If you are lactose intolerant or if you know someone who is, here are some things that will help you to learn more about this condition:
- Our bodies produce an enzyme called lactase and when you drink a glass of milk or eat cheese, lactase helps to break down the milk sugar, or lactose, into simpler sugars that are eventually absorbed into your bloodstream. People that are lactose intolerant have a lactase deficiency.
- Many other illnesses have symptoms very comparable to lactose intolerance. It’s best to check with your doctor regarding your symptoms and he/she may suggest that you cut out dairy and denote any changes. A breath test or tests of your stool can determine whether you are lactose intolerant.
- Undigested lactose can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, typically within two hours of having a dairy product… including nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhea. Although some people may have a lactase deficiency and have none of these symptoms at all.
- While a few babies are born with a lactase deficiency, most people become lactose intolerant from age 2 to 12. And even though most people become lactose intolerant during their childhood, they typically do not show signs of the intolerance until late adolescence or early adulthood.
- Almost 65% of people worldwide or nearly 30 million Americans suffer from some degree of lactose intolerance. It is more common among Asians, Africans, Hispanics, or Native Americans and less likely if your ancestors are from northern or western Europe.
- Lactose intolerance is not the same thing as a milk allergy. If you are allergic to milk, then your body is fighting dairy as if it were a harmful intruder in your body. Symptoms are far more severe than lactose intolerance and may include itchy eyes, rash and wheezing. People who are allergic to milk must avoid it entirely.
- People with lactose intolerance can consume some amounts of dairy without any symptoms. Most people can drink up to a half-cup of milk without it affecting them at all.