If you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from lactose intolerance, then you are likely all too aware of how frustrating the symptoms can be, let alone treatments for lactose intolerance. Yet, have you ever thought about why lactose intolerance occurs, or what steps you can take to reduce your symptoms?
People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest a specific sugar in dairy called lactose. As a result, people with lactose intolerance often suffer from diarrhea, gas, and bloating after eating or drinking dairy products.
While lactose intolerance can be uncomfortable (and even embarrassing), it is not harmful and is not the same as being allergic to milk or dairy products. People who suffer from lactose intolerance have too little of an enzyme in their small intestine called lactase. Lactase helps the body to digest lactose.
While some people with low levels of lactase can still digest milk products just fine, others have such low levels of lactase in their system that it leads to the uncomfortable symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.
Fortunately, just because you have lactose intolerance doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it. Keep reading to learn about treatments for lactose intolerance and things that you can do to its symptoms.
Fortunately, while lactose intolerance symptoms can be annoying, you should be able to manage your symptoms using home remedies as well as by making simple lifestyle changes.
The fact is that few people have such severe lactose intolerance that they have to cut out all milk products. And you should be able to figure out what foods you can/cannot eat. Also, how much milk your body can tolerate, without discomfort. At-home treatments for lactose intolerance include:
Contrary to popular belief, most people with lactose intolerance can eat limited amounts of dairy. In fact, research suggests that many people with lactose intolerance can handle up to 12 grams of lactose (the amount in 1 cup of milk) at a time without experiencing symptoms. Instead of cutting dairy out of your diet altogether, try reducing your dairy intake. To see if this helps relieve your symptoms.
Slowly introduce milk and milk products into your diet to see what your body can handle without causing discomfort. You may find it helpful to try low-fat products such as skim milk (instead of whole milk), as your body may tolerate these better.
Other products your body may tolerate better include yogurt and hard cheeses, as these are lower in lactose than other milk products. Limiting dairy intake, and learning how much dairy your body can handle, is one of the best things that you can do to treat your lactose intolerance.
Of course, after trying to slowly add small amounts of lactose into your diet, you may find that even small amounts of lactose trigger your symptoms. If this is the case, you may want to avoid consuming dairy altogether. Instead, consume lactose-free alternatives such as soy milk.
If even small amounts of lactose cause problems for you, it is important that you look out for lactose that may be hidden in other foods that you wouldn’t think had dairy. The fact is that lactose is often added to boxed, canned, frozen, and prepared foods such as:
– Baked Goods
– Processed Meats
– Salad Dressings
– Cake and Cookie Mixes
– Cheese Flavored Snacks
– And Some Candies
You can check your food labels to see if there is hidden lactose in them by looking for ingredients such as:
– Dried Milk
– Milk Solids
– Powdered Milk
– And Milk Byproducts
Critical to successfully treating lactose intolerance is ensuring that you still maintain a nutritious diet complete with all of the necessary vitamins and minerals.
In particular, you will want to ensure that you get enough calcium and vitamin D if you reduce your dairy intake, as milk is a common source of both of these essential vitamins and minerals. Foods that you can eat to ensure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet include:
– Broccoli and leafy green vegetables
– Calcium and vitamin D-fortified products such as orange juice.
– Dried beans
– And fatty fish like salmon or tuna.
If you are conscious of your diet, you can still maintain good nutrition even if you limit your dairy intake.
If you suffer from lactose intolerance, certain alternative medicines may be able to help provide relief. In particular, probiotics may be able to help your body digest lactose, which could reduce your symptoms.
Probiotics are living organisms in your intestines that help keep your digestive system healthy. They are used to treat a variety of gastrointestinal conditions including diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and taking probiotic supplements may provide relief for your lactose intolerance. Of course, it is important that you talk to your doctor before you start taking any supplements, particularly if you take any other medications.
Oftentimes, people with lactose intolerance are able to manage their symptoms through simple diet and lifestyle changes. However, if your symptoms are severe and you have trouble managing them, you should talk to your doctor.
Your lactose intolerance may be the result of another condition, such as an injury to your small intestine or undiagnosed IBS, and you may be able to tolerate lactose once your underlying condition is treated.
Even if you don’t have any underlying conditions, your doctor can talk to you about additional treatment options such as lactase enzyme tablets or drops.
These tablets/drops contain the lactase enzyme, which could help your body break down the lactose in dairy products. While lactase products don’t work for everyone, many people with lactose intolerance find they help reduce their symptoms.
Your doctor can help go over all of your treatment options with you and provide advice on what medications, supplements, and dietary changes could help provide relief for your symptoms.
Feel free to contact us to learn more about lactose intolerance and the treatment options that could help reduce your symptoms.
Over the past 30 years, Dr. Merkel has been an integral part of our practice, prioritizing patient-centered care with his patients. Without your trust and confidence, Dr. Merkel would not have been able to pursue his passion for gastroenterology.
Our care team at Digestive Disease Center of NJ comprised of Alexander Rapisarda, MD, Scott Aronson, MD, William Ferges, MD, and Anna Platovsky, MD will continue to provide compassionate, high-quality, and comprehensive care.
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