Lactose is a disaccharide sugar derived from galactose and glucose. This sugar is found mostly in cow milk and dairy products.
The inability to digest lactose is called lactose intolerance and it is caused by a shortage in the body of lactase, an enzyme produced by the small intestine, which helps to metabolize lactose.
The symptoms of lactose intolerance appear at 30 minutes to two hours after drinking milk or eating dairy products and they include: nausea, cramps, painful gas, bloating, diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance is extremely common, affecting up to 65% of the world’s adult population. For most people, this condition develops naturally as they grow older, when the small intestine begins to produce less lactase in everyone after age two.
If you have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, you will have to determine what level of lactose-containing foods does not produce symptoms for you. Trying different quantities and types of dairies you will have to find out what you can tolerate. It is possible to discover that combining small amounts of milk or dairy products with other foods, you can tolerate lactose. If you are among those who are more unfortunate and do not tolerate lactose at all, you can use a lactase enzyme replacement (Lactaid).
Usually, people with lactose intolerance have to avoid milk, dairy products and any other products containing lactose (including some medicines). They can use lactose-free milk, cheese, and other dairy products, which are available at many supermarkets.
Since dairies are important for nutrition because they contain calcium and other minerals, for people who are lactose intolerant it is recommended to replace them with other sources such as:
- Vegetables: broccoli, pinto beans, lettuce, spinach and kale;
- Seafood: tuna, sardines, salmon (with edible bones).
- Other foods Calcium-enriched.
Eating 2-4 servings of these calcium-rich foods a day will ensure you the necessary amount of calcium.
To make sure that you have enough calcium in your body, you will have to check your vitamin D levels to. This vitamin helps your body use calcium. If you do not get enough vitamin D from sun exposure, from consuming fortified milk, eggs, and fish, you can take a vitamin D supplement, too. The same thing is applicable for calcium.
If you have trouble consuming enough calcium-rich foods in your daily diet, talk to your health care provider or a dietitian about taking a calcium supplement. The amount of calcium supplement you will need depends on your individual daily needs and how much calcium you get through food sources.