Lactose Intolerance: What Is It, Symptoms & Treatment

In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about lactose intolerance.

Lactose Intolerance: What Is It, Symptoms & Treatment

Coconut milk is a great alternative to dairy milk

Lactose Intolerance is one of the most common food-related illnesses. People that are lactose intolerant have trouble digesting dairy products. Dairy products have a sugar called lactose. Lactose intolerance is caused when the digestive system is unable to break down this sugar (lactose). 

The small intestines produce enzymes called lactase, these enzymes are responsible for breaking down the lactose while digesting dairy foods. However, if a person has a low level of lactase in their system, this might make it difficult for them to properly digest dairy products. Lactose intolerance might also be caused as a symptom of other intestine-related diseases, such as Crohn's disease, Celiac disease, etc.

Are lactose intolerance and dairy allergy the same?

The simple answer is no. Lactose intolerance is not a food allergy. Lactose intolerance is caused by the shortage of lactase enzymes in your digestive system. On the other hand, dairy allergies are a reaction caused by the immune system. This happens when the immune system identifies dairy products as a threat. Hence, reacting in various ways to kill the “invader”. Dairy allergies can be life-threatening or severely affect the person. On the other hand, lactose intolerance might have comparatively milder symptoms. You might experience an upset stomach or feel bloated and gradually resume back to feeling normal.

What are the symptoms?

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Gas
  • Stomach ache

Treatment & How to deal with Lactose Intolerance?

As discussed above, lactose intolerance is one of the most common and non-threatening digestion-related illnesses. Hence, living with lactose intolerance does not significantly affect your day-to-day life. However, regularly experiencing symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea is not ideal either. 

Here are a few tips you can try to avoid experiencing lactose intolerance:

Avoid dairy products

It goes without saying that the best way to avoid sickness from lactose intolerance is to avoid high-lactose foods. However, cutting out dairy products completely can be tough. If you are someone who is open to quitting dairy products, start with foods that are comparatively higher in lactose, such as milk. Instead go for low lactose products such as yogurt, hard cheese, paneer, etc.

Try dairy alternatives

Veganism has given rise to many plant-based dairy alternatives which can be incorporated into your diet even if you are not a vegan. Soy milk, oat milk, and nut milk are great alternatives for regular dairy milk. Tofu and tempeh are great replacements for cottage cheese. Butter can be substituted by much healthier options such as olive oil or avocado oil. 

Lactase capsules

Lactase enzymes that help break down the lactose in dairy products are accessible through capsules. You can consult a doctor or if you have been professionally diagnosed with lactose intolerance you can consume lactase capsules. Regularly consuming lactase capsules can help your body digest dairy products better.

Read before you eat

If you are highly intolerant to lactose you might want to read the ingredients on packed foods before you buy them. Many foods such as bread, cake, and curries, might have some percentage of dairy products like milk, butter, etc. which might make you sick later.

Finally, we do encourage you to consume dairy products in smaller amounts and occasionally. Even though lactose intolerance does not have life-threatening symptoms, vomiting or experiencing bowel issues regularly are also not ideal for your body and mind. Hence, try dairy-free products or inculcate consuming lactase capsules in your routine. 

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.