Recognizing Signs of Lactose Intolerance

Many adults are lactose intolerant, as many as 50 million in America alone. Learn about the signs of lactose intolerance and what to do about it.

A dairy intolerance is not fun, and it can make getting enough calcium in the diet a real problem. What makes people lactose intolerant? What are the signs of a lactose intolerance? Is there anything that can be done to treat, or at least control, this common condition?

While there is nothing that can be done to prevent it, a dairy intolerance can be easily handled once the signs are recognized. The solution is as simple as following a lactose intolerance diet and taking care of all nutritional needs.

What Causes a Dairy Intolerance?

Why do adults become lactose intolerant? Many people start out their lives drinking nothing but mothers’ milk, and many children do not have an intolerance to dairy products. Adults on the other hand, especially those that are not of northern European descent, tend to have some level of this common food intolerance.

What happens with this condition is that the body loses its ability to properly digest milk sugar, also known as lactose. This happens because there is not enough of the enzyme lactase, which normally breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose. With dairy intolerance, some of the milk that is consumed is not digested. As a result it stays around retaining water and fermenting, causing all types of gastrointestinal discomfort.

What causes this shortage of the enzyme lactase? It can simply happen, although any damage to the digestive tract or gastrointestinal disorders can also be the root cause.

Signs of Lactose Intolerance to Watch out For

How does someone know if they have a lactose intolerance? The most important signs to look for include:

stomach cramps
bloating
diarrhea
gas
discomfort

The signs of lactose intolerance usually occur within 30 minutes to two hours after consuming dairy products. While they are unsettling, they are not dangerous. Fortunately, being lactose intolerant can easily be handled by using a milk-free diet.

Following a Lactose Intolerance Diet

A lactose intolerance diet is simple — do not consume dairy products except for yogurt. Yogurt is actually great for people who have an intolerance to other milk products. The live, active cultures help to digest the lactose, making a lactase deficiency irrelevant. Yogurt is also a great source of calcium, a mineral that people with a dairy intolerance need to focus on.

Other great sources to include in the diet are:

broccoli
kale
spinach
apricots
figs
prunes
salmon
tofu
soy milk
almonds
asparagus
oats
sesame seeds

Calcium-containing herbs include:

chickweed
chamomile
nettles
oat straw
peppermint
raspberry leaves
lemongrass

Try drinking an herbal infusion of peppermint and lemongrass or chamomile and oat straw as part of a healthy diet for lactose intolerance. Drink milk alternatives, such as soy milk, rice milk, or oat milk, which are often fortified with not only calcium, but also vitamin D and vitamin B12. Snack on dried fruits and almonds, have frozen yogurt for dessert. If these foods are not being regularly consumed, consider taking calcium supplements.

Being Lactose Intolerant

There is nothing wrong with being intolerant to dairy. If digestive issues are present after a glass of milk or a bowl of macaroni and cheese, consider switching to a lactose intolerance diet. Recognize the signs, eliminate the dairy (except for yogurt) and eat plenty of calcium-rich foods.

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