As we get older, our bodies tend to not work as well as they did in our younger years. We tend to get more ailments and injuries. We also encounter an inability to digest certain foods, particularly lactose.
Lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to digest lactose, which is the major sugar found in milk. It is caused by a shortage of an enzyme called lactase, which helps the body digest the lactose found in milk and other dairy products. Don’t think that you are the only one suffering with this. Millions of Americans are lactose intolerant.
How can you identify an intolerance to lactose? It’s often pretty simple and typically occurs during or after you have indulged in a delicious, lactose containing food item, such as ice cream. Oh how we love ice cream! However, the discomfort related to nausea, cramps, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea cause us to think twice about our love for ice cream. These symptoms may begin as soon as a few minutes and up to a few hours after eating dairy foods. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and may vary depending on how much and what type of dairy food is consumed.
Lactose intolerance should not be confused with an allergy to milk. Although the symptoms sometimes are similar, milk allergy is an immune response that is triggered by the immune system. If you are confused at whether you have a lactose intolerance or a milk allergy, you should consult your physician, as there are several test they can perform to determine what is going on. The lactose tolerance test requires fasting before the test. The consumption of a lactose containing liquid follows. Blood samples are taken over a 2-hour period to measure the patient’s blood glucose level. This measures how well the body is able to digest lactose. Another test is the hydrogen breath test. A person drinks a lactose-loaded beverage, and the breath is analyzed at regular intervals. Elevated levels of hydrogen in the breath indicate improper digestion of lactose.
Not just dairy products
Lactose is also found in several foods. Those with an intolerance should be aware when consuming the following, as they may contain lactose:
• Other baked goods
• Processed breakfast cereals
• Instant potatoes
• Breakfast drinks
• Luncheon meats
• Salad dressings
How to get calcium while avoiding lactose
Many people wonder where they can get calcium from if they have a lactose intolerance. Many people with lactose intolerance can tolerate dairy foods in small amounts. Often people with lactose intolerance can tolerate yogurt with active yogurt cultures. These cultures contain the enzyme lactase, which is required to digest the lactose found in yogurt. Most grocery stores sell milk that is lactose free and you can purchase pills that contain lactase that you take just prior to eating dairy foods.
Page 2 of 2 - Other sources of calcium include:
• Calcium-fortified juices
• Calcium-fortified cereals
• Calcium-fortified soy milk
• Calcium-fortified soy milk products
• Green-leafy vegetables
Everyone’s tolerance to lactose is different, so you may have to do a little trial and error to see where you stand. Fortunately, there are several products on the market that are lactose free, so you don’t have to give up your favorite foods…especially ice cream!!
LaDale Walker, RD, LDN, of Middletown Family Wellness and Counseling is a registered dietician and licensed nutritionist. She can be reached at (302) 449-4166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.