LACTOSE INTOLERANCE (lactase Deficiency)

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest milk sugar. It is caused by a lack or deficiency of lactase, an enzyme manufactured in the small intestine that splits lactose into glucose and galactose. When a person with lactose intolerance consumes milk or other dairy products, some or all of the lactose they contain remains undigested, retains fluid, and ferments in the colon, resulting in diarrhea, gas, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms usually begin between thirty minutes and two hours after consumption of dairy foods.

The degree of lactose intolerance varies in individuals. For most of the world’s adults, lactose intolerance is actually a normal condition. Only Caucasians of northern European origin generally retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. Lactose deficiency can also occur as a result of a gastrointestinal disorder that damages the digestive tract, such as celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, regional enteritis, or ulcerative colitis. It can also develop on its own. There is no known way to prevent it.

Although far less common, Lactose intolerance can occur in children as well as adults. In infants, lactose intolerance can occur after a severe about of gastroenteritis, which damages the intestinal lining. Symptoms of lactose intolerance in an infant can include foamy diarrhea with diaper rash, slow weight gain and development, and vomiting.

Lactose intolerance can cause discomfort and digestive disruption, but it is not a serious threat to health and it can easily be managed through dietary modification.

DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS

        Avoid milk and all dairy products except yogurt. This is the most important dietary measure for anyone who is intolerant to lactose. Use soymilk or Rice Dream in place of milk and soy cheese instead of dairy cheese. Especially avoid consuming lactose-containing foods on an empty stomach.

 

Include yogurt in your diet. Yogurt is the one dairy products that can be good for a person with lactose intolerance. The cultures present in yogurt digest the lactose it contains, so it is no longer a problem. They also aid in overall digestion. Be sure to eat only yogurt that contains active live yogurt cultures. Homemade yogurt is best.

 

Be sure to eat plenty of foods that are high in calcium. Good choices include apricots, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, calcium-fortified orange juice, dried figs, rhubarb, spinach, tofu, and yogurt. Calcium supplements may be beneficial.

 

Check with your pharmacist before taking any medications. Many pills are formulated using lactose as a filler.

 

During an acute attack, do not eat any solid food, but do drink plenty of quality water and replace lost minerals.

 

Read food product labels carefully, and avoid any that contain lactose or “milk solids.” Lactose is added to many different types of processed food, including breads, canned and powdered soups, cookies, pancake mixes, powdered drink mixes such as flavored coffee, and processed meats.

 

If you are pregnant and have a family history of lactose intolerance, give serious consideration to breastfeeding your baby. If that is not possible, choose a nondairy baby formula, such as a soy-based product.