I’m sure you know someone or have heard someone talk about having an intolerance to lactose.  

 So what is it exactly and what causes it?

Individuals with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose. Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and other milk products. Lactase is the enzyme  produced in our small intestine that help digest lactose. When there isn’t enough of this enzyme, our bodies can’t  properly digest the lactose. When our bodies can’t properly digest lactose, that’s when people experience bloating, cramping, gas, and even diarrhea.

As we get older we tend to consume less milk products and our body produces less lactase. Usually it produces enough to digest a moderate amount of lactose, however this isn’t the case for everyone. Individuals who are born with this intolerance or experience an illness where the body doesn’t produce any lactase can’t consume any lactose products.  Those of us who were once able to consume lactose and now find themselves lactose intolerant can sometimes eat some lactose products but it’s all dependant on how much lactose is has.  

One thing to understand is that not all dairy products have the same amount of lactose.

The following are high in lactose:

  • milk
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • sour cream.

The following are lower in lactose:

  • butter
  • hard cheese
  • probiotic yogurt
  • kefir
  • heavy cream.

The bottom line is that if you are lactose intolerant you may not have to avoid all dairy products if you don’t want to.  You can consume foods that are naturally lower in lactose and in moderate amounts. Digestive enzyme pills is another option that can help with digestion if you want to treat yourself to ice cream or whatever it is that you crave once in a while.

For those of you who are trying to cut down on lactose there are many alternatives. You can purchase lactose free products, or you can use almond, coconut, soy, or oat milk as a substitute.

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