Lactose, known as milk sugar, is a well-known carbohydrate found in mammalian milk.
Did you know that lactose intolerance is NOT an allergic reaction to milk?
In reality, lactose intolerance is merely sensitivity towards abundant amounts of lactose-containing dairy products. The amount of lactose that is consumable symptom-free varies from each individual and can be tested accordingly. The side effects that are felt are actually due to a lack of lactase, an enzyme that is a crucial part of lactose digestion. During infancy, levels of the enzyme lactase are at their highest, decreasing with age. In lieu of this, lactose intolerance is more common in adulthood, leaving two-thirds of the world’s adult population unable to digest milk with ease.
Although lactose intolerance is felt globally, its prevalence differs greatly from country to country. Shockingly, over 50% of the population in Asia, Africa, and South America suffer from lactose maldigestion!
So.. what’s the solution?
Even with experienced sensitivity to lactose, it is important to recognize the amounts of lactose which may be okay, and leave semi-intolerant people symptomless. If avoidance is the route that is chosen, the calcium and vitamin D which is found in lactose-containing dairy products like milk needs to be replaced within other foods. Some non-dairy items that would provide calcium include nuts, broccoli, papaya, spinach, sesame seeds, oranges, molasses, sardines, kale, and calcium-enriched beverages. Another remedy is the lactose-free milks that are available, containing parallel amounts of nutrients to traditional milks. Other possibilities include the addition of supplements, substituting with products that have reduced lactose content like hydrolyzed lactose or fermented dairy products, using a lactose preparation to alleviate symptoms from digestion, or using a lactose preparation that changes the way that lactose is digested. Regardless of how lactose intolerance is dealt with, sufficient nutrients is still required regardless of lactose sensitivity.