What does it mean to be lactose intolerant? Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the digestive system is unable to digest lactose. Lactose is present in dairy products as their primary sugar. The condition stems from a lack of lactase.
Lactase is a naturally occurring enzyme that is produced in the small intestine’s cells along its walls. The enzyme breaks down the milk sugar and transforms it to simpler forms of sugar that can be absorbed by the body more easily. When a lack of lactase is present, the digestive system is unable to process the sugar effectively and the body is unable to absorb it.
The enzyme’s levels are at their highest during infancy so babies can process their mothers’ milk. After weaning, lactose levels drop significantly and in many cases, it drops too much for the person to process dairy products effectively. The prevalence of this condition is surprisingly large, with an estimated 75 percent of the world’s population being affected.
However, not everyone (including those with low levels of the enzyme) experiences difficulty digesting normal amounts of the sugar. The problem seems to stem from the lack of lactic acid bacteria as well as the low levels of the enzyme that cause lactose intolerance.
Lactose Intolerance Symptoms
The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be very uncomfortable.
Gas can build up in the intestines as the excessive lactose draws in water into it.
Abdominal pain or cramping may be present.
Bloating can occur due to the excess water and gas in the digestive system.
Many people feel nauseous with this condition.
The excess water can lead to diarrhea.
Making the connection between dairy and the symptoms of lactose intolerance may take a little time. Recurring symptoms should be addressed with medical interventions through a healthcare provider. Some natural remedies can alleviate the symptoms.
Natural Remedies for Lactose Intolerance
Natural remedies for lactose intolerance include diets that contain very little lactose. However, a surprising alternative treatment for lactose intolerance involves using a popular dairy product.
Probiotics are natural bacteria that are in yogurt that may help alleviate the symptoms in some cases.
Acidophilus is a lactic acid bacteria that can help the digestive process by breaking down the lactose.
Other lactic acids include:
The bacteria can be found in foods including yogurt and special milk but many opt to use supplements containing the lactic acid bacteria. No matter which approach you choose it is extremely important to talk to your doctor about the condition.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Some serious underlying medical conditions may lead to lactose intolerance. Many require immediate treatment. Underlying conditions include but are not limited to:
Getting proper treatment for any underlying medical condition is a critical part of treating lactose intolerance. In many cases, the condition is not associated with another medical problem but it is very important to rule out the possibility with a physician.