Do you recognize this too? After a glass of milk or some yoghurt, you suffer from flatulence, stomach aches or other inconveniences… It could be that these complaints are caused by lactose intolerance. If this is the case, we have the ultimate tip for you so you can still enjoy your beloved dairy products!
What is lactose?
Lactose is a common and complex sugar found in dairy products and other everyday foods. It is not only found in pure milk but is also present in yogurt, cream, butter, cottage cheese, bread, coffee cakes, sauces, ice cream, dessert, cookies and cheeses. In addition, its presence is not only limited to cow’s milk but also milk from other mammals such as goats, sheep and horses contains lactose.
Intolerance or allergy?
It is important to know that lactose intolerance is not the same as cow’s milk allergy. Milk allergy involves an allergic reaction of the immune system to milk proteins. This is much less common and then occurs mainly in young children in contrast to lactose intolerance which still affects a large proportion of the population but mainly adults.
In the case of lactose intolerance there is no reaction of our immune system but it concerns a hypersensitivity to lactose. In that case the body can not properly break down or digest the complex sugar, lactose. For this we need the enzyme lactase. This is normally produced in the small intestine and ensures that we can break down the milk sugar lactose. In people who are lactose intolerant, either too little lactase is produced (lactase deficiency) or the lactase does not work properly (lactase non persistence). The latter and also most common case, can also only develop later in life, thus the lactase enzyme activity can gradually decrease over the years. However, when the undigested or unabsorbed lactose enters the large intestine, it can cause discomfort. This in itself is not a dangerous phenomenon, but it can be very inconvenient. Especially if you are a dairy lover.
Lactose intolerance in all its sizes and forms
Lactose intolerance is more common in people of African or Asian origin than in the Northern European population. Also, the degree of sensitivity and symptoms can vary from person to person. For example, a large proportion of people can tolerate some lactose until they cross a threshold that causes the discomfort. This threshold may be different for everyone, so some may not need to eliminate dairy products completely from their diet.
The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance are:
- crampy abdominal pain
- swelling of the stomach
- intestinal tension
- bloated feeling
Lactose-free diet or not?
This is obviously a very personal choice. For some, a lactose-free diet will be more challenging than for others.
There are now many lactose-free alternatives that make it easier to avoid this substance. Unfortunately, these do not always match the same price tag or taste. However, it remains a minefield to avoid. Milk (powder) is added to many more products than you might think, so pay attention!
In addition, it’s best to make sure you still get enough nutrients from dairy products. Because if you just eliminate them from your diet without proper substitutes, this can lead to shortages of vitamins, minerals and proteins. The most important ones to keep in mind are vitamins B2, B12 and calcium. It is therefore recommended that you consult a dietician when completely eliminating dairy products.
The lifehack for lactose lovers
Fortunately, you can take the enzyme lactase as a dietary supplement. This provides sufficient lactase in the intestines at the moment of intake and for a few hours afterwards to process the lactose present in the food. In this way you can carefree enjoy the products that would otherwise cause you a lot of inconvenience without losing valuable nutrients.
How do you recognize a good lactase product?
Make sure the amount of lactase is expressed in FCC. This reflects the enzyme activity contained in the product and tells much more than the number of mg added. In addition, it is interesting to know how fast and how long the product works. For example, at a restaurant, you may spend a little longer at the table before dessert is served.