Lactose is the complex, natural sugar found in milk and milk products. If your body has difficulty digesting lactose you are considered “lacotse intolerant.” It may be caused by a lack of the amino acid lactase. The body can produce varying amounts of lactose – from sufficient supply to none at all. Depending on the level of deficiency the symptoms can mild or cause major discomfort.
This deficiency may be naturally occurring or be caused by certain medications. Discomfort can begin as early as thirty minutes after eating something with lactose in it and as late as eight hours. Lactose intolerance can be treated with dietary changes and medications.
Lactose intolerance affects up to 75% of the adult population. Different ethnicities are more prone to the issue than others. There are diet changes and medications that can help make lactose intolerance easier to deal with. One of the easiest ways to avoid discomfort is to read labels. A food label will always tell you how much calcium is in a particular food.
The ingredients to look for are:
- milk by-products
- milk solids
- nonfat dry milk powder
- ice cream
Less commonly known is the fact that about 20% of prescription drugs and 6% of over-the-counter drugs use lactose as a base ingredient. Be sure to ask your gastroenterologist about what medications you are currently taking and when in doubt, ask your pharmacist! Many times, there are hidden sources of lactose in foods such as: sauces, dried mixes (cakes, pancakes, biscuits, cookies), candies, processed sandwich meats, bread & other baked goods, processed breakfast cereals, instant potatoes, soups, breakfast drinks, margarine, salad dressings.
There are over-the-counter products available that contain lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, which allows people to slowly add lactose back into the diet. Your gastroenterologist can help determine whether these products would work for you and can help you make diet changes to ease the discomfort. Calcium is an important tool in keeping the body strong and bones strong so it’s important to talk with your gastroenterologist about other ways to get those nutrients and keep your body healthy.Because the symptoms of Lactose Intolerance can be similar to several other GI illnesses it is important to be diagnosed by a gastroenterologist at AGA. There could be underlying problems that could become more severe if they are ignored. There are specific tests that can be done to help determine if lactose intolerance is a problem for you, take the first step to relief and make an appointment.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance include:
- Abdominal Pain