Coping with Lactose Intolerance
If you have an impaired ability to digest lactose, you are far from alone in dealing with this challenge. Lactose intolerance affects approximately 65 percent of the human population (post-infancy), according to the U.S. government.
Genetic Home Reference breaks the condition down in this way: “Lactose intolerance in adulthood is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent, affecting more than 90 percent of adults in some communities. It is also very common in people of West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek and Italian descent.” On the brighter side, “Only about 5 percent of people of Northern European descent are lactose intolerant.”
The Science behind Dairy Intolerance
Lactose is a sugar that is found in milk and other dairy products. When the body doesn’t have the ability to fully digest this milk sugar, gastrointestinal issues occur, generally about 30 to 120 minutes after consumption. These symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Abdominal bloating
- Stomach rumbling
In most cases, this disorder is caused by a lactase deficiency. Lactase is an enzyme produced by cells in the small intestine lining that helps digest lactose. This process, called hydrolysis, produces two simpler sugars known as glucose and galactose that are absorbed into the bloodstream (Source). Primary lactase deficiency occurs when the production of lactase slowly declines with age.
With secondary lactase deficiency, an infection or disease damages the small intestine. Some examples of this include Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and bacterial overgrowth. AddressingÂ the underlying issue usually resolves it.
Individuals with lactase deficiency may still have some lactase activity and can consume varying amounts of lactose in their diets without the onset of symptoms. It is not uncommon for a person to have difficulty digesting milk, but to have no symptoms from consuming other dairy products like cheese or yogurt, because many of these are made with fermentation processes that break down much of the lactose.
According to Genetic Home Reference, “The ability to digest lactose into adulthood depends on which variations in the regulatory element within the MCM6 gene individuals have inherited from their parents. The variations that promote continued lactase production are considered autosomal dominant, which means one copy of the altered regulatory element in each cell is sufficient to sustain lactase production. People who have not inherited these variations from either parent will have some degree of lactose intolerance.”
Options for Coping with Lactose Intolerance – Good News!
Well you’ve made it through the clinical talk of lactose intolerance, you’re probably wondering now, what you can do if you find out you’re lactose intolerant.
Mayo Clinic shares ideas for avoiding the discomfort of lactose intolerance here. But, you might be surprised to learn you can have your cake and eat it too, even if you’re dairy intolerant. Here are some possibilities:
- Drink raw milk. You read that right – most people who are lactose intolerant can drink raw milk without any problems because raw milk contains the lactase enzyme and it helps you digest it properly. (Source)
- Try products made with goat milk. The proteins in goat milk are easier to digest. This article from EverythingGoatMilk.comÂ explains that some who have lactose intolerance (or a mild milk allergy) may be able to eat or drink goat milk. And who doesn’t love a good goat cheese spread on their favorite cracker?
- Consider fermented dairy products like kefir. Even WebMDÂ gives kefir the thumbs up as a dairy option for lactose intolerance. Fermented dairy is loaded with nourishing healthy bacteria to replenish your gut flora, too.
Eat All the Ice Cream You Want!
But wait, there’s more good news! If you’re missing your favorite ice cream treat, we’ve got some fabulous dairy-free ice cream recipes for you here. You won’t miss that boring grocery store vanilla loaded with propylene glycol after trying these tasty treats!
Supplements May Help!
Finally, there are supplements available that can help you navigate this diet inconvenience. We carry a great variety of products:
Lactase Enzyme by Natural Factors
This formula may help people with lactase deficiency, or lactose intolerance, enjoy dairy foods without discomfort.
- Helps break down the milk sugar, or lactose, into an easily digestible form
- MinimizesÂ the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance
- Minimizes gas, bloating, cramps and abdominal pain
This supplement contains the highest amount of lactase as well as eight additional enzymes that support optimal digestion.
- Contains 100% vegan and kosher plant-based enzymes
- Provides the support your body needs to avoid the discomfort of bloating
- Provides complete support for the digestion of milk, cheese and other dairy products
Dairy Digest Complete by NOW Foods
This formula is a comprehensive blend of digestive enzymes that aid in the digestion of dairy products.
- Digestive enzymes for lactose intolerance
- Vegetarian/vegan formula
- Digests lactose, dairy proteins and fats
- Offers dairy digestion support
- Contains lactase, proteases and lipases
Gluten/Dairy Digest by Pure Encapsulations
This hypoallergenic dietary supplement contains an enzyme blend to aid in the digestion of foods containing gluten and dairy.
- Contains a blend of proteases that are formulated with dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) to help break down gluten peptide fragments
- May also promote a healthy cytokine balance to provide support for optimal gastrointestinal comfort and function
- Protease enzymes and lactase provide support for the optimal digestion of milk and dairy products, including casein and beta-lactogobulin proteins
- Formulated without most common food allergens and contains no artificial additives
Don’t Forget About Your Bones!
Calcium and vitamin D are important for healthy bones. Those who avoid dairy products miss out on a rich source of both of these nutrients. In fact, there may be a link between lactose intolerance and osteoporosis. Other sources of calcium include: dark green, leafy vegetables,Â sesame and chia seeds, sardines, broccoli and almonds.
Food sources of vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption, include wild-caught fish, especially sardines,Â free-range eggs and, believe it or not, mushrooms.
Natural Healthy Concepts also offers a wide range of calcium, bone health and vitamin D supplements.
Do you have an impaired ability to digest lactose? What are some of your coping skills for dealing with this condition on a daily basis? We’d love to hear your ideas!
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