I hear it all the time, "I can't do dairy!"
Many people have trouble digesting dairy foods, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, bloating, abdominal cramps and nausea. Intolerance to dairy products can be caused by lactose intolerance. But what is lactose intolerance and what can be done about it?
Lactose is the type of sugar that is found in milk and dairy foods. Lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme (lactase) that is needed to break down the sugar (lactose) in the small intestine. Symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingesting lactose. Risk factors for developing lactose intolerance include increasing age, ethnicity, with people of African, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian descent having increased incidence, and certain diseases of the small intestine including celiac and Crohn's disease.
The condition is considered harmless, but can cause much discomfort for some individuals and can result in inadequate intakes of calcium and vitamin D.
Some individuals can tolerate a certain amount of lactose and others need to avoid it entirely. Lactase enzyme supplements that are taken with the first bite of a dairy food work for some individuals.
To ensure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D, try an alternative milk such as soy, almond, or coconut milk that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Look for non-dairy foods high in calcium such as fortified orange juice, canned salmon, kale, dried beans, broccoli and almonds. You may also need to take a vitamin D supplement to meet your needs.
So, if you find yourself saying, "I can't do dairy" you may have intolerance to lactose, but remember that most people can very successfully manage symptoms of lactose intolerance with varying degrees of change to their diet.
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