Food sensitivities and allergies such as gluten, lactose, tree nut and fish or shellfish intolerances affect an estimated 32 million people in the United States. These allergies can affect anyone of any age, with 11% of those affected being age 18 or older. Milk allergies can affect more than your digestive system and involve an immune system response, a lactose intolerance occurs when your body cannot digest the lactose sugar enzyme, due to a missing lactase enzyme. By adulthood, approximately 70% of people do not produce enough lactose for proper digestion. In this post, we’ll talk about lactose intolerance symptoms, diagnosis, and alternative foods.
Lactose Intolerance Symptoms
As we mentioned above, a milk allergy can cause a range of symptoms throughout your entire body and can present in the form of rashes, breathing issues, vomiting, and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance, however, is most commonly diagnosed with symptoms of gas, bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and occasionally vomiting. These symptoms may be more noticeable when certain foods are consumed depending on the level of intolerance. For example, drinking a glass of milk may present more severe symptoms, compared to eating a piece of bread with milk as an ingredient.
Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed in a variety of ways, including keeping a detailed food journal and documenting symptoms as they appear. The doctors at Great Lakes Gastroenterology may also work to eliminate other digestive diseases by performing tests such as an endoscopy or colonoscopy to rule out possibilities like ulcers, acid reflux, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. An elimination diet can also be used to identify the issue by removing all potential triggers and then slowly documenting and introducing those items back into your diet one by one.
Lactose intolerance can typically be managed by avoiding foods that contain dairy, however that may be difficult for people who love ice cream, chocolate, cheese or other foods. While prescription medication exists for acid reflux symptoms, there are several over-the-counter lactase supplements that can be taken prior to starting a meal to help aid in lactose digestion, and our staff is happy to make recommendations based on your specific needs and severity of intolerance. Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients that are found in dairy products, and should be incorporated into any diet to prevent deficiencies. Many dairy-alternative foods found in grocery stores successfully rival the taste and texture of their dairy-based counterparts and the availability of these products continues to increase as popularity grows. Some are plant-based (soy, almond, coconut products, etc.) and some feature additional calcium or vitamin D to ensure that those who go dairy-free are still receiving these important nutrients. Dairy-alternative products can include milks, cheeses, yogurts, ice cream, and even coffee creamer, and some may also be vegan, or free from other common allergens.