Don’t be too quick to jump on the bandwagon of self-diagnosis of lactose intolerance. Even though it is estimated that 30 to 50 million Americans suffer with lactose intolerance, those common symptoms may be caused by a intolerance to other components of milk and not just an intolerance of one component. Lactose is the primary sugar in milk. Individuals with lactose intolerance cannot break down the simple sugar, lactose, found in milk and most other dairy products. As a result, the lactose in these foods passes virtually unchanged through the digestive system, creating a wide range of effects including painful gas, bloating, and severe stomach cramps. These symptoms of lactose intolerance typically worsen with age, and can be extremely uncomfortable, but are not usually serious or life threatening.
There are dairy products made to help people who truly suffer from lactose intolerance be able to enjoy all of the things made from milk. Some of these products work because they are supplemented with lactase in order to assist the sufferer of lactose intolerance to be able to digest the lactose. Others are simply lactose-free. The problem comes in when someone with a sensitivity or allergy to milk thinks they are lactose intolerant and consume these lactose-intolerant-friendly products thinking they are safe when in fact they are not.
Adding all of the lactase supplements your body can take will do nothing to help a sufferer of dairy sensitivity or dairy allergy reduce symptoms since there is not a problem for them with the lactose in the dairy products. Whey or casein are two protein components in milk and are often the components that are triggering sensitivities or allergies. Just because Uncle Elroy says the kid has lactose intolerance doesn’t mean Elroy is right.
The symptoms of lactose intolerance can mimic many of the symptoms of a dairy sensitivity and even a dairy allergy. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are commonly abdominal pain, diarrhea, and flatulence. Be aware that those symptoms can be indicative of many other disease processes as well. However, if they commonly occur after consuming dairy products, or overindulging in dairy products, lactose intolerance could be the culprit.
There are those who are lactase deficient as well, which is similar to being lactose intolerant. When someone has lactase deficiency syndrome their bodies do not make enough lactase as defined by a scale considered to be normal amongst healthy adults but who do not show any symptoms of lactose intolerance. For those people, they have reached equilibrium in not consuming more dairy than their own bodies can successfully digest with the amount of lactase they produce. These people may develop symptoms at any time when there is an overindulgence of dairy products, but if dairy products are ingested only to the point of what they can tolerate, then all is well for them.
There is no known way to make the body produce more lactase, but there is lactase available in supplemental form. It is also already in some dairy products marketed toward those with lactose intolerance. A definitive diagnosis needs to be found out by visiting a healthcare provider who will test for lactase insufficiency. If no lactase insufficiency is found, then the disease may very well be a dairy sensitivity or a dairy allergy, or it could be an entirely separate malady unrelated to dairy consumption. Whatever it may be, knowledge is the key to the vault of health.
If you are lactose intolerant, try not to feel too bad about it. All is not lost. Great dairy alternatives exist and the bottom line to it all anyway is that eliminating those embarrassing digestive symptoms will help you to feel great.