produce it when we expose our skin to sunlight, or take it from food: eggs, fish oil, fat fishes (salmon, mackerel, herring), liver, vitamin D-fortified products.

Recommendations:

– try skim milk, you may tolerate it better than whole milk.
– increase your tolerance to dairy products by introducing them gradually into your diet (do not eat more than 12 g of lactose/day!). You will need at least 2-3 months to adapt your body to these changes.
– drink milk with other foods, because in this way the digestive processes is slowed and therefore you get lesser symptoms.
– whole milk has the highest amount of lactose 2-5 g/100 ml.
– try hard cheeses, yogurt – these have small amounts of lactose. Bacteria cultures (probiotics), through fermentation, break down lactose, so it will be safer to eat these products.
– use lactose-free milk or dairy products (these are available on the market).
– pay attention to those medications that have lactose among the ingredients.
– try probiotics (living bacterial cultures from our intestines; their role is to maintain a healthy digestive system), may be helpful.
– buy lactase enzyme tablets or drops (digest the lactose from food). You can add them into your milk or milk products before you eat them.

Here is a video about lactose intolerance! Enjoy!

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