It is reported that as many as 50 million American children and adults suffer from lactose intolerance. It is such a common digestive disorder that 75% of African-Americans and Native Americans are lactose intolerant, as are 90% of Asian Americans.
Lactose intolerance is where digestive diseases or injury to the small intestine render the body unable to digest lactase, which is a sugar in milk products.
Amongst the symptoms that the individual with lactose intolerance may have are bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhea, and also nausea. The extent to which the symptoms are felt depends on how much milk products have been consumed.
Testing For Lactose Intolerance
A doctor may diagnose lactose intolerance by performing diagnostic tests on an outpatient basis. These tests are usually performed at a hospital laboratory, in a clinic, or at the doctor’s office.
Lactose tolerance test – this is when the absorption of lactose is measured. The patient has to fast before the test and then drink a liquid that contains lactose. Several blood tests are taken over a two hour period of time. The glucose (blood sugar) level is measured. This test measures how well the person’s body digests lactose.
The hydrogen breath test is when the patient drinks a lactose heavy drink, and the patient’s breath is then analyzed at regular intervals in order to measure the hydrogen in the breath. Bacteria ferment undigested lactose in the colon, which then results in gases being produced including hydrogen. High levels of hydrogen in the breath are an indication of lactose not being properly digested by the system.
Once diagnosed, the doctor will discuss treatment with the patient. The treatment should improve the body’s ability to handle lactose by proper diet or by adding lactase enzymes to the diet. Children should be under the care of a doctor because of the vital need for milk products for healthy growth.
Sometimes lactose is found in unlikely foods because it is added to prepared foods such as bread and other baked goods, instant potatoes, processed breakfast cereals, soups, breakfast drinks, margarine, lunch meats (not kosher ones), salad dressings, candies and other snack items, and mixes such as those for pancakes, biscuits and cookies.
You also have to be very careful about non-dairy products such as coffee creamer and whipped toppings because they could be made with ingredients that are derived from milk, and can therefore also contain lactose.
Labels can be deceptive as they may not say “milk” but still contain milk products, so always be sure to carefully read labels when buying products and look for the following words:
Dry milk solids
Nonfat dry milk powder
People who are lactose intolerant can receive the calcium that their bodies need by eating non-dairy foods such as green vegetables, fish such as salmon and sardines that have soft bones , and also yogurt, which is an excellent way to receive calcium. Yogurt has active cultures that actually produce some of the lactase enzymes required for proper digestion.