Everything You Need to Know About Lactose Intolerance
Lactose is a type of natural sugar found in milk; when your body can not digest it, you suffer from lactose intolerance. It occurs when the small intestine doesn’t make enough of the enzyme lactase; your body needs lactase to break down or digest lactose, WebMD explains.
When lactose moves through the large intestine without being digested properly it can cause a variety of uncomfortable health related issues – gas, bloating, abdominal pain.
Eliminating dairy from your diet may not be the worst thing, studies have shown that an over consumption of dairy may result in high cholesterol and an increased risk for heart disease. However, it’s important to remember, if you do decide to stop consuming dairy, you have to make up for the loss of nutrients in other ways.
Individuals may face health issues because they are not consuming essential nutrients. The good news is that, they can still get their calcium and vitamin D from other sources. “Nonmilk products high in calcium include fish with soft bones, such as canned salmon and sardines, and dark green vegetables, such as spinach,” the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH) explains, “foods such as salmon, tuna, eggs, and liver naturally contain vitamin D.”
What are the risk factors?
Age- Lactose intolerance usually appears later in life – adulthood.
Ethnicity- Research has shown that it is most common in people of Hispanic, Asian, African and American Indian descent.
Premature Birth- Infants born prematurely are at a higher risk. They may not have produced enough levels of lactase.
Some Cancer Treatments- Individuals who have received radiation therapy for cancer in the abdomen or have suffered from intestinal complications from chemotherapy are at an increased risk for developing lactose intolerance. *See: 6 Cancer Myths That You Should Ignore
What are the symptoms?
“Symptoms occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming milk or milk products. Symptoms range from mild to severe based on the amount of lactose the person ate or drank and the amount a person can tolerate,” NIH explains.
How Can it Affect Health?
Lactose intolerance keeps people from consuming enough essential nutrients – calcium and vitamin D. NIH explains that “calcium is essential at all ages for the growth and maintenance of bones. A shortage of calcium intake in children and adults may lead to bones that are less dense and can easily fracture later in life, a condition called osteoporosis.”
Some Food Products That Contain Lactose:
Milk and milk products
Waffles, pancakes, biscuits
Processed breakfast cereals