What is Lactose Intolerance?

It’s a hot button topic these days, you can hardly have a conversation with someone without hearing about their lactose intolerance…and it’s no wonder…it is estimated that up to 70% of the adult population in America is lactose intolerant to some degree! Ethnicity seems to play a role, with Asian-Americans having the highest incidence. So, it’s nothing to shrug off as the latest craze…let’s look at Lactose Intolerance.

Simply put, it is the inability to digest the complex sugar, lactose, that is found in milk and other dairy products. Our bodies naturally produce an enzyme, lactase, that is used by the intestines to digest this sugar. If your body doesn’t produce enough lactase then the undigested sugar causes gas, bloating, nausea, abdominal cramps and¬†diarrhea. Some people that have gastric by-pass surgery experience lactose intolerance as well as people taking certain prescription arthritis medications.

How do you diagnose and treat Lactose Intolerance?

A thorough physical exam and a detailed history will help your physician hone in the cause of your discomfort. If additional tests are required they can be done as an outpatient.

Treating lactose intolerance is done primarily through dietary changes, steering clear of foods that contain lactose. Care should be taken to read labels because there are many hidden sources of lactose including:

  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Dry cake mixes
  • Baked goods
  • Processed cereals
  • Some medications (used as a base)

There are several over the counter supplements that are effective in aiding your body in digesting lactose and most major grocery stores carry lactose free products.

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