If you suffer from nausea, cramps, bloating, gas, or
diarrhea after drinking milk or eating dairy products, you may be
lactose intolerant. This is a common reaction. According to some
reports, between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant.
Lactose is the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. The
small intestine produces an enzyme called lactase whose job it is to
break lactose down into two simple sugars called glucose and
galactose. The glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream for
If your body does not produce enough lactose, the unaltered
lactose makes its way into the large intestine and begins to
ferment, producing acids and gases.
ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE?
Some think that they are allergic to milk when they have these
symptoms. Usually this is not the case. Food allergies are rare.
According to some experts, only 1 to 2 percent of the general
population is affected by a true food allergy.
What is the difference?
Though the symptoms are similar, there are differences. With an
allergy, the immune system produces a "histamine" to fight against
foods you have ingested to which you are allergic. Some symptoms may
be swelling of the lips or tongue, hives (rash), or asthma. Lactose
intolerance will not cause these symptoms because the immune system
is not involved. Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to
assimilate a food properly, causing a reaction.
How can help you tell the difference?
If it is a real food allergy, the reaction will occur within
minutes of ingesting the food that you are sensitive to. If the
symptoms do not occur for an hour or more, it is most likely lactose
FOODS TO AVOID
These foods may also contain lactose and could cause symptoms:
* Bread and bread products
* Cakes and cookies
* Instant potatoes
* Some prescription
* Some over-the-counter medicines
* Pre-mixed foods for
pancakes, biscuits, and cookies
* Processed breakfast
* Salad dressings
* Lunch meats
At this time, there is no treatment that can cure the problem,
but you can prevent some of the symptoms by ingesting a food enzyme
dietary supplement just before taking your first bite of food. These
contain lactase to assist the intestines in converting lactose.
Products come in pill or liquid form. You can also take probiotics
(opposite of antibiotics)on a regular basis. These help produce
"good bacteria" in the body, promote good digestion and reduce the
reaction your body may have to foods containing lactose.
Through trial and error, you may be able to determine which foods
or what amount of foods cause you the most discomfort. By being
observant of your body's reaction, you will find that you know how
much you can or cannot digest.
You may have to cut out dairy products altogether. You should,
however, find other sources of calcium that has been supplied
through the dairy products. Certain green vegetables and some kinds
of fish and nuts are high in calcium.
Lactose intolerance is not life threatening, just uncomfortable
and sometimes embarrassing. Managing lactose intolerance can be
challenging, but possible. Be observant of what you eat and take
preventative measures once you determine what foods cause you the
most problems. Then you should find that you are symptom free and
can enjoy most of the foods you love, always in moderation of
If your symptoms persist, there may be something more serious
that requires a visit to your physician. Learn to read your body and
know when you need to make adjustments in your diet and nutrition.
When following these treatments to control and cure Lactose
Intolerance, be sure to adhere strictly to the guidelines prescribed
by your doctor for each one.