A dairy fiend’s worst nightmare come true: being lactose intolerant. This problem affects many people, and while not particularly deadly, it can prove to be a major annoyance when that pint of Ben and Jerry’s is calling your name. Oh the sweet sweet creamy goodness of ice-cream...I digress. Being lactose intolerant means that your small intestine can’t produce enough lactase to digest the sugar that is apparent in dairy products such as cheese, milk, and the aforementioned ice-cream. This makes for one irritated tummy that lets its anger be known by symptoms of diarrhea, gas, bloating, and cramps. What joy! Almost as good as that ice-cream, right? Here’s some handy facts about lactose intolerance:
The most common demographics to be affected by lactose intolerance are Hispanic, Black, American Indian, and Asian people. Other than people of Northern European descent, most stop producing lactase after the age of four. Cancer radiation and premature birth can also cause lactose intolerance.
The three main reasons that lactose intolerance appears: aging, which moves you past the stage of needing mother’s milk to survive. Don’t know why nature didn’t factor in the love of cheese for that one! Diseases or injuries affecting the small intestine can have the effect of causing lactose intolerance as well. Some babies are simply born with congenital lactose intolerance, which doesn’t allow them to digest mommy’s milk, so they have to be fed lactose-free baby formula.
For those in the know, there are ways to get around being lactose intolerant. Consider yourself now part of the in-crowd because we’ll show you ways to leap that hurdle! Having milk with food will slow the digestive process so that then the body can handle it. Then there’s always the tip of eating dairy products slowly and in smaller quantities, which can also have the added benefit of ensuring that you don’t eat that whole pint of ice cream and gain 40 pounds, no matter how delicious it may be. For the truly savvy, there’s lactose free renditions of otherwise lactose filled foods, so look for the ones minus the lactose.
Some confuse lactose intolerance with irritable bowel syndrome because the discomfort can seem to be the same, so having a hydrogen breath test done can solve that concern. A doctor will have you drink a liquid with plenty of lactose and then measure the hydrogen in your breath. Sounds hot right? Burpy goodness! Those without intolerance will breath very little hydrogen, but the ones with the problem will have lactose fermenting in your colon and thus more hydrogen in your breath.
As of now, there is no way to induce lactase production in the small colon, so learning to live comfortably with lactose intolerance is important. Decide what solution works for you and have at it!