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Digestive Health: Could You be Lactose Intolerant?

Digestive Health > > Digestive Health: Could You be Lactose Intolerant?

Lactose intolerance is a widespread problem but it doesn’t have to pose a serious threat to good health, according to a statement published online by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), “People who have trouble digesting lactose can learn, by testing themselves, which dairy products and other foods they can eat without discomfort and which ones they should avoid.”

People are considered lactose intolerant when they cannot digest significant amounts of lactose. Lactose is the main sugar of milk. According to the AGA, about 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant.

Some racial populations struggle with lactose intolerance more than others. The incidence of lactose intolerance is as high as 75 percent of all African-American, Jewish, Native American and Mexican-American adults, according to an AGA report. Certain ethnic and racial populations are more widely affected than others. Asian-American adults suffer an even higher incidence of lactose intolerance of up to 90 percent. People of northern European descent are the least likely to suffer from lactose intolerance.

If you experience the following symptoms 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose, you should contact your doctor:

• nausea
• cramps
• bloating
• gas
• diarrhea

What Does it Mean to be Lactose Intolerant?

People become lactose intolerant when they lack the enzyme, lactase. Lactase is normally produced by the sells that line the small intestine. The enzyme breaks down milk sugar so it can be absorbed into the blood stream. When lactase is lacking and a person consumes lactose, symptoms

Some people can tolerate more lactose than others. Some who are considered lactose intolerant might be able to eat dairy products in small amounts or in combination with other foods.

People who can’t tolerate lactose can still enjoy good digestive health and get the vitamins and minerals they need by eating green vegetables, fish and other foods that are rich in calcium, but not lactose. It is a good idea to consult with a physician about the need for calcium supplements if you are lactose intolerant.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance?

Some digestive diseases and injuries to the small intestine can cause lactose intolerance by reducing the amount of enzymes the body produces. Sometimes children are born unable to produce lactose. In most cases, people who have less lactase develop that deficiency over

Lactose Hides in Some Processed Foods

People with a very low tolerance for lactose should watch out for foods, especially processed foods and baked goods, that use lactose-containing ingredients. Bread and other baked goods can contain significant amounts of lactose as can processed breakfast cereals. Margarine contains lactose. Many salad dressings do too. Lunchmeats that are not kosher and instant potatoes, soups and breakfast drinks are other foods that contain hidden sources of lactose.

Digestive Health > > Digestive Health: Could You be Lactose Intolerant?