What is lactose and how do we process it?
Lactose is a type of sugar found in dairy products. To break down this sugar our bodies use an enzyme called lactase which allows us to absorb the lactose. Lactase is produced in the small intestine and only a small amount is required to break down lactose. Lactase creates two simple sugars, glucose and galactose from the lactose. These simple sugars are then absorbed into the bloodstream via the lining of the intestines.
What foods contain lactose?
Foods that are high in lactose include:
- Milk (all types including low fat, buttermilk, goats milk, etc.)
- Cheese (both hard and soft cheeses)
- Milk powder
- Protein shakes which are Whey based
Foods that contain lower amounts of lactose include:
- Condensed milk
- Sour cream
- Aged & processed cheese
Some non dairy foods and also some medicines contain lactose.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
It is estimated that close to 70% of the world’s population suffers from some amount of lactose intolerance. The symptoms of lactose intolerance can begin from 30 minutes to 120 minutes after eating or drinking foods which contain lactose.
The most common signs of lactose intolerance are:
- Irritable bowel type symptoms (IBS)
- Stomach Cramps
- Pain or discomfort
Are there different types of lactose intolerance?
There are three different types of lactose intolerance which are caused by lactase deficiency.
Primary lactose intolerance
This is the most common type of lactose intolerance, experienced by people who began life producing enough lactase. Over time, the amount of lactase produced by the small intestine lessens, leading to minor or major lactose intolerance.
Secondary lactose intolerance
This type of intolerance is experienced after injury or illness of the small intestine. Sometimes also beginning after surgery. There is evidence that treatment of the underlying disorder may improve lactase levels and decrease symptoms.
Congenital or developmental lactose intolerance
In rare cases a baby is born with a lack of lactase leading to lactose intolerance from birth. This disorder can be genetic and passed down through generations, however premature birth can also be a cause.
What is the best way to test for lactose intolerance?
Testing for lactose intolerance begins with a quick skin prick test. This allows us to diagnose if you have a dairy intolerance or another food intolerance, as gluten intolerance. If you have a dairy intolerance then we do a simple elimination / challenge dietary protocol to determine if you are full dairy or just lactose intolerant.
Food intolerances are not related to your immune system, they are related to your digestive system. Most food intolerances won’t be diagnosed by a general food allergy test or by your General Practitioner.
At Capalaba Natural Health, our team of naturopaths are uniquely skilled in identifying food intolerances. We provide advice and diet plans to minimise the impact of your intolerance on your day to day life. Food intolerances are rarely life threatening, however they can drastically reduce your quality of life. To find out more or get started managing your food intolerance, book an appointment with us online.
What treatments are available for lactose intolerance?
Most people who find they are lactose intolerant can modify their diet to reduce the amount of lactose they consume without cutting out all dairy and foods or medications that contain lactose.
Ways to minimise symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- Substituting lactose-reduced or lactose free products
- Choosing smaller servings of dairy (approx 100 millilitres) at a time
- Only have dairy at mealtimes with other foods to slow the digestion process
- Experiment with different dairy products to find ones that produce less symptoms eg. Swiss or cheddar cheese
- Using lactase enzyme tablets or drops to help you digest dairy products
- Full elimination of all dairy containing products.
If you’re suffering from the symptoms of lactose intolerance and you would like to talk to an expert. Make a booking today and let us help you to improve your day to day life and enjoy food without feeling unwell.