Living With Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a common condition. Although lactose intolerance can cause enough discomfort to make many people steer clear of the dairy section, the good news is that, usually, it is not serious. Learning the facts about lactose intolerance and what you can do to avoid its symptoms can help you make smart choices. The following information can help.
What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose is the name of a sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance happens when your body is not able to break down the lactose in the foods you eat.
What causes lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is caused by a decrease in an enzyme called lactase. Lactase is made by cells that line the small intestines. Lactose intolerance is not an allergy to milk, which is a different condition.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, bloating, and gas. These symptoms can begin from 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your health care professional. Only he or she can help determine if you have lactose intolerance.
Tips for living with lactose intolerance
Changing some of the foods you eat can help you control or reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance. You may not have to completely stay away from dairy foods. Talk with your health care professional about what dietary changes could be right for you.
Here are some general tips for living with lactose intolerance:
Try different kinds of dairy products. Not all dairy products have the same amount of lactose.
Buy lactose-reduced or lactose-free products. Most supermarkets have these products next to the regular dairy products.
Watch out for hidden lactose. It is often added to prepared foods, such as cereals, salad dressing, and baking mixes. Check food labels for milk and lactose on the ingredient list.
Find lactose-free recipes. You can search for lactose-free recipes by clicking here.
Because milk and other dairy products are major sources of dietary calcium, you may need to look for other sources of calcium. Broccoli, leafy greens, canned salmon, certain types of tofu and soy milk, and calcium-fortified breads and juices can help you get more calcium in your diet.
Talk with your health care professional about taking lactase enzyme supplements, which are available over the counter at most pharmacies.
Understanding the cause of lactose intolerance is key to managing it. Making simple changes or adjustments to the foods you eat can help you continue to enjoy many of your favorite foods. These changes also can help you avoid the symptoms that often come with lactose intolerance.