Imagine enjoying a bowl of ice cream on a hot summer’s day. Now imagine, instead of feeling good afterwards, suffering from bloating, cramping, gas, a rumbly tummy and maybe even diarrhea. Not nearly so nice. Sadly, for some people, this is normal.
If you get sick like this every time you have ice cream, milk or other dairy products, you may be lactose intolerant. This means that your intestines do not make enough of an enzyme called lactase, which your body uses to break down lactose, a natural sugar found in milk products. It’s not dangerous, but it is uncomfortable. How severely lactose intolerant you are depends upon how much lactase your body is able to make. Sometimes people who have never had problems digesting milk products develop lactose intolerance. It happens more often as people age, or can happen when they have other intestinal problems such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases or gastroenteritis.
Your Doctor can help you work out if you have it. They will ask you about your symptoms and may ask you to try avoiding milk products for a while to see if your symptoms go away. Sometimes they’ll conduct tests, such as a hydrogen breath test or a lactose tolerance test, to see if and how lactose is being digested in your body. It’s important to speak with a Doctor to make sure this is the reason for your symptoms and not something else.
Lactose intolerance cannot be cured. Does this mean people who are lactose intolerant can no longer enjoy any milk products? Partly, this depends on how intolerant you are – you may be okay with milk products in small amounts or you may have to avoid milk completely. Fortunately there are other options. You can drink soy or rice milk and eat soy cheese, buy lactose-reduced milk, or use non-dairy creamers in tea or coffee. You can also take a dietary supplement such as Life Brand Extra Strength Dairy Digestive caplets which contains the lactase enzyme before you eat milk products. Most people who are lactose intolerant quickly get to know what they can or cannot eat, what to take and how to avoid any unpleasant symptoms.
If you have lactose intolerance, you also need to make sure to get enough of the nutrients normally found in milk products, particularly calcium. There are many non-dairy foods that contain calcium; tuna, salmon, broccoli, kale, spinach, almonds, calcium-fortified juices and cereals, calcium-fortified soy milk and tofu. Or you can try a calcium supplement such as Life Brand Calcium Carbonate tablets. Be sure to also eat foods with added Vitamin D to help with the calcium absorption or include a Life Brand Vitamin D supplement in your diet. Combination Life Brand Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are also available in many different strengths and forms.