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Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

Aug 17, 2007
Lactose is a sugar compound found in milk, and for the vast majority of the world's population, one which our bodies find notoriously difficult to process without side effects.

Lactose intolerance is the term which describes a person's inability, or near inability to consume lactose without incurring side effects. Our bodies are rife with different chemicals and enzymes, each with their own specific task to perform. An enzyme which is produced in our small intestine called 'lactase' is the enzyme responsible for processing our lactose intake. When lactose is consumed, the lactase enzyme tries to convert it into glucose for our bodies to utilise. Most people, particularly adults, have insufficient lactase enzyme production levels to cope with lactose consumption, and this is where the problems begin.

Every person has different biochemistry and some people may be much less tolerant of lactose than others. Whilst some people may be able to consume a glass or two of milk per day without experiencing any adverse effects, another person may experience fairly severe gastric symptoms from the smallest amounts of milk.

Many people assume because lactose comes from milk, and because they are lactose intolerant, the best way to go about alleviating their symptoms is to simply cut milk out of their diet altogether. Whilst this may seem like the logical step to take, unless the other invaluable nutrients our bodies derive from milk (such as calcium) are somehow replaced in other ways, we run the risk of calcium deficiency and development of bone disorders such as osteoporosis.

Milk is a highly used ingredient in other foods also, so for the severely intolerant who may have even cut milk out of their diet, severe symptoms may be brought on by consuming other foods which contain lactose, and these may be foods you weren't even aware contained milk. As you can see, this is a problem and not one which is easily remedied and will take some time to work out in most cases.

There are many companies which have products on the market which are lower-lactose or lactose-free, including milk. Some of these products, as you should expect, may only be marginally lower, whilst others may be significantly lower in lactose, and only time, testing and perseverance in finding which the best are will pay off.

Here is just a small example of the most obvious (and a few non-obvious) foods which contain lactose:

- Milk
- Cheese
- Yogurt
- Butter
- Margarine
- Chocolate
- Bread
- Cream
- Ice Cream
- Boiled Sweets
- Sponge / Cream Cakes
- Instant mash-potato
- Custard
- Rice Pudding
- Semolina

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance, and are there any other things I can do to stop lactose affecting me?

Depending on how intolerant a person is and the levels of lactose consumed, the symptoms might be any of the following: A feeling of bloating, stomach cramps, wind and diarrhoea. A person may also find themselves feeling nauseated. Such symptoms can occur within minutes or a few hours of lactose consumption, therefore can appear at the most inappropriate and inconvenient of times.

Avoidance and dietary substitutions are the best recourse for those who are intolerant, but it really depends how the individual feels. For those who's life is severely affected by lactose intolerance, it may be the only option to cut out lactose from the diet altogether. For others, lactose minimisation is enough.

Another approach also worth looking into is the use of special lactase enzyme pills and drops which can be purchased from pharmacists. These pills and drops can temporarily boost lactase production, thus enabling a person to consume higher levels of lactose. The pills generally come in the form of a chew which is eaten before lactose consumption, whilst the drops are more for drinks, where they are stirring into the drink before consumption. Whilst this may not appeal to a person as a way of life, the advantage of the availability of such medication is they can be used for special occasion. For instance, visiting a restaurant and consuming foods which may contain lactose, you can ensure you're symptoms are kept under control far better, and can enjoy your meal without worry or compromise.
About the Author
Detailed information about lactose intolerance is available at http://www.lactose-intolerance.co.uk.
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