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Do you tolerate lactose?

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Do you tolerate lactose?

Lactose intolerance is technically a lactase deficiency...you can't digest the sugar found in milk. There are easy treatments that you can implement into your diet so that you can eat lactose without any of the side effects.  Some people tend to think they have an intolerance when they really don't, just a dislike for milk!

Signs and symptoms after ingesting milk:
Bloating
Gas
Nausea
Diarrhea
Stomach cramps

Are there causes?
Some people are just born with a lactose intolerance, they don't produce the enzyme to break down lactose.  But, lactase levels decline with age, so it is part of the aging process that it becomes harder to digest milk products.  When we are young we have high levels and as we get older they diminish (makes eating that block of cheese more of a pickle).  As well, sometimes after surgery, specifically to the small intestine, people can have difficulties breaking down lactose due to the physical changes of their anatomy.  Also, with people that may have an underlying disease such as Crohn's or a random gastroenteritis, taking care of the symptoms of the disease/virus will allow the stomach to get back to its normal ability to process lactose.

Does anything increase my risk of becoming lactose intolerant?
Increasing age
Radiation to the abdomen: for cancer treatments
Premature birth: the body may not make that enzyme due to changes at birth
Ethnicity: Indian Americans, Black, Asian, and Hispanic populations have higher rates of lactose intolerance
Surgery to the small intestine
Diseases of the small intestine: Clostridium Dificle (overgrowth of bacteria), Crohn's disease, and celiac sprue.

Diagnosis:
So there are a couple of tests that actually diagnose a lactose intolerance, instead of you just deciding that you have one!  A lactose tolerance test is when your HCP gives you a liquid to drink with high levels of lactose, then check your blood glucose levels after two hours, if your blood glucose levels don't rise, you are not absorbing the high lactose drink they gave you. There is a similar test where they give you a similar drink but test your exhalation for hydrogen, if you have high levels, then you are not absorbing the lactose.

Alternative treatments and Lifestyle changes:
You can use over the counter lactose enzyme pills before eating lactose, they do help with absorption.  Also, because of the active enzymes in yogurt, eating a yogurt before dairy prevents many of the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance.  You can also try to drink raw milk, as there are active enzymes and bacteria present there too!  Try experimenting with different forms of lactose; some cheeses have different levels than others, as do milks (i.e. goat vs. cow).  Also studies have shown that ingesting lactose containing products with other foods slows absorption times and allows for less discomfort when eating lactose.  Ingesting probiotics can help you to absorb lactose without any of the bad side effects.

So, if you have difficulties tolerating lactose, go talk to your HCP to get tested for a true diagnosis (you could have something else) and try different changes to your diet, ingest smaller amounts at a time, eat lactose with meals, and try adding probiotics and enzymes to your diet.  Plus, there are tons of products on the market that are dairy without lactose!  Give these tips a go, and let me know if you become more tolerant!! ;)

Yours in Good Health
B

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