Choosing an appropriate lactose intolerance diet is very important to fighting lactose intolerance symptoms.
Lactose intolerance results due to a deficiency of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine. This enzyme helps to break down lactose into glucose and galactose. Deficiency in this enzyme leaves its patients worried at the site of a yummy glass of milk or dairy product.
Patients should have no worries because there is a solution to this. In today’s article, you will learn the best ways and practices to combat this disease; the best lactose intolerance diet and supplements and many more.
It is very important to note that this disease is totally different from a milk allergy. Lactose intolerance is not an immune response and so cannot be categorized as an allergy.
Instead, we can say that it is simply sensitivity to dairy and foods containing lactose. This is caused by the deficiency of an enzyme in the small intestine called lactase.
Patients with milk allergy react to milk proteins and not milk sugar like lactose intolerance patients. They experience symptoms like anaphylaxis (throat or tongue swelling, itchy rashes, shortness of breath, lightheaded, vomiting and low blood pressure).
Brief History of Lactose Intolerance
During the Neolithic Era (a period of development of human technology, about 10,200 BC ago) agriculture flourished. Milk consumption became really common. Even among adults, drinking of animal’s milk was found to be more preferred to eating just the meat.
Studies show that people who consumed unprocessed milk were usually nomads. It was not so long that other dairy products were being produced. For example, the cheese was made out of milk, which dates back to earlier than 6500 BC.
Researchers propose that as milk consumption increased, the human body gained lactose tolerance due to a genetic mutation. This made it safe to consume milk and other dairy products like cheese. Studies also show that a single genetic mutation was experienced around 4500 BC that spread worldwide.
It was discovered that people who did not consume dairy products experienced some strange reactions when they start consuming them.
What is Lactose Intolerance?
Well, lactose intolerance is simply a disorder due to the inability of the body to produce the enzyme known as lactase (an enzyme that helps break down lactose from milk into a simpler form of sugar).
There are three (3) major forms of sugar: glucose, fructose, and galactose. All these fall under the category of monosaccharides (carbohydrates containing only one (1) molecule of sugar).
Glucose forms the major source of energy for the human body. Although the body still makes use of fructose and galactose, almost all the fructose and galactose we take is converted into glucose.
Now, this is just too much talk, let’s get to the matter at hand. Lactose, which is a form of sugar (a disaccharide – carbohydrate containing 2-molecules of sugar (glucose and galactose) is one of the major cause of this serious gastrointestinal distress in most people.
Normally when someone takes in a yummy glass of milk, it moves through the stomach to the small intestine. In the small intestine, the lactose in the milk gets broken down into two (2) simpler forms of sugar (glucose and galactose) by the enzyme lactase.
The gene in charge for the production of this enzyme is expressed in the enterocyte lining the small intestine. These cells help to absorb nutrients from the food we eat.
Basically, as infants all we took-in was milk. We, therefore, had a high level of lactose tolerance or lactase persistence. This was due to the production of the lactase enzyme in large amount.
In most people, after weaning, the expression of the gene responsible for the formation of the lactase enzyme is down-regulated. This causes the production of the enzyme to diminish.
When someone with this disease drinks a glass of milk, a large amount of lactose does not get broken-down. This is due to the deficiency of the lactase enzyme in the small intestine. The undigested lactose then moves down the GI tract and proceeds to the colon. It stays at the colon instead of getting absorbed into the bloodstream.At the colon, microbes ferment the lactose into a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, hydrogen (H2) gas and methane (CH4) which all contributes to symptoms like bloating and gas (farts).
Short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, butyrate and propanate are also produced, and these short-chain fatty acids which are not absorbed then reside in the gut. Both the formation of the short-chain fatty acids and the product of the fermentation of the lactose in the gut causes the osmotic pressure of the gut to rise, thus attracting a large influx of water into it, which causes diarrhea in patients.
Lactase deficiency may be as a result of different reasons. There are a different kind of lactase deficiencies that may lead to lactose intolerance.
Types of Lactose Intolerance
There are basically four (4) types of lactose intolerance, all of which have their different causes. These include:
- Primary lactose intolerance
- Secondary lactose intolerance
- Developmental lactose intolerance
- Congenital lactose intolerance
In the primary lactose intolerance (otherwise known as primary lactase deficiency or primary hypolactasia) is genetic and affects mostly adults, is the most common form of this disease. It is caused by a decrease in lactase levels. After weaning, most individuals tend to have a decrease in the level of lactase being produced in the small intestine, and this absence of the lactase persistence allele is what causes the primary lactose intolerance.
This is common in places like the Southern Mediterranean, Asia, Africa and Hispania.
The secondary lactose intolerance is stimulated either due to sickness like gluten intolerance (e.g. celiac disease), injuries or inflammation of the small intestine. During such diseases like the celiac disease, the microvilli of the enterocyte can be flattened, and since lactase is produced in the microvilli of the small intestine, it leads to lactase deficiency and causes temporary lactose intolerance.
Basically, this will stop when the patient recovers from the injury or illness.
The developmental lactose intolerance is more common among children that were born as premature babies. In this case, the lactase enzyme is stimulated in the body of the child later than it does in normal children.
The congenital lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is a very rare form of a disease that occurs mostly in infants. Patients with this type of disease show no lactase production (production in very small amounts) from birth.
This disease is an autosomal recessive disorder that is common among infants. It leaves them having trouble with breast milk and may lead to diarrhea from birth.
Generally, whatever the kind of non-lactase persistence, there are some common lactose intolerance symptoms common in all patients.
Lactose Intolerance Symptoms – Am I SAFE?
Well, the fact that you are experiencing a lot of farts does not necessarily mean that you are lactose intolerant, although it is one of the common lactose intolerance symptoms. Well, to get you out of your worries, here are some major lactose intolerance symptoms that if you are facing, you definitely need to see a medical practitioner…
There are a lot of lactose intolerance symptoms and how severe are yours totally depends on the amount of dairy you’ve had and how lactose tolerant you are.
Lactose intolerance symptoms are experienced thirty (30) minutes to two (2) days after taking a dairy product; it can also range from mild to severe. Some common lactose intolerance symptoms are:
- Bloating (trapped wind in babies)
- Farting (flatulence)
- Stomach upset and cramps
- Headaches or migraines
- Watery stools (may be yellow or green in colour)
Infants (babies) may also experience infantile colic (nonstop crying sections for more than three (3) hours a day) or malaise (having a feeling of unease or discomfort), frequent cold, skin rash and itches, as well as swelling of the face, mouth and lips, hives, a runny nose or watery eyes.
With all this said,
What really is the Cure for Lactose Intolerance, and the Best Lactose Intolerance Diet?
Without any doubt, the best treatment for this disease lies in simply, diet modification, where the taking of dairy products is strictly monitored or avoided. Patients can also take lactose-free products and supplements, but it is very important to note that…
Lactose intolerance cannot be cured, it can only be managed.
It is very important for patients to avoid triggering lactose intolerance symptoms in order to avoid dealing with the uncomfortable consequences. If accidentally, patients come across a food substance containing lactose and starts experiencing lactose intolerance symptoms, it is advised that you lay the person down, open the windows or turn on the fan to avoid the patient from inhaling smells that may be as a result of belching and flatulence (farts), which may aggravate the condition the more.
Patients should also avoid taking beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol, as it may lead to dehydration.
How severe a lactose intolerance symptom is, all depends on the level of personal toleration.
How severe is a lactose intolerance symptom?
Well, for some, just a single sip of milk won’t hurt, but extending it to as much as a single glass could cause major havoc; whereas for others, just a single sip of milk is as worst as taking a full glass.
It is very important for patients to understand their body’s chemistry as this can help reduce lactose intolerance symptoms to a great extent.
It is also important to note that, it is not all dairy products that induce lactose intolerance symptoms.
Dairy products like yogurt which have been actively cultured do not induce lactose intolerance symptoms because the active culture has already helped to break down the lactose before consumption.
In conclusion, the longer the fermentation process, the lesser the lactose content in such food.
Best Lactose Intolerance Diet
Choosing an appropriate lactose intolerance diet is very important to fighting lactose intolerance symptoms. Here are some best diets to try:
1. Goat Milk
- Goat milk can act as a substitute to cow milk. It is easier to absorb in the digestive tract than cow milk.
- Goat milk is rich in fatty acids and low on lactose and is easily assimilated into the body. It is also rich in phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iodine, pantothenic acid and biotin.
2. Fermented Dairy Products and Probiotic Foods
- Fermentation helps to break down lactose in dairy products so that they can be easily absorbed. A good example of a fermented dairy product is yoghurt.
- Kefir on the other hand which tastes a lot like yogurt is also a healthy lactose intolerance diet for patients. It is rich in folate, thiamine and vitamin K.
- Fermented dairy products go a long way in increasing magnesium levels in the body.
- N.B. Magnesium deficiency is noticed among diseases that may induce lactose intolerance like the celiac disease.
- Also, foods with probiotics are also a healthy choice for patients with this disease. Probiotics like yeast help maintain a healthy gut. They are also rich in minerals, amino acids, and vitamins.
Vitamin K Foods
- As discussed earlier, vitamin K helps in calcium metabolism; but it does not end there. Lactose intolerant patients have a deficiency in vitamin K. Some vitamin K lactose intolerant diets include:
- Cabbage and leafy vegetables
- Brussels sprouts
4. Lactose Intolerance Supplements and Pills
Lactose intolerant patients can take pills containing the lactase enzymes and probiotics before consuming a dairy product.
This would help reduce the symptoms.
…these supplements and pills help reduce the probability of partly digested foods from sitting in the gut. It is important to take supplements rich in probiotics.
Finally, it is advisable you contact your medical practitioner before taking any decision that may affect your health.