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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

How to Overcome Lactose Intolerance?

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

People with lactose intolerance find difficulties in digesting the lactose present in milk and other dairy products. They face symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and gas after eating or drinking dairy products. The enzyme called lactase produced in the small intestine is responsible for breaking the lactose. People with lactose intolerance may have very little of this enzyme.

Infants have the highest amount of lactase that helps them digest their mother’s milk. It is believed that in 75% of the population, a genetic trait causes the lactase levels to decrease after weaning. Though by adulthood lactase activity is lost, not all people have lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is common in people belonging to Asian, African, and Hispanic ancestry.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance

A woman with abdominal pain, Credits: pixabay

The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance usually begin after 30 minutes to 2 hours of consumption of foods containing lactose. The common symptoms of lactose intolerance are as follows.

  1. Diarrhea

  2. Abdominal pain

  3. Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting

  4. Cramping

  5. Bloating

  6. Stomach rumbling

  7. Gas

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance happens when the small intestine is unable to produce lactase to digest lactose. Lactase turns milk sugar into glucose and galactose which are absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining.

When a person is deficient in lactase, lactose in the food moves into the colon instead of being processed and absorbed. In the colon, bacteria tend to react with the undigested lactose, causing symptoms of lactose intolerance.

How to Overcome Lactose Intolerance?

You will be able to predict how your body responds to foods containing lactose and can sort out how much you can eat or drink without much discomfort. People with severe lactose intolerance might need to cut all milk products and must take caution on non-dairy foods and medications that might contain lactose. The following approaches can be tried if you face lactose intolerance.

  1. Calcium-rich non-dairy products

  2. Diet

  3. Lactase enzyme tablets

  4. Probiotics Acidophilus

  5. Acidophilus

1. Calcium Rich Non-Dairy Products

Lactose intolerance

Oranges, Credits: pixabay

As people with lactose intolerance might have difficulties in digesting the lactose, they can opt for the following foods to meet their nutritional requirements.

  1. Broccoli and leafy green vegetables

  2. Calcium-fortified products, such as cereals and juices

  3. Canned salmon or sardines

  4. Oranges

  5. Almonds, Brazil nuts, and dried beans

  6. Dairy milk alternatives like almond, flax, soy, and rice milk

Getting sufficient vitamin D is important as well which can be obtained from fortified milk. Eggs, liver, and yogurt contain vitamin D.

2. Diet

People with lactose intolerance might be able to tolerate low-fat milk products, like skim milk. If you have lactose intolerance, you can do the following.

  1. Small Servings

Try to choose small servings of milk (upto 118 ml) at a time. There are chances that the smaller serving might not result in any gastrointestinal problems.

  1. Milk for Mealtimes

When you drink milk with other foods, the digestive process may be a bit slow and may lessen the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

  1. Choose Carefully

You can try choosing foods that contain small amounts of lactose like hard cheeses, such as Swiss or cheddar. The low amount of lactose in these foods may not cause any symptoms. Also, you might tolerate cultured milk products like yogurt as the bacteria used in the culturing process naturally produce the enzyme that breaks down the lactose. There are also lactose-reduced or lactose-free products available in supermarkets that might not trouble you.

3. Lactase Enzyme Tablets

Tablets, Credits: pixabay

You can take lactase enzyme tablets or drops just before a meal or snack that helps digest dairy products. However, this might not work for everyone who has lactose intolerance. It is worth trying different brands of lactase tablets to check which is working for you.

4. Probiotics

Yogurts, Credits: pixabay

Probiotics are living organisms in the intestines that help maintain a healthy digestive system.  They are available as supplements in capsule form and also as active or “live” cultures in some yogurts. Probiotics are safe and help your body to digest the lactose.

When yogurt is consumed, bile acids disrupt the cell wall of the bacteria in yogurt. This releases the enzyme beta-galactosidase (related to lactase) into the intestines, where it can enhance lactose digestion.

5. Acidophilus

Lactic acid bacteria in the intestines break lactose down into short-chain fatty acids and other substances that can be absorbed by the colon. They are available in supplement form as capsules, tablets, or powders.

There are many different types of lactic acid bacteria. The types used most often for lactose intolerance include:

  1. Lactobacillus acidophilus

  2. Lactobacillus bulgaricus

  3. Streptococcus salivarius

  4. Lactobacillus reuteri

  5. Lactobacillus plantarum

  6. Streptococcus thermophilus

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