What is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose is the sugar that is present in milk. You are lactose intolerant if your body does not properly digest this sugar. The degree to which a person can be lactose intolerant may vary, with some people able to withstand certain amounts of lactose, while others having adverse reactions to just a little bit. This condition occurs because of the lack of lactase, an enzyme which helps digest lactose. The severity of the condition depends on the amount of lactase that your body can produce.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
Is Lactose Intolerance an Allergy?
Although some symptoms of lactose intolerance may be similar to food allergies, it is not an allergy. Allergic reactions to milk can exist, however.
Diagnosing Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance may be diagnosed by observing the above symptoms after consuming milk or dairy products. Additionally, several tests can be performed by a health care provider. One test is an intestinal biopsy, which can identify whether lactase enzyme is lacking. Another test is the breath test, which measures elevated hydrogen levels after lactose is consumed. A blood test is also available; it identifies the glucose level in blood after lactose is consumed. If the level does not rise sufficiently, it means lactose is not being broken down. A stool acidity test determines whether lactose is being fermented by bacteria, rather than being broken down and absorbed by your body.
Treatment of Lactose Intolerance
Although the easiest way to avoid the symptoms of lactose intolerance is to avoid lactose, there are alternatives available in order to continue to consume milk products. One is to stick to yogurt, kefir, and other dairy products that contain living bacteria inside them. This beneficial bacteria breaks down the lactose within the foods and allows you to absorb it better. You may also supplement your diet with the enzyme lactase, whenever you consume milk products.
Because dairy is a great source of calcium, if you avoid dairy products it is important to consume other calcium-rich foods to meet your daily requirements.