Lactose intolerance is a reaction in your digestive system, means inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. This condition often runs in families and can affect both children and adults
It causes uncomfortable symptoms after you eat dairy products. Many people have difficulty digesting lactose, but not everyone experiences noticeable symptoms from it. If you do, it’s called lactose intolerance.
• Primary (caused by diminishing lactase production in your small intestine).
• Secondary (caused by injury or disease that damages your small intestine).
• Congenital (caused by lactase deficiency present at birth).
• Developmental (caused by premature birth, when the small intestine is underdeveloped).
The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance usually begin from 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose. Common signs and symptoms include –
• Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting
• Stomach cramps
Both children and adults can have lactose intolerance. Here are some common causes of this condition –
• Lactose intolerance often runs in families (hereditary). In these cases, over time a person’s body may make less of the lactase enzyme. Symptoms may start during the teen or adult years.
• In some cases, the small intestine stops making lactase after an injury or after a disease or infection.
• Some babies born too early (premature babies) may not be able to make enough lactase. This is often a short-term problem that goes away.
• In very rare cases, people are born with an inability to make any lactase at all.
Healthcare providers have several ways of testing for lactose intolerance. Common tests include –
• Hydrogen breathe test
• Blood sugar test
• Stool acidity test
There is no treatment that can help your body make more lactase. But you can manage your symptoms by changing your diet.
Lactose intolerance symptoms can be unpleasant, but they won’t hurt you. So try to find dairy foods that don’t cause severe symptoms.
Here are some tips for managing lactose in your diet:
• Start slowly. Try adding small amounts of milk or milk products and see how your body reacts.
• Have milk and milk products with other foods. You may find you have fewer symptoms if you take milk or milk products with your meals. Try eating cheese with crackers or having milk with cereal.
• Eat dairy products with naturally lower levels of lactose. These include hard cheeses and yogurt.
• Look for lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products. These can be found at many food stores. They are the same as regular milk and milk products, but they have the lactase enzyme added to them.
• Ask about lactase products. Ask your healthcare provider if you should take a lactase pill or lactase drops when you eat or drink milk products.
But if you give up milk completely, you can still get plenty of calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients in a healthy diet.
Some milk substitutes you could try:
• Soy milk. It’s high in protein, potassium and antioxidants
• Rice beverages
• Lactose-free milk. It’s high in calcium and protein and contains many other vitamins, such as A, B, and K, zinc, potassium and magnesium
• Almond milk
• Coconut milk
Instead of milk, you can substitute these foods:
• Dried beans
• Calcium-fortified orange juice and soy milk
• Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna and mackerel
• Egg yolk
Ayurvedic Perspective –
Dugdha Asamyata is the term for lactose intolerance in ayurvedic text. This is caused due to imbalance in dosha, which leads to imbalance in the Agni. When Agni is not able to digest the lactose completely, lactose intolerance is manifested.
Ayurveda, while treating this condition, tries to eliminate the root cause. The treatment includes intake of certain herbs like
These herbs boosts digestion and cures the symptoms caused due to lactose intolerance.
Further, if there are any chances of accumulation of toxins in the intestine, Panchakarma procedures are employed to eliminate toxins. This line of treatment of lactose intolerance helps in reversing the condition completely and keeps symptoms away in future.
Always read labels. Many foods have lactose, including snack foods, bakery products, candy, dry mixes, dried vegetables, and infant formulas.
Many medicines also have lactose, which is used as a filler, especially in white tablets. Many birth control pills and medications used to treat gas and stomach acid contain lactose.
Some high-lactose foods to watch out for:
• Milk and heavy cream
• Condensed and evaporated milk
• Ice cream
• Cottage cheese
• Ricotta cheese
• Sour cream
• Cheese spreads
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