Lactose is a type of sugar found naturally in dairy foods such as cows milk and yoghurt. It can also be found in some processed and pre-prepared foods.
When lactose Is consumed in the diet it is normally broken down in the small intestine by a digestive enzyme called ‘Lactase’.
According to the findings by Roy and Morgan Research, the number of adult Australians who report being lactose intolerant has risen by 240,000 people to 4% of the overall population, from 2011 to late 2015.
People who are lactose intolerant do not have enough of this enzyme ‘lactase’ to properly breakdown lactose, resulting in lactose maldigestion.
Symptoms can include nausea, cramps, rapid intestinal motility, flatulence, diarrhoea, malabsorption, distention and headaches.
How can I manage lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance does not result in gut damage. Managing the condition involves reducing lactose containing foods to control symptoms.
People who have lactose intolerance can usually still produce a small amount of lactase. Therefore, if you have lactose intolerance, you do not need to completely remove dairy products from your diet. You may be able to include some lactose depending on your level of tolerance, for example a small amount of milk in a cup of tea may be tolerated but a large amount in a smoothie may not be.
Some people find spreading out their intake of lactose- containing food and drink throughout the day and eating them with other foods, rather than eating them all at once can help to manage symptoms.
Some dairy foods such as hard cheese contain a very small amount of lactose and are generally tolerated by people who have lactose intolerance.
One thing that many lactose containing foods contain is calcium. Calcium is a very important mineral for bone health. Not eating enough calcium can make your bones weak and cause them to break more easily. This can lead to osteoporosis. If you have lactose intolerance it’s important that you understand which foods contain calcium.
If you have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, then an Accredited Practising Dietitian at Hoys Allied health + Wellness can help you. They have the skills to help you understand foods that are high and low in lactose, help you to understand how much you can tolerate, teach you what to look for on food labels and most importantly make sure you are getting enough Calcium in your diet. This is particularly important for children.