Lactose Intolerance: What It Is and How To Manage It

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Lactose intolerance is a condition that affects many people around the world. A lack of lactase, an enzyme required to break down lactose, leads to lactose intolerance. According to a report from NIH, about 36% of Americans suffer from lactose malabsorption. This lactose malabsorption can cause lactose intolerance. However, not all people facing malabsorption have lactose intolerance.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is when the body cannot digest lactose, a sugar in milk and other dairy products. When lactose is not digested correctly, it can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is different from a milk allergy, which is an immune reaction to the proteins in milk. People with lactose intolerance can usually eat small amounts of lactose without experiencing symptoms.

However, they may need to avoid or limit dairy products to prevent digestive problems. There are several types of lactose intolerance, and the severity of symptoms varies from person to person. Treatment typically involves making dietary changes and taking supplements to aid in digestion. In some cases, people with lactose intolerance can improve their tolerance by slowly increasing their intake of dairy products over time.

Whatever way you choose, connecting with a doctor is vital. You should see a gastrointestinal specialist who can help you determine the lactose levels in your body and also diagnose any other related health conditions. This quick diagnosis can further help prevent any complications and give you a better idea of what treatment can help you alleviate the condition.

Here are four ways to manage lactose intolerance:

Reduce Your Intake of Dairy Products

Consuming dairy products can cause many uncomfortable symptoms for those with lactose intolerance, including bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. There is no cure for lactose intolerance. However, there are several ways to manage it.

One of the most effective methods is reducing your dairy product intake. This means avoiding milk, cheese, and other dairy items as much as possible. Additionally, look for dairy-free alternatives, such as almond or coconut milk. With a little effort, you can enjoy all your favorite foods without suffering from the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Take Lactase Enzyme Supplements

Lactase is an enzyme that helps break down lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Lactase supplements can be taken to help manage lactose intolerance. When lactose isn’t broken down properly, it can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other uncomfortable symptoms. By taking a lactase supplement before consuming dairy products, you can help prevent these symptoms.

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Lactase supplements are available over the counter and come in liquid, tablet, and capsule forms. They are generally safe and well tolerated, but you should always speak to your doctor before taking any new supplement. With their help, you can enjoy dairy products without worrying about the consequences.

Experiment With Different Types of Dairy Products

This approach is to experiment with different types of dairy products. Most people with lactose intolerance can still tolerate small amounts of lactose-containing foods. For example, some people find that they can drink milk if it is diluted with water or taken with food.

Hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss are also generally well-tolerated, as most lactose is removed during cheese-making. Foods like yogurt and kefir contain probiotics that aid digestion, making them easier to tolerate. Experimenting with different dairy products can help you discover which ones work for your body while allowing you to enjoy the taste and benefits of dairy. Ultimately, everyone with lactose intolerance is different, so it may take trial and error to find the right combination of dairy products.

Add Dairy Back Into Your Diet Gradually

While there is no cure for lactose intolerance, many people can manage their symptoms by making dietary changes. Slowly adding small amounts of dairy into the diet is often the best way to reintroduce it. Start by consuming dairy products high in lactose, such as yogurt and cheese.

Once your body has adjusted to these foods, you can add milk and other low-lactose dairy products to your diet. This will help your body acclimate to the lactose and may even improve your tolerance. However, listening to your body and stopping if you start experiencing symptoms is vital. Ultimately, everyone with lactose intolerance is different, so finding what works for you is key in managing the condition.

Managing lactose intolerance can involve making dietary changes and experimenting with different strategies. It is important to speak to your doctor and healthcare team for personalized recommendations. You can enjoy dairy products while managing your symptoms with effort and experimentation.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that every person is different and may experience varying symptoms of lactose intolerance. Listen to your body and work with a healthcare professional to find the best approach for managing your lactose intolerance. And remember, there are plenty of delicious dairy-free options out there!

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