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Lactose intolerance


lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which an individual produces an inadequate amount of the lactase enzyme. This enzyme's job is to break lactose (milk sugar) down into glucose and galactose. Without this enzyme, lactose cannot be digested and used by the body.

Lactose intolerance like all intolerances is a sliding scale -- in effect a bucket to contain a set amount of lactose for that day. Some can tolerate more lactose in their diets than others, but once the lactose bucket is full, that person can tolerate no more. Then the symptoms begin -- almost entirely gastrointestinal in origin.

Note: This is not the same as having an allergy to dairy products. Lactose intolerance deals with the sugars in milk products. Dairy allergies deal with the proteins in milk products.

What types of food are high in lactose?

Lactose can also be hidden in foods such as breads, waffles, pancakes, potato chips, margarine, as a processing aid in processed meats such as deli meats, bacon, and sausages, and even as an inactive ingredient in some medications.

What types of food are low in lactose?

A lactose-free diet?

Going lactose free is a viable dietary option. Read labels carefully for ingredients which may contain milk: whey, casein, curds, milk by-products, milk derivatives, milk solids, and dry milk powder. Also watch the type of product for clues about lactose content. If it's "breaded", "creamed", "cheese-flavoured" or "chocolate-flavoured", there is probably lactose in there somewhere.

Lactose is primarily found in the whey of milk, so foods which have the whey removed may be tolerated better. You will have to test your tolerance levels to determine your personal cut-off point for lactose. I recommend keeping a food ledger for a period of time to determine not only what foods you react to most strongly, but also the quantity of that particular food which triggers a reaction. You might be surprised to find you have a zero tolerance policy for this item but can tolerate a larger quality of that item. If you can only have X amount of lactose per day before reacting, it is important to decide which foods to eat on which day. Spread your options around for a balanced diet and healthy GI system.

Alternately, you might try to supplement the lactase enzyme in your diet to allow you to eat foods higher in lactose than your intolerance will allow. Lactase supplements are available as an OTC medication for those who wish to give them a try. Many supermarkets also have specially-formulated milks which already contain the lactase enzyme.

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