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What Foods To Choose If You Have Lactose Allergy

April 26, 2011
Lactose intolerance refers to the inability or inadequate ability of the body to digest lactose. Lactose is a kind of sugar that is present in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance results from insufficiency of the enzyme called lactase. Lactase is produced by the cells which constitute the lining of the small intestine. This enzyme processes the lactose into simpler sugars, namely glucose and galactose, which are then absorbed by the blood.

All individuals with lactase deficiency do not have digestive symptoms. However those who do display these symptoms may suffer from lactose intolerance. Persons with lactose intolerance are generally able to tolerate lactose in the diet to some extent.

Sometimes, lactose intolerance is confused with cow milk allergy. However, milk allergy occurs when the immune system reacts negatively to certain milk proteins. This can prove to be life threatening even when a small quantity of milk or dairy product is consumed.

Milk allergy usually occurs during the first year of a child’s life. Lactose intolerance may occur mostly during adulthood. In order to understand the cause of lactose intolerance, the development of lactase deficiency must be understood first.

At about the age of two, primary lactase deficiency develops since the body starts to produce a lowered amount of lactase. Some individuals also inherit the condition through specific genes. Secondary lactase deficiency occurs due to injury of the small intestine caused by celiac disease, diarrheal complications or chemotherapy. Those with lactose intolerance may experience discomfort half an hour to two hours following consumption of milk or dairy products. The symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the quantity of lactose that has been consumed and how much the individual can tolerate. Some of the common symptoms include gas, diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating and nausea.

It is advisable to plan your diet with a nutritionist, who will be able to advise you on which foods contain milk. Alternatives to milk can also be indentified such as vitamin D, protein replacements and calcium. When eating out, inquire about the ingredients present in the food you order. Also inform the server that you are unable to tolerate milk. Reading food labels is another way by which you can keep a check on the ingredients you are consuming. Those food labels which have the letter D on them contain dairy and hence must be avoided. Exercise caution when buying deli meats as these may be cut with the same equipment that is used to slice cheese.
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