- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Help with lactose intolerance
One of the most common but least understood and treated digestive problems is caused by one of the most common foods in the typical American diet.
The food is milk. Or, I almost hate to say it, ice cream.
The condition is known as lactose intolerance.
That is a fancy term for your body's problems in digesting dairy products.
And it's more common than you think, affecting millions.
Lactase is an enzyme found in the cells of the small intestine. Its job is to break down lactose, the major sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance is a condition caused by a lack of lactase enzyme or a damaged digestive tract adversely affected by gluten, viruses, bacteria, medication, etc.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance are diarrhea, cramping, gas, and abdominal pain after consuming dairy products. This is caused by the lactose not being properly broken down so that it sits in the stomach and begins to ferment and cause bacteria build up.
Many times, the symptoms are written off as a "touch of the flu" or food poisoning or wrongly blamed on other foods.
But when patients keep a food diary and write down everything they eat, practitioners and nutritionists can usually find the cause.
Lactose intolerance can easily be treated. The simplest way, of course, is to avoid consuming milk or products made from milk.
There are also some very good lactose free milks on the market. And there are lactase enzyme supplements that can be added to the diet to greatly reduce negative symptoms.
One woman who started taking lactase recently came back in to thank me because she was able to eat whipped cream on her pumpkin pie this past Thanksgiving for the first time since she was a child.
When supplementing lactase, some choose to do it only when eating out or when eating at friends or relatives as a safety net, just in case there is some dairy products in their food. Others are able to take the enzyme and consume dairy products just like those who are not lactose intolerant.
If you do not wish to supplement the enzyme, people usually have to find substitutes like rice or soy milk, or products made from these milks like soy ice cream.
Don't turn your nose up. Soy milk and soy ice cream taste great.
Lactase enzymes can be found in both liquid and capsules and should be stored in a cool dry place.