What is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is the most common food intolerance that affects up to 65% of the world’s adult population. Lactose is one of the major sources of sugar found in milk and milk products and the inability to digest them leads to lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is caused in part by a shortage of lactase, an enzyme produced by the cells that line the small intestine. Lactase breaks lactose down into the simple forms of sugar, glucose and galactose, so they can be absorbed and used by the body. Infants have the highest levels of lactase, which helps them digest their mother’s milk. In about 75% of the world’s population, a genetic trait causes lactase levels to start irreversibly decreasing after weaning. By adulthood, most lactase activity is lost.
Although the decline in lactase activity affects the majority of the population, not everyone has symptoms of lactose intolerance after consuming normal amounts of lactose. Whether or not people develop symptoms appears to be linked to the ability of a certain type of beneficial bacteria, called lactic acid bacteria, to break down lactose. Some people may have more lactic acid bacteria in their intestines than others, so they don’t develop symptoms.
Non-dairy substitutes for lactose intolerance:
Most people with lactose intolerance suffer from calcium deficiency which may lead to further complicated problems. However, milk is not the only source of calcium and can easily be substituted by the following food sources.
. Pinto beans (1 cup) – 79 mg of calcium
. Baked beans (1 cup) – 154mg calcium.
. Canned salmon (3 oz) – 181mg calcium.
. Sardines, with bone (3.75 oz) – 351 mg of calcium
. Tuna, white, canned (3 oz) – 12 mg of calcium
. Oatmeal (1 cup) – 100 to 150mg of calcium
. Spinach, frozen, cooked (1 cup) – 291 mg of calcium
. Rhubarb, frozen, cooked (1cup) – 348 mg of calcium
. Broccoli, cooked,(1 cup) – 62 mg of calcium
. Lettuce, green leaf, (1 cup) – 13 mg of calcium.
. Nuts (almonds and Brazil nuts) – 100mg of calcium per serving.
. Orange (medium sized) – 52 mg of calcium
Dairy substitutes for lactose intolerance
Yogurt, plain, skim milk (8 oz.) contains 425 mg of calcium. Yogurt containing live active bacteria is believed to improve lactose digestion as the bile acids disrupt the cell wall of the bacteria in yogurt. This releases the enzyme beta-galactosidase (related to lactase) into the intestines, where it can enhance lactose digestion.
If you plan to use yogurt and probiotics to improve your digestion of dairy products, it’s important to start slowly and build up tolerance gradually. Often, negative effects from dairy consumption come from simply eating more lactose in one sitting than one’s gut can completely metabolize.
Other milk substitutes
.Soy milk (original or vanilla-fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D) – 299 mg of calcium; unfortified – 61 mg of calcium.
.Goat milk/Oat milk/Almond milk/Coconut milk/Rice milk can all be used as substitutes.
Anecdotal evidence from raw milk drinkers suggests that many people who cannot tolerate pasteurized milk have no trouble drinking raw milk. Research, however, indicates that truly lactose intolerant individuals do not experience any benefit from drinking raw milk over pasteurized milk. Some feel this suggests that while many people believe themselves to be lactose intolerant, there are only a small percentage of people who are truly lactose intolerant from a clinical perspective.
.Cheese is a great source of calcium and vitamin K2 and low in lactose. One ounce of hard cheese contains about 1/3rd RDA for calcium, and
.Swiss cheese (1 oz.) – 224 mg of calcium.
.Cottage cheese (1 cup) – 206 mg of calcium.
Higher lactose items like soft cheeses, cream, and fluid milk can be tried later once you become more tolerant of dairy products but remember to stick to the full fat and grass-fed versions as often as possible.
Herbs for lactose intolerance
If you are suffering from lactose intolerance, certain herbs can relieve some of the symptoms like nausea, bloating, gas, diarrhea etc.. and may also help increase your tolerance to dairy products.
.Gentian herb family helps to alleviate symptoms of dyspeptic complaints and tones the digestive system.
.Pau d’arco is the bark of a South American tree and is used to treat candida infections and reinstate good gut flora in your stomach.
.St Mary’s thistle is an age-old medicine that protects the liver and helps in the body’s detoxification process.
.Liquorice is well known in aiding digestion, however, People with hypertension should seek medical advice before taking it as it increase blood pressure.
Importance of Vitamin D for calcium absorption:
Calcium cannot be absorbed in isolation by the human body. Vitamin D which is made by the body when it’s exposed to sun plays an important part in absorbing calcium. Some people with lactose intolerance may not get enough vitamin D. Hence, it’s important to add foods like salmon, tuna, eggs, and liver which naturally contain Vitamin D that help the body absorb and use calcium.
You can still consume Dairy moderately:
Adults often mistake their gastrointestinal symptoms such as SIBO, IBS or celiac disease as a sign that they are unable to digest dairy products as true lactose intolerance is seldom diagnosed by medical testing. Studies indicate that even people diagnosed as “lactose malabsorbers” are capable of consuming moderate amounts of dairy and can tolerate an average 12 grams of lactose when administered in a single dose (roughly equal to 1 cup of milk) with little or no symptoms.
If you want to know whether you’re lactose intolerant, experiment by staying off milk products for a couple of weeks to a month; then take dairy products and carefully monitor (any) physiological changes. If it’s serious seek medical opinion and advise.