Lactose is the complex, natural sugar found in milk and milk products. If your body has difficulty digesting lactose you are considered “lactose intolerant.” This condition may be caused by a lack of the amino acid lactase, which the body can produce in varying amounts – from sufficient supply to none at all. This deficiency may be naturally occurring or be caused by certain medications. Depending on the level of deficiency the symptoms can mild or cause major discomfort, and can begin as early as thirty minutes after eating something with lactose in it and as late as eight hours.
Lactose intolerance affects up to 75% of the adult population. Different ethnicities are more prone to the issue than others. There are diet changes and medications that can help make lactose intolerance easier to deal with. One of the easiest ways to avoid discomfort is to read labels. Ingredients to look for include: milk, milk by-products and solids, nonfat dry milk powder, whey curds, caseinate, lactoglobulin, ice cream, butter, and cheese. Many times there are hidden sources of lactose in foods such as: sauces, dried mixes (cakes, pancakes, biscuits, cookies), candies, processed sandwich meats, bread & other baked goods, processed breakfast cereals, instant potatoes, soups, breakfast drinks, margarine, salad dressings.
Additionally, about 20% of prescription drugs and 6% of over-the-counter drugs use lactose as a base ingredient, so be sure to ask your gastroenterologist or pharmacist about the medications you are currently taking.
- Abdominal Pain
Because the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be similar to several other GI illnesses it is important to be diagnosed by an AGA gastroenterologist. There could be underlying problems that could become more severe if they are ignored. There are specific tests that can be done to determine if lactose intolerance is a problem for you, so take the first step to relief and make an appointment. Your gastroenterologist can help determine whether over-the-counter medications would work for you, and can also help you make diet changes to ease the discomfort.