Lactose is the sugar that occurs naturally in milk, some individuals develop a condition called lactose intolerance during which they are unable to digest this sugar and hence are in a position where they cannot consume milk or milk products in any form.
Many adults and a few children with this condition lack the enzyme lactase, which is necessary for the digestion of lactose within the body-though the enzyme may be present in the body, it may not be at sufficient levels in order for digestive action to successfully take place. Infants on the other hand rarely suffer from this condition.
The ability to digest lactose moreover only continues after childhood in roughly one-third of the population worldwide, hence, a lot of adults tend to have lactose intolerance of some sort after passing childhood. Lactose intolerance tends to affect certain demographic groups, thus the majority of adult individuals of Asian, African, Native American or Middle Eastern descent tend to suffer from some form or the other of the condition.
At least 20% of Caucasians suffer a deficiency of the lactase enzyme as adults and roughly half of adult Hispanics also tend to be deficient to some degree as far as lactase is concerned.
Lactose intolerance can be checked out through the means of a simple home test, the person has to drink two glasses of milk using 8 ounce glasses on an empty and wait for any gastrointestinal symptoms that come along in the next four hours-the results will be self evident. A low lactose dairy product like cheese can then be consumed, several ounces at once as a follow up or confirmation test.
Lactose intolerance is probably present in the person if cheese does not bring about the same symptoms as milk does. Additionally, because lactose intolerance can only rarely cause a reaction to cheese, the presence of a similar reaction to the cheese as was evident during the consumption of milk will suggest an allergy to dairy products.
Women who are lactose intolerant also tend to have accompanying symptoms and tend to have a greater risk of developing conditions such as depression and early onset PMS, this is in addition to the gastrointestinal problems which normally accompany a reaction to lactose. Some caution should be undertaken in interpreting these results as a definite cause and effect relationship is still unknown, because these results are by and large based on preliminary studies and need to be confirmed by further studies.
The typical symptoms that can cause a lot of discomfort in people who suffer from lactose intolerance, include painful intestinal cramps, gas and diarrhea, this symptoms tend to develop after the person has consumed foods that contain significant amounts of lactose-products such as milk and other dairy based foods.
Only a very few individuals suffering lactose intolerance need to avoid all diary products in their diet altogether, this is in spite of the fact that even when milk is removed from the diet, the consumption of most dairy products does tend to bring out some symptoms in the individual-these symptoms are rather mild and hence the majority of lactose intolerant individuals can consume other dairy products.
The reaction to different types of milk products may differ greatly as different dairy products contain varying levels of lactose; this has a direct bearing on the amount of lactase that needs to be present in the body for proper digestion.
While yoghurt does not seem to trigger, any reactions in lactose intolerant individuals for other complex reasons, it is generally agreed that products like yoghurt, milk and ice cream, all contain significant quantities of lactose and the last two in particular always trigger some reaction in a lactose intolerant individual. Lactose intolerant individuals can resort to the consumption of lactose reduced-milk that is stocked by some supermarkets.
In controlled test, lactose intolerant individuals tolerated lactose to a much better degree than they would have done in the normal course of life-this is because some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance are often accompanied by other digestive problems like a reaction to other carbohydrates and need not all be produced by the lactose alone. In lactose intolerant individuals who are especially allergic to milk, the presence of other sugars such as sucrose and the indigestible carbohydrates lactulose and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are all responsible in producing symptoms in addition to the lactose.
When individuals who consume food products that is high in lactose especially dairy foods, the use of supplemental sources of the enzyme lactase along with the food can aid in the digestive process and preclude the development of symptoms and attendant discomfort-this is the suggested supplements for all lactose intolerant individuals who cannot help consuming dairy products.
To reduce the lactose levels in milk, the enzyme lactase can be added in drops to the regular milk some 24 hours before it is to be consumed. The best precaution against the symptoms due to consumed lactose in lactose intolerance is the use of lactase products in the form of drops, capsules, and tablets-these products can be orally consumed immediately before all meals that are likely to contain food items with significant amounts of lactose in them.
Also, in order to eliminate all the symptoms due to lactose intolerance, the use of a greater or lesser amount of these lactase products must be varied from person to person as the severity of the intolerance to lactose carries from one individual to the other.
The poor absorption of calcium by lactose intolerant individuals still has to be investigated by researchers and this reasoning has to be confirmed in scientific trials on appropriate subjects.
The important thing to do for lactose intolerant individuals is to consume alternate foods that are rich in calcium or resort to the use of calcium supplements-this is because the same foods that cause the symptoms of lactose intolerance are usually among the best dietary sources of calcium. A dosage of calcium, in the range of 1,000 mg a day taken on a regular basis is the usual supplementation level in individuals suffering from lactose intolerance.
The signs and symptoms that accompany lactose intolerance are apparently not affected by supplements of the lactobacillus acidophilus - and such supplementation does not seem to bring about any noticeable reduction in the intensity of the symptoms.
This was evident in a group of individuals who took part in a preliminary trial, these people all of whom had varying levels of lactose intolerance were given lactobacillus acidophilus supplements two times daily for a duration of seven days-the laboratory measurements that were taken demonstrated no observable reduction in the signs or symptoms that is commonly associated with lactose intolerance.