Lactose is milk sugar that, when ingested, is degraded in the small intestine by an enzyme called lactase. Individuals who are unable to naturally produce enough lactase suffer from a condition called lactose intolerance. When sufferers ingest too much dairy products, they are likely to feel bloated, and experience flatulence and/or diarrhea.
Although the level of lactase produced by the small intestine is at its highest in newborns, it typically decreases thereafter for most individuals. It is estimated that 70% of the world’s population suffers from varying degrees of lactose intolerance. Thankfully, it is possible to manage symptoms of lactose intolerance.
When a person experiences discomfort after ingesting dairy products, the first step he or she can take is to temporarily avoid them for the symptoms to disappear. Then, dairy products should be gradually reintroduced in the diet, so long as they are well tolerated. Dairy products are an excellent source of proteins and calcium that are easily absorbed by the body. By taking these precautionary steps, most lactose intolerant individuals are able to tolerate small quantities of milk in their coffee or cereals for example.
However, milk fermentation improves one’s tolerance to lactose. This is why such dairy products as hard cheeses and yogurts rarely cause symptoms of lactose intolerance. For those who are more sensitive, lactase enzymes tablets may be taken before eating foods that are rich in lactose. For many sufferers, these supplements are enough to noticeably decrease the discomfort linked to dairy products.
Individuals who are highly sensitive to lactose should read the ingredient labels of the products they purchase at the supermarket quite closely. Lactose is in fact a type of sugar that is often used in the manufacturing of prepared foods such as cereals, cake mixes and instant soups.
If you have any questions regarding lactose intolerance, speak with your pharmacist.